Off-Season Sunshine (Vitamin D)

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Our last few blog posts have been about getting the most out of your indoor training. It’s good advice, but you might be missing something. The sun. There is growing evidence that many athletic populations are Vitamin D deficient or insufficient. Our bodies produce Vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. If you are inside cross-training or riding the rollers, adding a little “supplemental sunshine” might improve your performance and your health.

Vitamin D deficiency may have significant long-term health impacts. Low levels may negatively affect calcium metabolism, bone health, illness frequency and musculoskeletal injuries. Additional data suggests inadequate Vitamin D concentration is detrimental to musculoskeletal performance in athletes. One study found that type II (fast twitch) muscle diameter correlates with testing levels. Another study concluded that Vitamin D receptors in muscle tissue provides a direct pathway for Vitamin D to impact Skeletal Muscle structure and function. In fact, severe Vitamin D deficiency often presents with muscle weakness.

There is no standard for supplementation as every athlete’s Vitamin D levels are subject to latitude, sun angle, sunscreen use, skin pigment and time of day that they are training. A blood test is the only way to know your levels. A standard lab can draw your blood with a doctor’s order. There are also test kits that only require a few drops of blood that can be completed either in a medical office or at home. Expect to pay approximately $65 for the test and be sure to get 25(OH) Vitamin D tested rather than 1-25(OH) Vitamin D.

Testing is important because even individuals living in sunny locations have been found to have Vitamin D deficiencies. It is helpful to know your levels before simply taking Vitamin D. The body is able to prevent toxicity with Vitamin D produced in the skin. Supplemental Vitamin D bypasses this built-in protection and, if excessive amounts are consumed over a period of time, toxicity is possible. Testing allows for customization of dose specifically for you. There are a myriad of products available: Vitamin D2, Vitamin D3, weekly or daily dosing, capsules or drops, co-factors and dosing ranging from 400 IU to 10,000IU making supplementation complicated. Consult with your doctor, naturopath, or chiropractor about what is optimal for you.

Don’t let the cold, dark, rainy weather get you down. You can improve your fitness through the winter months during a class or with a trainer. Vitamin D testing and proper supplementation at Upper Echelon is available to help you reach your off season goals.

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