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Vitamin D May Get the Gold for Performance

If Olympians’ trainers are paying attention to the latest in nutrition, they’re probably watching their star athletes’ vitamin D intake. New research has found that trained athletes with adequate vitamin D levels perform better than those with inadequate levels. The study was published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism and included 103 college athletes from three separate National Collegiate Athletic Association programs in the southern United States. Researchers collected data on the athletes’ body composition, serum (blood) vitamin D levels, vitamin D and calcium intake, and sun exposure. The athletes performed four physical tests to measure their athletic performance, including the vertical jump test, shuttle run test, triple hop for distance test, and one repetition maximum squat test. Researchers found that:

  • Despite living in southern latitudes, approximately 23% of the athletes had insufficient vitamin D levels (50 to 75 nmol/L), and 9% had deficient levels (less than 50 nmol/L). The remaining 68% of the athletes had adequate vitamin D levels (more than 75 nmol/L).
  • Athletes with insufficient and deficient vitamin D levels had lower performance scores on all four physical tests.
  • Most of the vitamin D-deficient athletes were non-Caucasian. Because skin pigments block the sun’s rays that stimulate vitamin D production, non-Caucasians in general have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.

This isn’t the first study to associate vitamin D levels with athletic performance. Multiple studies have found that active people with inadequate vitamin D levels may have a higher risk of fractures. So, whether you’re an Olympian, a marathon runner, or a weekend warrior, it’s a good idea to keep up your D. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish and fish oil, and fortified foods like milk and yogurt. A vitamin D supplement may also be a good choice, depending on your needs.

Source: International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism

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