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A Spot of Winter Sunshine: Vitamin D

Vitamin D has received a lot of attention of late, with the UK and more specifically Public Health England updating their advice on the so-called sunshine vitamin. Now the official guidelines from the government suggest we get at least 10micrograms of Vitamin D per day over the winter months. In this post we’ll explore why, how and what benefits there may be to vitamin D supplementation and ask can we get enough from elsewhere?

Where do we get Vitamin D?

We get very little Vitamin D from our diets; eggs, oily fish such as mackerel or tuna and fortified cereals contribute to Vitamin D intake but they contribute relatively little to our Vitamin D status. Most of our Vitamin D is synthesised in our skin as a result of sun exposure during the summer months and this is stored within our body. Skin pigmentation, indoor training volume and sunscreen use may also affect Vitamin D status. Supplementing with Vitamin D presents a convenient way to top up or maintain your Vitamin D status over winter.

Vitamin D, what is it good for?

Simply, quite a lot. Vitamin D is mainly known for its role in bone health, by increasing the absorption of calcium and hereby improving the integrity of bone. This reduces the risk, or decreases the incidence of stress fractures and may also lower inflammation, help prevent infection and improve muscle function.

Vitamin D and Athletic Performance

Vitamin D status has been correlated with jump height, power and velocity in young female athletes. Genes that promote muscle cell growth are thought to switch on more frequently with sufficient Vitamin D status, and this may have implications for long-term adaptations to training and recovery from acute injury. More generally, we see improvements in performance in Vitamin D deficient athletes when they supplement, and this may go some way in explaining why world records tend to be broken in late summer when athletes’ Vitamin D levels peak.

To supplement, or not to supplement?

Most people, athletes included, may benefit from Vitamin D supplementation, especially over winter, if living at Northern latitudes and or training indoors frequently. As with most supplements it’s best to test, not guess your requirements. City Assays, Grassroots Health or the Vitamin D council can provide further information on testing, and supplement advice tailored to your needs. Full Potential does not receive any compensation from these companies.

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