By: Ashley Dimon, Sports Nutrition Volunteer
Over the past few years, the interest in vitamin D in foods and as a supplement has really picked up! Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption. It supports bone health by keeping bones strong while also reducing the risk of stress fractures. Vitamin D also plays an important role in assisting with cognitive function, immune health, inflammation, muscle function and protein synthesis.
But why is Vitamin D so important for active people and athletes, in particular?
Research has shown that the general public, including athletes and active people, overall are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by several factors including: insufficient consumption of foods containing Vitamin D, excessively high sunscreen levels, or limited exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weakened bones, muscle weakness, decreased muscle building and recovery.
Benefits of Vitamin D and how to obtain optimal levels.
When Vitamin D is consumed at optimal levels it plays a key role in lowering the risk of soft tissue injuries, developing upper respiratory infections, and sustaining stress fractures.
So, how can you obtain optimal Vitamin D levels? Sun exposure is the main source of Vitamin D. Depending on sun index and individual genetics, studies have found that a range of 15-150 minutes of direct sun exposure at least twice a week is optimal for Vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D can also be found in food. Fatty fish, such as salmon, are a great source of Vitamin D. Mushrooms, eggs and fortified foods like milk, yogurt, orange juice and cereal also can be a great source of Vitamin D.
Unsure if you are consuming an adequate amount of Vitamin D? At ENW, we often suggest that athletes and active individuals aim for a vitamin D level that is around or above at least 50 nmol/L to get the most benefit. Check with your Primary Care Physician about your vitamin D levels and consider working with a Registered Dietitian if your levels are low or below optimal.
Rockwell et al. (2020, April 14). Vitamin D and Omega 3…Translating Tricky Topics into Action for Athletes. [SCAN Webinar Series].
About the Author:
Ashley Dimon is a Sports Nutrition Volunteer at ENW. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from Syracuse University, and her Master’s degree in Nutrition from the College of Saint Elizabeth. While at Syracuse, she was a four-year student-athlete on the softball team and a part of two Big East Tournament Championship teams, while earning Big East honor roll recognitions.
She was also a Sports Nutrition Intern at Auburn University where she worked as the primary dietitian for the volleyball and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Following her internship at Auburn University, she was a Sports Nutrition Intern at Clemson University for the volleyball, men’s & women’s golf, and men’s and women’s tennis teams.
While at Auburn and Clemson, she was responsible for providing team nutrition education to the athletes, individual nutrition counseling, planning game day and travel nutrition, body composition testing, and hydration monitoring. She also supervised volunteers and oversaw the inventory, ordering and receiving of the fueling stations.
Ashley is originally from Florence, New Jersey and loves cooking and traveling in her free time.