Many of the athletes that come to train with us this time of year do so to escape harsh winters back home. Everyone loves a bit of sunshine in their lives, but the role it serves in the body and especially to an athlete in training is underrated.
Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common so lapping up those rays is not only enjoyable, its required to have a healthy, athletic body.
Vitamin D has recently come into the spotlight with evidence suggesting it has an important role in bone development, immune function and athletic performance (Larson-Meyer & Willis, 2010)
Working closely with athletes from all over the world, I have seen how much it also affects people’s moods. Good weather and hot conditions means more motivation to get out and train (especially for triathletes and swimmers training outdoors).
That’s a huge benefit Thanyapura has over other places (especially Europe at this time of year). Consistent training is the key to being a successful athlete and avoiding vitamin D deficiency!
Not only is this essential vitamin potentially beneficial for bone health, immune system and skeletal muscle function. This has a knock-on effect on athletic performance, despite this still being discovered and scientifically proven.
Here are 9 benefits Vitamin D has on you as an athlete:
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb Calcium which has a positive impact on bone development and growth, immune function, blood pressure and even muscle strength as we get older.
- Calcium is necessary for healthy bones, so less vitamin D to absorb, equals less calcium for the bones which equals more risk of bone fracture. Collar bone fractures are a common injury among cyclists and triathletes. Vitamin D can potentially lessen this risk to prevent you being on the sideline for a long time.
- Vitamin D helps keep a strong immune system. Athletes who train over 20 hours a week are more susceptible to sickness due to the increased stress on the body. Having a vitamin D deficiency can be especially risky if competitions are coming up!
- Consistent training is a key to success in sport. With added Vitamin D you improve bone health and immune health, this means you can consistently train with lower risk of an injury or illness.
- Suboptimal vitamin D status is widespread among the general population worldwide (Holick, 2007; Hossein-nezhad & Holick, 2013).
- In athletes, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and sufficiency varies by season, training location, sport (Larson-Meyer & Willis, 2010) and skin color (Hamilton et al., 2010; Pollock et al., 2012; Shindle et al., 2011) (Figure 1).
- Vitamin D deficiency is more common in the winter months (Farrokhyar et al., 2015; Halliday et al., 2011). Athletes who train predominantly indoors and who train at higher latitudes (Home) generally have lower status than those who train outdoors and at lower latitudes (Thanyapura).
- Insufficient sunlight (UVB) exposure is the most probable reason for suboptimal vitamin D status. Poor vitamin D intake, however, may contribute.
- Thanyapura has optimal conditions for maximum vitamin D exposure. As sunlight is one way of topping up vitamin D levels.
How can you use this information to boost your training?
- Knowledge of blood vitamin D status in relation to season and the athletes’ training regimen may help optimize performance and health
- A strong level of the vitamin may be achieved by sensible sun exposure (5 to 30 min of exposure depending on skin pigmentation (5 min for fair skinned and 30 min for dark skinned) to arms, legs and back at close to solar noon several times a week) and/or supplementation and dietary intake to provide at least 1,500 – 2,000 IU/day.
- If you’re concerned about vitamin D deficiency or have a history of stress fracture, frequent illness, bone and joint injury, skeletal pain or weakness and signs of overtraining – get your levels checked!
About the Author
Bochakorn began her education in conventional medicine as a nurse, then shifted to embrace natural healing and integrative medicines. Her training and certifications abroad include: Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture and Moxibustion.
During her therapeutic sessions, she may also incorporate other aspects of integrative medicines when required, including: acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, nutritional, supplements and herbal recommendation.