SHARE TO:

Vitamin D

As we start to approach the winter months, there are a few dietary changes that are important to recognize. With temperatures dropping and our natural source of vitamin from sunlight becoming less strong, our dietary sources are even more important than normal!

The role of vitamin D is to help with increasing calcium absorption and help retain calcium and phosphorus, which leads to better bone strength. Vitamin D also helps with the immune and nervous systems. One of the most important protective functions that vitamin D plays is in its partnership with calcium to help with preventing osteoporosis. As an athlete, this is extra important because there is a lot of research supporting decreased injury risk with higher serum vitamin D levels. 

Who is at risk for lower vitamin D levels?

-People in colder climates (hello Minnesota!!)

-Athletes (especially indoor only athletes)

-People with darker skin (more melanin = the skin is able to absorb less vitamin D)

-People who don’t consume seafood

If you fall into any of those categories, focusing on dietary vitamin D is extra important this time of year.

Sources of Vitamin D:

-Salmon

-Tuna

-Mackerel

-Mushrooms

-Egg yolks

-Fortified products (ex. orange juice, milk, some dairy products, cereals)

Fun fact: Mushrooms are actually the only source of vitamin D in the whole produce department! A lot of mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet radiation while grown, but keep in mind cooking and storage of them can decrease the vitamin D content.

Vitamin D from the Sunlight:

During the warmer months of the year, we get a natural source of vitamin D through the sun. We absorb it through our skin, then our body converts it into a usable form of vitamin D. However, during the winter months, the sun isn’t as strong in the Midwest and we’re not outside nearly as much. These are both things to strongly consider in addition to your dietary intake of vitamin D.

During the warmer months of the year, we get a natural source of vitamin D through the sun. We absorb it through our skin, then our body converts it into a usable form of vitamin D. However, during the winter months, the sun isn’t as strong in the Midwest and we’re not outside nearly as much. These are both things to strongly consider in addition to your dietary intake of vitamin D.

The recommended daily value of vitamin D for ages 14-70 is 600 IU, or 15 mcg. Most supplements are between the 1000 IU to 5000 IU. While that may sound like a lot, it’s extra important for athletes to get enough vitamin D because it plays a role in injury prevention and bone strength. Since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it IS possible (but very rare) to overdose on vitamin D. Before starting any supplement, it’s important to always check in with a dietitian or your doctor to see if supplementation is necessary. For instance, if you are consistently eating enough quality sources of vitamin D AND you’re spending a lot of time outside in the summer, supplementation may not be needed.

Absorption of Vitamin D

It’s important to know that just because a food contains vitamin D, it isn’t necessarily a lot of it. For example, when comparing 100g of different foods, a serving of cooked salmon has 11 mcg vs. mushrooms with about 1.5 mcg, a whole egg with 1.1 mcg, and a glass of milk with 2.9 mcg. So if you don’t eat seafood, you need to consume more of the other foods to get enough vitamin D through your diet. 

Athletes and Vitamin D

While research does not conclusively show a direct link to athletic performance, it does however support the prevention of stress fractures, muscle injury, and diseases. Vitamin D is a key component to healthy bones and helps with cell growth and neuromuscular function as well. It is critical for your bone health and injury risk to watch your vitamin D intake (especially during these winter months). 

To learn more about how you can incorporate more vitamin D in your diet, or if you have any questions on other nutrition topics, please talk to dietitian Kristina or email kristina@inspiredathletx.com ! 

SHARE TO: