What is Vitamin D & Why Is It so Important for Youth Athletes?

What is Vitamin D & Why Is It so Important for Youth Athletes?

Written by Amy Carr -BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and MSci Sport and Exercise Science student

 

We know that as athletes, we need to consume good nutritious foods to maximise our performance! As well as having lots of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, our body requires a variety of vitamins and minerals to function properly. 

What are Vitamins and Minerals?

Vitamins and minerals help the body function and if we do not have enough, we may end up feeling sluggish, ill, and/or weak. Most of the vitamins and minerals we need daily can be found in foods and can be achieved through a healthy and balanced diet. We can also consume vitamins and minerals in a supplement tablet form to boost our nutrient levels. Some people may need to take a supplement if they have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, however, deficiencies need to diagnosed by a doctor first. Like our macronutrient and energy intake (carbohydrate, protein, and fat), the amount we need is unique and individualised! There are a variety of vitamins and minerals to be had daily, but today’s blog is going to look specifically at vitamin D.

What Does Vitamin D Do?

Vitamin D is used in our body to absorb calcium which helps to keep our bones strong and healthy. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel), and red meat (beef and pork). However, the most efficient way to get our recommended daily dose, is through sunlight! It has been suggested that many adults and children do not have enough vitamin D in their body, especially if they live in cold, dark, and wet countries!

Why is Vitamin D so important For Athletes?

Vitamin D has been found to reduce inflammation, support immune function, and keep our bones healthy. As athletes, we can put our body under immense pressure, therefore, if we want to find a smart way to enhance our performance and recovery, we could look at our vitamin D levels!

Considering recent events, scientists have growing evidence to suggest that vitamin D deficiencies may be linked to COVID related hospitalisations. This means that our vitamin D level could significantly affect our health and ability to recover from illness!

As athletes, we want to perform to the best of our ability. This means looking after our physical health both inside and outside of sporting situations!

What Action Should I take?

Below are a few quick top tips to boost our vitamin D levels:

  1. Incorporate high vitamin D foods into our diet (oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and cereal).
  2. Take a vitamin D supplement/tablet if needed, especially during the winter months (we always recommended seeking advice from a doctor first).
  3. Go outside as much as possible during the summer months as the body can store the vitamin D it makes during this time

 

 

References

Angeline, M.E., Gee, A.O., Shindle, M., Warren, R.F. and Rodeo, S.A., 2013. The effects of vitamin D deficiency in athletes. The American journal of sports medicine, 41(2), pp.461-464.

Farrokhyar, F., Tabasinejad, R., Dao, D., Peterson, D., Ayeni, O.R., Hadioonzadeh, R. and Bhandari, M., 2015. Prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in athletes: a systematic-review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine, 45(3), pp.365-378.

Grant, W.B., Lahore, H. and Rockwell, M.S., 2020. The Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation for Athletes: Better Performance and Reduced Risk of COVID-19. Nutrients, 12(12), p.3741.

Larson-Meyer, D.E. and Willis, K.S., 2010. Vitamin D and athletes. Current sports medicine reports, 9(4), pp.220-226.

 


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