It’s not something you hear about often, but Vitamin D plays a vital role in keeping us healthy, both mentally and physically. Vitamin D deficiencies are increasingly common (in fact, there’s a good chance you are deficient!). And not getting enough “D” can lead to a host of problems, from muscle spasms to increased mood disorders to cardiovascular symptoms. Vitamin D matters. Are you getting enough?
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is incredibly important to building and maintaining healthy bones. Our bodies can only properly absorb calcium when Vitamin D is present. So yes, milk does that body good, but only when you also have “the D.”
The best way to boost your Vitamin D intake is through sun exposure. However, you can also get more of the D through diet and supplementation.
Vitamin D deficiency is related to increased risk of osteoporosis, mental health problems, muscle spasms, and even cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D deficiency is rampant around the world, with some researchers even calling it an epidemic. More than 40% of Americans were Vitamin D deficient in 2019. We’re not getting enough sunlight, and our bodies are beginning to feel the effects.
Vitamin D and Athletic Performance
We already know that Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, which in turn leads to stronger bones. But new research suggests “the D” plays a vital role in athletic performance, too. Studies found that higher levels of Vitamin D are linked to higher rates of muscle growth, immune responses, and cardiopulmonary functions (that is, your heart and lungs). In addition, there’s evidence that higher Vitamin D levels might help lower inflammation throughout your body.
The same study found that low levels of Vitamin D can negatively impact athletic performance, including stamina, muscle tone, and the ability to recover from injuries. Therefore, athletes at all levels (hint: that includes you) should pay close attention to their Vitamin D levels.
As it turns out, that hike in the summer sun or a pool lounge session might be the secret to reaching that next PR.
Vitamin D and Mental Health
We talk a lot about mental and emotional health around here. You already know that exercise helps boost your mood. But there’s evidence that Vitamin D plays a role, too.
Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked with higher rates of depression and anxiety. While there isn’t enough evidence to prove that low Vitamin D levels cause depression, there is certainly a correlation. If you’re struggling with seasonal depression or have year-round depression or anxiety symptoms, you might consider having your Vitamin D levels tested. Your doctor can prescribe Vitamin D supplements, which research suggests could help alleviate symptoms of mental illness.
How to Get More of the D
Get your brains out of the gutter. We’re still talking about VITAMIN D. And there are many ways for you to get more of its mood-boosting goodness.
Sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D. Our bodies produce Vitamin D in response to sunlight, so being outdoors is the best way to get more of it. Of course, those who live far from the equator or in areas with less sunlight and those with darker skin have a harder time absorbing recommended amounts through sunlight alone.
You can also increase your Vitamin D intake through a vitamin-rich diet or through supplements. Foods rich in Vitamin D include:
- Egg Yolk
- Fortified milk, cereal, yogurt, and orange juice
You can purchase supplements over the counter from your local drug store. Your doctor can also prescribe high-dosage “D” supplements that will boost your levels faster. Check with your medical professional before starting a Vitamin D supplementation program.
The WodBottom line? Throw on those shorties, get outside, and enjoy yourself some D.