Weightlifting does not cause vitamin D deficiency, in fact, a recent study from the Harvard school of public health (HSPH) suggests that rigorous exercise (weightlifting included) leads to higher levels of vitamin D.
Many articles have been published on the importance of vitamin D for muscle health and general body wellness.
Being aware of the benefits of vitamin D as well as the shortcomings of vitamin D deficiency to weight training, I set out to uncover whether weightlifting can indeed cause vitamin D deficiency.
The study reveals that people who exercise vigorously tend to have higher levels of HDL cholesterol and vitamin D than those who don’t. A deficiency in this sunshine vitamin can significantly affect how your train with weights.
Vitamin D explained in Detail
Vitamin D is mostly a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in only a handful of foods. However, the good news is that our bodies can naturally synthesize the vitamin upon exposure to sunlight.
Unlike other nutrients, Vitamin D is unique because it functions as a hormone in our bodies.
The vitamin plays a vital role in bone development by boosting the body’s ability to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Also important is its role in promoting muscle development, nervous and immune systems.
Numerous studies have also linked the vitamin with improved insulin sensitivity. New research also points to the role of the vitamin in preventing cancer.
Note that there are two primary forms of vitamin D- D2 and D3. The key differences between the two lies in their chemical structure as well as how they are manufactured. Vitamin D3 is the natural variant of vitamin D that our bodies synthesize from sunlight exposure.
Bear in mind that an adult requires at least 600 international units (UI) of vitamin D daily for healthy bone development.
Your body acquires vitamin D in three ways: through the skin by synthesizing it from sunlight, from the foods we eat and finally from supplements.
Though our bodies can form vitamin D from sunlight, prolonged exposure to the sun’s energy can accelerate the aging process and even lead to skin cancer.
Therefore, it’s advisable to explore the other options of diet and supplements.
Getting an ample amount of the sunshine vitamin is essential for warding off conditions such as osteomalacia in adults, rickets in children and osteoporosis in seniors.
Vitamin D deficiency can arise due to a multitude of factors such as geographical location, skin color, low sunlight exposure, and poor diet habits.
How to Get your Vitamin D
Not getting enough sunlight is one of the major causes of vitamin D deficiency. Health experts recommend at least 20 minutes of sunlight exposure three times a week.
However, depending on where you live, your lifestyle and the change in seasons, it can be challenging to meet this target.
You can also get vitamin D from natural foods and fortified foods. Liver, mushrooms, egg yolks, cheese and fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon are just examples of foods rich in the vitamin.
Fortified foods rich in vitamin D include orange juice, soy drinks, breakfast cereals and dairy products such as yogurt and milk.
Aside from sunlight exposure and food sources, you can also get vitamin D from manufactured dietary supplements. Most supplements do contain both vitamin D2 and D3.
However, bear in mind that vitamin D3, when consumed at high doses, is usually more potent than its D2 variant.
Finally, before you purchase any vitamin D supplement, it’s essential to check whether the food and drugs administration approves the product for consumption.
Why Vitamin D is Extra Important for Weightlifters and Strength Athletes
Apart from bone health and cardiovascular health, vitamin D has numerous benefits for strength athletes. Because it boosts the absorptions of calcium and phosphorus, which are critical for high bone density, the vitamin has been known to reduce the risk of fractures when training with heavy weights.
It is also known to increase type two muscle fibers and muscle protein. Studies have also shown that vitamin D reduces inflammation and pain leading to faster recovery during and after intense workouts.
Improved cognition and mood enhancement are other potential benefits that vitamin B offers to athletes and bodybuilders.
Recent studies have also shown a strong correlation between exposure to sunlight and testosterone levels. The hormone testosterone is one of the primary factors responsible or muscle growth and fat loss.
One particular study revealed that a daily intake of about 3300 international units (UI) of vitamin D could boost testosterone production by up to twenty percent.
An increase in testosterone levels by 20 or 30 percent will most definitely improve your performance at the gym.
Analyzing the Impact of Vitamin D on Muscle Health
It’s only recently that we started to understand the role that vitamin D plays in muscle health and muscle quality in particular. As we age, our skeletal muscle mass shrinks primarily due to decreasing levels of inactivity.
The loss of muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia, is often accompanied by a diminished functional on tasks that demand coordination and strength. This condition impacts negatively on the quality of life of aging adults.
However, with vitamin D supplementation, proper nutrition and workouts it is possible to prevent the loss of muscle strength and mass.
One study focusing on vitamin D supplementation revealed that increasing your intake to 4000 UI per day can increase muscle fiber size even without weight training. The most significant gains are often witnesses on type 2 muscle fibers.
Type II muscle fibers are responsible for short bursts of movement such as lifting items overhead and getting out of bed. What about muscle strength?
Well, another similar study showed that taking at least 1000 UI of vitamin D per day can boost leg muscle strength by an incredible 25%.
An increase in the vitamin’s concentration in the blood could be crucial in helping seniors maintain independence as they age.
Health experts often insist on the importance of resistance training in preserving muscle mass. As you attend your daily or weekly gym sessions, consider supplementing your vitamin D intake.
This move will not only enhance muscle mass but will also lead to quicker muscle recovery and repair.
Resistance training combined with vitamin D supplementation does help in reducing your waist-to-hip ratio. Waist-to-hip ratio is often relied on in gauging an individual’s risk factor to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
How Much Vitamin D do Strength Athletes Need?
Generally, the amount of vitamin D needed by our bodies is often determined by age. Newborns and toddlers aged up to 12 months require 400 international units of the vitamin per day. From the age of 1 year, all the way to adulthood an intake of 600 IU per day is necessary.
However, adults aged 70 and over as well as pregnant and lactating women require at least 800 UI of vitamin D.
However, weightlifters and athletes, especially those with a high amount of body fat, will usually exceed the standard daily dosage. It is not uncommon to find bodybuilders taking dosages of 2000, 3000 and even 5000 UI as extra supplementation.
The Relationship Between Vitamin D and Weight Loss
Are you looking to shed weight and gain lean muscle in the process? Well, there has been growing evidence that vitamin D can play a role in weight loss. Studies show that there is a negative correlation between body mass index/body fat percentage and levels of vitamin D.
According to the studies, overweight individuals are likely to have vitamin D deficiency because they require more of the vitamin blood levels than normal-weight people.
Fortunately, losing weight by either working out or dieting can boost your vitamin D blood level. Theoretically, losing weight translates to a reduction in body size which in turn lowers your vitamin D requirements.
On the other hand, an increase in vitamin D levels in the blood can boost weight loss. Studies show that vitamin suppresses the storage and accumulation of fat cells in the body.
Furthermore, the vitamin is known to stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in suppressing your appetite and increasing satiety.
Both of these are critical in decreasing calorie intake and reducing overall body weight.
Does weightlifting cause vitamin D deficiency? Research shows that weightlifting can increase vitamin D blood levels. Today, the bodybuilding community is more educated on diet and training like never before.
However, vitamin D does not seem to enjoy the same attention that is given to proteins and carbs. Maintaining sufficient levels of the vitamin in your blood has many benefits for athletes and bodybuilders.
Apart from increasing muscle strength and mass, it also improves recovery and supports gains from resistance training routines.
Though vitamin D supplementation is often recommended for athletes and aging adults, it can also be beneficial to pregnant women and people trying to lose weight.
All in all, exercising coupled with monitoring the levels of vitamin D in your blood is vital in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
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