Did you know that a recent study showed that over one-third of NCAA Division I athletes have sub-optimal vitamin D levels?
We usually think of bone health with vitamin D, which is an accurate connection — vitamin D regulates calcium absorption into bone! But vitamin D does SO much more. It plays a role in muscle function, immune health, nerve signaling, sleep, mood!
Vitamin D can be one of the most difficult nutrients to get enough of in our diet. Without adequate levels of vitamin D, an athlete’s injury risk increases — both muscle & bone! Inflammation levels and risk of common infections increase as well.
When we get enough vitamin D, we can decrease the chances of some chronic diseases — certain cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis!
But wait, we can absorb vitamin D from the sun, right? Yes! But it’s not quite that simple. Winter time (like right now) makes it more difficult to absorb it from the sun. Vitamin D cannot be synthesized at locations with latitudes greater than 33 degrees north or south. As a previous sports dietitian at UNC Chapel Hill, I learned that our football facility (Kenan Football Center) in Chapel Hill was at latitude 35.9 degrees north. If you’re any farther north than that, you’re likely not absorbing vitamin D during the winter months!
Try these following tips to get enough vitamin D:
- Consume salmon, mackerel, mushrooms, tuna canned in water, egg yolks, milk, cheese, yogurt & other foods fortified with vitamin D regularly.
- Aim to get 10-30 minutes of sun from 10-4pm (peak sunray time!) multiple times a week
- Consider vitamin D3 supplements during times of the year where you are unable to get sun exposure regularly or if you feel you are not getting enough vitamin D from your diet.
- Check out our vitamin D guide to learn if you’re consuming enough!
Think you might need a supplement to optimize your vitamin D levels? Click here to chat with one of our sports dietitians.