Combat Vitamin D Deficiency And Use It To Create An Advantage


 

Vitamin D is one supplement that’s been getting some well-deserved attention in recent years. Numerous studies and research have come out that suggest that sufficient vitamin D intake is linked with increased aerobic capacity, muscle growth, strength and bone density as well as decreased recovery time with exercise [1].

Not only that, but a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of bone disorders, depression, and even cancer. In an ironic twist, despite the highly sought after effects that having adequate vitamin D levels can provide, the vast majority of people have a vitamin D deficiency.

What’s even worse is that getting sufficient vitamin D intake for optimal health benefits is near impossible through a proper diet alone and using a specific vitamin D supplement and multi-vitamin may indeed be necessary. Even if one were to eat a remarkably balanced diet with a solid mix of fruits/vegetables/grains/meats/etc., it is still likely that they would wind up with a vitamin D deficiency. The best of the best IIFYM plans can’t even help you here.

How Common is Vitamin D Deficiency

A vitamin D deficiency is far more common than most people think, unfortunately, basically requiring supplementation in order to get the recommended amount. Research has shown that approximately 88.1% of the world population has a vitamin D deficiency (1).88.1%! You might as well round up and just say that EVERYONE has a vitamin D deficiency. Another study examined 20 people composing of 10 men and 10 women to determine any micronutrient deficiency [2].

Dialing in your diet is the first step to combating vitamin D deficiency, have one of our coaches create your Custom Macro Blueprint

The participants were composed of professional athletes, amateur athletes, and sedentary individuals. It turned out that among numerous other vitamin and minerals, a vitamin D deficiency was prevalent and was in fact, the most common vitamin deficiency out of all participants. 19 out of 20 people ended up having a vitamin D deficiency which helps prove the 88.1% statistic from earlier. One person even had as low as 1% of the recommended vitamin D intake in their diet… Wow! Truly staggering.

 

 

Overwhelming Results

It’s easy to see why taking a vitamin D supplement or at least a multi-vitamin is highly recommended in order to prevent a vitamin D deficiency. I’m sure there are some of you out there on an IIFYM plan built by one of our coaches, which incorporates a variety of foods. You may think you’re getting the required amount of vitamin D for max benefits through your diet. Well, it’s possible… But still highly unlikely. Another study was done analyzing the micro-nutrient percentages of four popular diet plans[3].

I recommend supplementing with around 2000-4000 IU per day in a couple divided doses.

To no surprise, it was found that ALL of them were deficient in vitamin D. Now I know these are diet plans that incorporate a lot of the same foods on a consistent basis unlike an ever-changing IIFYM approach, however they are also based around getting a balanced mix of all the food groups so for a vitamin D deficiency to occur in every single one still is something significant to consider.

Why is Vitamin D Crucial?

Now that we’ve established that most people have a vitamin D deficiency, you might be wondering why that’s even bad or why taking a supplement to reach adequate levels is necessary in the first place. As previously stated at the beginning of the article, a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, bone disorders and an increased risk of cancer.

In addition to those side effects, it can also cause muscle weakness and catabolism to occur in muscle tissue [1]. I’m not a doctor or anything (so original right?), but those sound like circumstances to avoid. On the flip side, sufficient vitamin D levels can positively affect variables such as neurological function, exercise-induced inflammation, cardiovascular health, bone health, and glucose metabolism.

breastfeeding calories

That answers why a vitamin D deficiency is unfortunate from a general health standpoint, but some of you may still be wondering how vitamin D relates to performance and muscle function, though. I mean if most people are truly deficient then how come athletes have been able to accomplish some of the feats they’ve done even with a vitamin D deficiency? And all the people following IIFYM who still lost a lot of weight without taking a vitamin D supplement?

Surely it can’t be THAT important then. Wrong. Who’s to say that those athletes with a vitamin D deficiency couldn’t have performed even better if they had a sufficient intake? Or that those people who followed IIFYM to lose a lot of weight couldn’t have retained just a tiny bit more muscle or maintained better gym performance if they were taking a vitamin D supplement? Just because something works, doesn’t mean that something can’t work better.

 

vitamin d athletes

 

To Gain An Edge

Numerous studies have shown that taking a vitamin D supplement or multi-vitamin to raise vitamin D intake to adequate levels can improve proximal muscle strength, aerobic capacity, recovery, and testosterone levels[1]. Some studies have only shown positive effects to occur in individuals with a severe vitamin D deficiency and taking a vitamin D supplement provided no noticeable benefits for the people who already had high levels (4).

Regardless, there are still enough studies out there that support the notion of sufficient vitamin D intake helping out with various health and skeletal muscle functions no matter how small the benefits may be, so all the recent interest in vitamin D as a supplement is certainly justified.

It takes about 4000-5000 IU of vitamin D from all sources in order to optimize bone health and to experience the performance benefits that it can provide [1].

I’m not talking about insanely dramatic differences in athletic performance or anything such as that. Above all else, the athlete’s overall diet and training program will have a far greater effect on their performance than simply taking a supplement to help offset vitamin D deficiency.

However, at the highest levels of competition, minute details such as that can be the difference between 1st and 2nd place. To the physique competitor trying to turn pro or place in a pro show, or to the serious high school/college athlete that’s trying to take their game to the next level. Even to the non-athlete that simply wants to lose weight following an IIFYM plan, avoiding vitamin D deficiency by taking a vitamin D supplement and/or multi-vitamin will have a desirable effect on strength which in result will lead to more muscle retention over time.

 

 

The Sources of Vitamin D

There are essentially two ways in which we can acquire vitamin D; sunlight exposure and through a diet. There are various factors that affect the rate and synthesis of how vitamin D is absorbed through sunlight, so it’s hard to rely on sun exposure alone as a means to combat vitamin D deficiency.

If you live in a warm area where the sun is always out then your vitamin D levels will probably be higher than others, however, it’s still unlikely you’re getting the full recommended amount unless you’re outside a lot in a bathing suit. The winter months will pose even more of a challenge just due to less skin being exposed to sunlight, which there will already be less of in comparison to the warmer months.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of sunlight available at this time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere so let one your coaches build a Custom Macro Blueprint so you start implementing more vitamin D in your diet

Since sunlight exposure is an unreliable means that depends on too many variables, this leaves us with diet and supplementation as the other way to assist with vitamin D deficiency. Some of the foods that contain vitamin D include:

• Salmon and other fish
• Shiitake mushrooms
• Nutrient Dense Cereal
• Milk
• Fortified Yogurt
• Cheeses
• Egg Yolks
• Butter

There are some others, but these are a lot of the main sources. Initially, this may not look like a problem at all if you’re a follower of IIFYM and flexible dieting. Cereal is a popular carb source for IIFYM followers and more nutrient dense foods like fish and eggs are usually included on most meals plans and should be included on occasion in an IIFYM plan anyway.

 

vitamin d optimal

 

Achieving Optimal Intake Is Challenging, To Say the Least

However, the amount of vitamin D that these foods contain is, unfortunately, minimal making it challenging to still get the recommended amount even on a generously balanced IIFYM plan from one of our coaches. Let’s put everything into perspective here. It takes about 4000-5000 IU of vitamin D from all sources in order to optimize bone health and to experience the performance benefits that it can provide [1]. One cup of standard fortified cereal, as well as one cup of yogurt, contains roughly ~50 IU of vitamin D. Yet, one egg yolk contains even less than that.

Begin to optimize your bone health by diversifying your diet with a Custom Macro Blueprint

Even a well balanced IIFYM lifestyle or healthy meal plan will still have major problems in preventing a vitamin D deficiency. The only foods that contain a worthwhile amount of vitamin D are freshly caught wild salmon (canned and non-wild contain significantly less), cod liver oil (too much can be bad though due to excess vitamin A) and sun-dried shiitake mushrooms. Fresh wild salmon can provide as much as 1000 IU vitamin D while sun-dried mushrooms can provide up to 1600 IU.

If you’re catching and eating fresh salmon in the lake in your backyard and sun bathing your shiitake mushrooms in the sunlit meadow behind your house every day then I suppose it’s unlikely that you have a vitamin D deficiency. However, most people don’t have those luxuries so a vitamin D deficiency is highly probable and taking a multi-vitamin and/or vitamin D supplement to offset that will be required.

Is Taking a Vitamin D Supplement Necessary?

To live? No. To experience the full benefits that the recommended amount has been shown to provide? In my opinion yes. As previously explained it’s near impossible to avoid a vitamin D deficiency through diet alone. Even the most diverse IIFYM plan built by one of our coaches may not get the job done. To avoid a vitamin D deficiency, the most efficient and cost-effective way to do so is to take vitamin D supplement, even on top of a multi-vitamin. Most multi-vitamins don’t contain any more than 1000 IU of vitamin D which won’t be enough on its own so taking a specific vitamin D supplement will still be required.

 

 

The Solution

Depending on your diet and the vitamin D potency in your multi-vitamin, I would recommend supplementing with around 2000-4000 IU per day in a couple divided doses. This should easily allow you to reach around that ~5000 IU level which should be high enough to see the full benefits.

A vitamin D supplement ranges from $5-15 on average depending on the size you buy, and it should last you for months. It’s probably one of the cheapest supplements out there, even cheaper than creatine, so there’s really no reason not to take it.

Depending on your diet and the vitamin D potency in your multi-vitamin, I recommend supplementing with around 2000-4000 IU per day in a couple divided doses. This should easily allow you to reach around that ~5000 IU level which should be high enough to see the full benefits.

A vitamin D supplement ranges from $5-15 on average depending on the size you buy, and it should last you for months. It’s probably one of the cheapest supplements out there, even cheaper than creatine, so there’s really no reason not to take it.

Overview of Vitamin D

I hope this provided some insightful info about vitamin D and why taking a supplement to meet sufficient needs is highly recommended. To sum things ups:

• Vitamin D can provide numerous health and performance benefits as well as prevent various diseases
• Chances are you’re not getting enough vitamin D through diet alone, even on a well balanced IIFYM plan
• Taking a vitamin D supplement to experience its full effects is required
• It’s cheap and easy, so you should do it

The importance of vitamin D should not be overlooked. Whether you’re a serious athlete looking for any potential way to optimize performance, a normal person looking to stay in shape or just someone looking to maintain optimal health and disease prevention, vitamin D supplementation can benefit anyone and everyone.

+ REFERENCES
  • Dahlquist, Dylan D., Brad P. Dieter, and Michael S. Koehle. "Plausible Ergogenic Effects of Vitamin D on Athletic Performance and Recovery."Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. BioMed Central, 19 Aug. 2015. Web.
  • Misner, Bill. "Food Alone May Not Provide Sufficient Micronutrients for Preventing Deficiency." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. BioMed Central, 5 June 2006. Web.
  • Calton, Jayson B. "Prevalence of Micronutrient Deficiency in Popular Diet Plans." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. BioMed Central, 10 June 2010. Web.
  • Stockton, KA, K. Mengersen, JD Paratz, D. Kandiah, and KL Bennell. "Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Muscle Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." US National Library of Medicine. PubMed, 6 Oct. 2010. Web.

about the author

Corbin Pierson

Corbin Pierson is an IFPA Professional Bodybuilder, a Certified Sports Nutritionist from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (CISSN) and an ACE Personal Trainer. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a BS in Exercise Science. He works as a nutritionist and contest prep coach through Team Pierson Fitness. Corbin has been competing in natural bodybuilding contests since 2010 and has been a follower of IIFYM for about 5 years, he recently won his pro card while utilizing IIFYM and flexible dieting.