When people think about nutrients to help build muscles, most of the focus goes to protein, however, this macronutrient shouldn't steal the show: vitamin D is also essential to building muscle mass and sculpting a strong body.
Vitamin D & Muscle Strength
Studies have shown that women with higher levels of vitamin D have improved muscle strength, growth, athletic performance, and a reduced risk of injury. Women with lower amounts of vitamin D, on the other hand, have higher body fat percentages. This doesn’t mean that there was no correlation between vitamin D deficiency and reduced lean mass in men, just that the findings were more pronounced in women.
What does this mean for your fitness goals?
It means that you should make sure you're getting enough vitamin D to support and maintain muscle gains. All that time spent sweating with us at BR+ won’t show the actual effort put into your workouts if you are deficient in this crucial vitamin.
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But popping a multivitamin won't always cut it if you’re looking to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Almost half the population is vitamin D deficient, which means that many people need to really bump up their levels of this essential micronutrient.
The easiest way to make sure you're getting enough vitamin D is to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside with your skin directly exposed to the sun since the sun is what stimulates vitamin D production within the body.
However, it's best not to put on sunscreen (if you are just trying to get some vitamin D), which can dilute the body's synthesis of vitamin D. Rather, just get your sunshine fix outside of peak hours (so before 10 am and after 4 pm) and only for 20 mins.
Vitamin D supplements can also help top up your levels. Studies suggest that vitamin D3 is better at raising your body's stores of the vitamin, but you should always talk to your doctor before taking new supplements. If you do not have a deficiency, you likely don't need to take a supplement. Too much vitamin D can lead to nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination, and could eventually result in kidney problems and bone pain.
How much vitamin D do you need in a day?
The answer to this question will depend on whether you're deficient or not. The average adult under 70 years of age needs 600 internal units (IU) and 800 IUs for adults over 70.
Again, it's best to talk to your doctor about how and if you should supplement, but if you're inside a lot and/or live in a place that makes getting outside with lots of skin exposed to the elements difficult, it's definitely worth making an appointment to have that conversation.
Other Benefits of Vitamin D
In addition to helping women grow and maintain strong, sculpted muscle and keep a healthier body weight, for men and women, vitamin D has been shown to help improve mood, reduce anxiety, increase the quality of sleep, and facilitate good bone health while reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
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Whether you make sure you’re getting outside enough, taking a pill, or a combination of both, you’ve got nothing to lose, and only incredible gains to gain by ensuring you’re getting enough of this essential vitamin.