The Importance of Vitamin D in Sport

06 March 2019

The Importance of Vitamin D in Sport

The Importance of Vitamin D in Sport

Until just a few years ago Vitamin D was only related to bone health and calcium metabolism, but today it's associated with the importance of training efficiency, modeling inflammation, improving immune and muscle function.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means it is absorbed along with lipids (fats). This vitamin is transported from the lymphatic system to the liver through the lipoproteins and is subsequently stored in the tissues.

The daily recommendations for Vitamin D are 600UI for children and adults (1-70 years) and 800UI for ages greater than 70 years. Our daily needs for Vitamin D can be met by its synthesis in the skin through sun exposure. But there are factors like sunscreen use, skin pigmentation, percentage of fat, exposed skin area, age, latitude and moment of the day, which interfere with the production of Vitamin D by the skin.

In addition to sun exposure, Vitamin D is found in a relatively short range of foods, such as cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolks and dairy and fortified breakfast cereals.

So, let's look at some of the benefits of Vitamin D in sport:

• Prevent Injuries
Vitamin D deficiency can cause osteomalacia, a syndrome characterized by softening of the bones due to the loss of limestone salts, so this lack has been associated with a change in bone metabolism. In addition, it has been linked to a myopathy that manifests as muscle weakness and pain, especially in the lower extremities, which leads to an increased risk of falls, which can develop fractures.

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Increase Muscle Mass
Protein synthesis in muscle may be due to Vitamin D deficiency. This vitamin helps protein anabolism by increasing muscle mass and decreasing the rate of protein degradation. It also increases the size and quantity of muscle fibre types.

• Improve Sports Performance
Studies that analyzed the relationship of Vitamin D with sports performance concluded that deficiency of this vitamin may impair athlete performance. Vitamin D appears to be involved in the synthesis of ATP in mitochondria, the "factories" of cell energy.

• Increase Immunity
Vitamin D has immunomodulatory effects on the cells of the immune system, being able to stimulate the natural defenses of the body, reducing the risk of infections.

Thus, Vitamin D can improve performance in a deficient athlete, increase immunity, prevent muscle mass loss, improve muscle strength and power and reduce the risk of fractures.

Regular laboratory evaluation of Vitamin D levels is advised, particularly in athletes considered susceptible or, if this is not possible, an evaluation of the clinical and alimentary history.

By Adriana Martins, Nutritionist