Nutrition • 24.10.2017 • Julia Denner

Vitamin D3 >> The Top Health Benefits of the Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D3, vitamin D, cholecalciferol or simply the “sunshine vitamin”: No matter what you call it, this is one of the most essential nutrients for keeping your body fit and healthy. Studies have shown that adequate vitamin D levels in your blood can improve your running performance. But what other benefits does the vitamin provide?

Eine Frau läuft in der Stadt

Vitamin D deficiency: Not as uncommon as you think

Numerous studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is not so uncommon in athletes, especially those training at higher latitudes and in regions with long, dark winters. But indoor athletes also have trouble getting enough vitamin D. So why is it particularly important for runners and other sports enthusiasts to get plenty of vitamin D? The fat-soluble vitamin strengthens your bones and thus reduces the risk of broken bones. Plus, strenuous exercise places a lot of stress on your body. This can make you more susceptible to illness, especially if you don’t include enough rest days in your workout routine. But an adequate intake of vitamin D can boost your immune system, accelerate your recovery and get your body ready for regular runs, even in winter.

Stengthen your immune system with the sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is responsible, among other things, for a strong immune system. A lack of this essential vitamin has been shown to increase the risk of autoimmune disease and infection. This is why it is very important to get plenty of vitamin D during the cold months of the year.

More muscle strength

Recent studies have shown that vitamin D supplements can enhance muscle strength: In 2009, a meta-analysis of eight studies found that older individuals were able to reduce their risk of falling by 19% by taking supplemental vitamin D. The researchers also felt it likely that regular doses of vitamin D could boost muscle strength and performance in competitive athletes. Experts further believe that vitamin D can be even more effective when combined with vitamin K, which is also fat soluble.

A man exercise trail running in a green forest

Important for healthy bones

Vitamin D is extremely important for bone strength and development. The risk of broken bones and osteoporosis decreases as the level of vitamin D in your blood rises. The nutrient is also one of the fat-soluble vitamins (besides vitamins A, E and K). This means that the body requires fat to dissolve and absorb the vitamin in the bloodstream. This is why it is important when you eat foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins that you always intake some source of fat (nuts, avocado, high-quality vegetable oil) or foods that contain fat anyway (salmon, dairy products, etc.).

Vitamin D also improves the absorption of calcium.

healthy breakfast ingredients on old wooden table

But how much vitamin D do we need to stay healthy? The recommendation is 40-80 ng/ml. You should have your vitamin levels checked regularly by a doctor (and not just in winter!). This way you can be on the safe side and catch any deficiencies early on.

Get out in the sun

How can you ensure you are getting enough vitamin D? Your body can actually produce it itself. Just 15 minutes of midday sun (without sunscreen), 3-4 times per week, is all you need to supply your body with this important vitamin. In winter, you should increase the time to 30 minutes. Many running enthusiasts prefer running early in the morning or in the evening. What they don’t consider, however, is that the sun’s rays are much weaker at these times, especially during the cold fall and winter months. This can lead to a deficiency although the runner spends a lot of time outdoors. Therefore, a supplement might not be a bad idea, but make sure to check with your doctor before starting to take it.

Woman cutting fresh vegetables in the kitchen.

Vitamin D is found in these foods

You can also get vitamin D through the foods you eat. But keep in mind that it will be stored in your body longer than the vitamin D produced by the body itself. Foods rich in vitamin D are mainly animal products like fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), eggs and dairy products (these are also a good source of calcium). But mushrooms (especially button mushrooms) also contain vitamin D.

However, be careful: Many people still mistakenly believe that you can fill your vitamin D stores by “sunbathing” in a tanning studio. But this is not true: The UVB light of the sun increases the vitamin D levels in your blood, but not the UVA light in the tanning studio. Furthermore, excessive exposure to UV rays can cause cancer. So more is not always better!

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Julia Denner

Julia is a dietitian and creative cook. She is passionate about traveling the world, exercising (outdoors) and trying out new restaurants and food. She is convinced that a varied diet and regular, hard training are the keys to success.
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