Happy Monday. I hope everyone’s been doing great and are keeping on top of their health and fitness levels despite everything that’s been going on. For this SUPP UP. Special, I’m gonna talk to you about vitamin D…and yeah – I know, ever since various lockdowns this has grown into a popular topic.
You might be thinking ‘Sol, we get it – just take loads of the stuff!’ well – no. This post is actually about doing the opposite – and I’ll explain why.
So here’s what’s on the itinerary – we’re gonna start off with what vitamin D really is, dive into how it affects your health, cruise past what it does for your strength levels, and most importantly – run through how to take it, what type to take, how much, and with what.
Let’s jump right in. For those of you that don’t feel like reading – scroll all the way down to the bottom to hear the recorded audio version of this blog post – it’s a 9 minute listen (complete with chilled out background music).
SUPP UP. SPECIAL:
VITAMIN D – HEALTH, STRENGTH,
AND THE CORRECT WAY TO TAKE IT
[HINT: MORE ISN’T BETTER].
It’s pretty obvious given the current situation that everyone’s top priority has been their immune system and boosting it. I remember way back in March seeing this huge concern and attempting to ease people’s fears by teaching how you can boost your immune system with a video I made over on YouTube.
Fear only creates more stress and a lot of times it’s based on not having knowledge or true understanding of what it is you’re afraid of – but once you’ve got that, like a spooky figure that knocked something over, once the lights are flicked on, you realize it’s just the metaphorical curtain blowing by an open window.
Ironically the more fearful you are, the more stressed you get, and the more stressed you get, the more you break down your own immune system by sending signals to your CNS which can send you into fight or flight mode.
When you’re in the armed forces, you learn to control your fear and understand what it’s doing, how to override it. But when you’re not, most times unless you’re on a personal mission of self-discipline and development, you’re left to feeding on the most recent “scary” update.
Make no mistake – things are real, but it’s how you deal with them that counts.
This can cause irrational behavior like panic buying, stuffing your face with every supplement available at your local CVS, and buying enough toilet paper to make a fancy igloo mansion out of.
This brings me to my next point – stop doing dumb sh*t. It stems from ignorance, and you’ve got two choices once you realize this – you can keep yourself constantly stressed and popping more vitamins than you can shake a stick at, potentially messing with your system further, or you can better inform yourself how to take care of your body (and your stress) and then act with understanding.
The first thing to understand is this…
VITAMIN D ISN’T WHAT YOU THINK IT IS.
It’s not a vitamin. At all. It’s a pro-hormone and why it’s called a vitamin perplexes me – maybe it wouldn’t be too good for marketing if you were to tell someone to buy “hormones” to boost their immune system. People may panic everywhere; women might think they’ll start getting 5 o’clock shadows and men may think they’ll develop moobs. Obviously, this would be absolute bullsh*t.
If you read either of my SUPP UP. nutrition guides, you’ll remember that there are different hormones for different purposes and that not all hormones’ functions are to mess with your beloved sexual features.
On its own, vitamin D does absolutely nothing – your body does the work to make the magic happen. Your body is what converts it into an active hormone, formally known as 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol.
So now that’s out of the way, let’s get into how it aids your health and immune system.
HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH.
It’s not just for immune system boosting. True, it can shore up your immune system, noticeably improve your skin and hair, help women get better orgasms (wink) (Canat et al, 2016), and help with testosterone (Pilz et al, 2011) – but it’s so much more than that.
Now I could talk about what a deficiency can make you more susceptible to, but I’m not really one for scare tactics. Let’s talk about what vitamin D does for you.
Being sufficient in vitamin D means having good immune system function (as mentioned earlier), cardiovascular function, normal blood pressure, good bone density, and aids in better protein synthesis, better muscle function, cell growth, musculoskeletal regulation, and most importantly, cuts down on inflammation. The list goes on but I think that’s enough to give you a good idea of its importance.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now and bought either SUPP UP. No Bull, Whole Food Military Nutrition On The Go or SUPP UP. No Bull, Whole Food Military Nutrition At Home, you’ll know how I stress the importance of taking care of your heart and central nervous system (if you don’t well…you know what to do – plus get your SUPP UP. No Bull Meal Planner for just $5 when you buy the nutrition guide).
Vitamin D plays a big part in these, too.
With your central nervous system, it directly affects dopamine and serotonin levels, which are important when it comes to avoiding fatigue and aiding muscular coordination. So for example, if you’ve got a severe case of vitamin D deficiency, this could negatively affect your balance.
With your heart, if you lack sufficient levels of vitamin D, a person’s arteries can get stiff (which puts people at risk for strokes and heart attacks). This means your circulatory system’s pliability becomes compromised – something you don’t want happening over a sustained period of time.
And while sufficient levels of vitamin D can prevent all these things, it’s important to know how to take it, and how much – because too much of anything, even vitamin D, is never really the best thing. But before we get to that, let’s go over what a lot of you really came here for – how it affects your strength and athleticism.
HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR STRENGTH.
This is where things get fun. Chugging back protein isn’t the only thing that helps you get those juicy gainz.
I mentioned earlier how vitamin D aids in protein synthesis, muscle function, etc. Let me give you an example:
- Researchers did a study a couple years back on 35 vitamin D deficient Taekwondo athletes during winter (Jung et al, 2018).
- Split into two groups, 20 took 5000 IU per day of vitamin D for 4 weeks straight, while the remaining 15 took a placebo for those same 4 weeks.
- After 4 weeks had passed, something interesting happened.
- The group that had taken vitamin D experienced and produced greater muscular strength and power, whereas the placebo group stayed the same.
That’s the quick and dirty answer to how it can affect your strength. Now let’s dive deeper while keeping things simple.
Generally speaking, making sure your vitamin D levels are at optimal levels means increasing muscle protein synthesis, ATP, and your capacity to perform strength and conditioning exercises.
It regulates skeletal muscle and helps make muscle contractions stronger (nothing better than when you really feel the rep, am I right?).
And speaking of conditioning, you sucking at cardio may not just be because you put it off like eating your veggies last at dinner – reduced lung capacity ties in strongly with low levels of vitamin D.
Getting enough vitamin D ensures healthy lung capacity & structure, excellent oxygen exchange, and helps you finish that killer 15-minute skipping session without feeling like you’re sucking air through a flimsy fast-food straw.
This means you’ll perform better – less injuries, easier strength building – what’s not to love?
HOW TO TAKE IT – AND WITH WHAT.
Here’s the money question – well like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, more isn’t necessarily better. I took you down the rabbit hole of what vitamin D is really all about. So let’s make this section as snappy as possible (we’re at the home stretch).
You can take all the vitamin D you want – but there’s two minerals that will hamper your efforts – calcium and magnesium.
You’ll know from reading either of the SUPP UP. nutrition guides that balance is key – and no, I’m not talking about a balanced “diet” – given the agricultural practices today that’s a big feat. But it’s important to understand that calcium and magnesium work together in a very strict way within the body. You’ve got to get things balanced.
Too much calcium affects magnesium, and too little magnesium leads to vitamin D resistance. Overconsumption of a lot of processed foods (hint: those triple cheeseburgers you’ve been wolfing down consistently every weekend for the last few months) also contributes to low magnesium levels.
This makes it harder for your body to move, synthesize, and activate vitamin D (American Osteopathic Association, 2018).
I mentioned the importance of magnesium in another blog post – I’d suggest you check that out later.
Taking more vitamin D though isn’t the cure-all – remember, you need a good balance of calcium and magnesium to help shuttle feed vitamin D throughout your system. The more vitamin D you take, the more you use up your magnesium stores, causing a further insufficiency.
You also need magnesium to prevent calcification of calcium within your coronary blood vessels.
Now don’t freak out and run to your doctor just yet – while they can check for vitamin D deficiency through blood tests, they can’t check for magnesium deficiencies through the same method and they’ll probably say you’re just fine…but magnesium is found mainly in bone and tissue, you won’t find much of a trace in it in serum.
This means it’s better to just err on the side of caution (and with your calcium intake tough guy/girl, why wouldn’t you) and supplement with magnesium – but the type is important too.
Because remember – a system lacking in magnesium, is a system lacking in vitamin D, is an immune system lacking in optimal function.
One more thing – magnesium is also designed to prevent excess vitamin D from being activated.
Too much vitamin D can lead to toxicity in the system – nature has a funny way of making sure we don’t f*ck ourselves over by attempting to protect ourselves.
Now you’re probably thinking…
So what the f*ck am I supposed to do then???
It’s a head spinner, I know. This is all you need to remember to do:
- Take 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day – you can split the dose, or take it all one time. Just make sure you take it with your biggest meal(s) that has the highest fat content.
- Why D3? Because D3 is more effective than D2 at raising blood serum levels.
- Take at least 400 mg extra of magnesium a day. With or without a meal.
- In my opinion, transdermal works better than oral supplementation, as it doesn’t have the gastrointestinal tract to contend with (Gröber et al, 2017). I tend to do both in a balanced way, and this might be a good idea for you too, especially if you workout.
Could I have told you that from the beginning? Maybe. But you would’ve just been blindly following what you read – at least now, you’ll have an understanding of why you’re doing, what you’re doing – and you can dial in and adjust things according to your needs.
That’d be like doing an exercise and having no idea what muscles it works.
And we all know training biceps isn’t the way to go if you want visually fuller, thicker-looking arms – no matter what bro science may tell you.
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American Osteopathic Association. 2018. Low magnesium levels make vitamin D ineffective: Up to 50 percent of US population is magnesium deficient. ScienceDaily. Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180226122548.htm
Canat, M., Canat, L., Öztürk, F.Y., Eroğlu, H., Atalay, H.A., Altuntas, Y. 2016. Vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with female sexual dysfunction in premenopausal women. International Urology and Nephrology. 48, pp. 1789–1795. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11255-016-1396-7
Dai, Q., Zhu, X., Manson, J. E., Song, Y., Li, X., Franke, A. A., Costello, R. B., Rosanoff, A., Nian, H., Fan, L., Murff, H., Ness, R. M., Seidner, D. L., Yu, C., & Shrubsole, M. J. 2018. Magnesium status and supplementation influence vitamin D status and metabolism: results from a randomized trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 108(6), pp. 1249–1258. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy274
Dawson-Hughes, B., Harris, S. S., Palermo, N. J., Ceglia, L., & Rasmussen, H. 2013. Meal conditions affect the absorption of supplemental vitamin D3 but not the plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D response to supplementation. Journal of bone and mineral research: the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. 28(8), pp. 1778–1783. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1002/jbmr.1896
de la Puente Yagüe, M., Collado Yurrita, L., Ciudad Cabañas, M.J., Cuadrado Cenzual, M.A. 2020. Role of Vitamin D in Athletes and Their Performance: Current Concepts and New Trends. Nutrients. 12(2), 579. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu1202057
Gröber, U., Werner, T., Vormann, J., Kisters, K. 2017. Myth or Reality—Transdermal Magnesium? Nutrients. 9(8), 813. Available from: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080813
Jung, H., Seo, M., Lee, S., Jung, S., and Song, J. 2018. Correcting Vitamin D Insufficiency Improves Some But Not All Aspects of Physical Performance During Winter Training in Taekwondo Athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 28(6), pp. 635-643. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0412
Pilz, S., Frisch, S., Koertke, H., Kuhn, J., Dreier, J., Obermayer-Pietsch, B., Wehr, E., & Zittermann, A. 2011. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Hormone and metabolic research. 43(3), pp. 223–225. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0030-1269854
Raimundo, F. V., Faulhaber, G. A., Menegatti, P. K., Marques, L., & Furlanetto, T. W. 2011. Effect of High- versus Low-Fat Meal on Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels after a Single Oral Dose of Vitamin D: A Single-Blind, Parallel, Randomized Trial. International journal of endocrinology. 2011, 809069. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/809069
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