By: Jason Riley
Vitamin D is essential for life... Not just athletes! Research continues to show that virtually every tissue and cell within the body has receptors for Vitamin D. (1) According to numerous reports, Vitamin D is not technically a vitamin at all, but a pro-hormone. The very presence of receptors specifically for vitamin D defines it as a hormone more than a vitamin. (2)
Since vitamin D can alter the expression of your genes like a pro-hormone, then we can postulate from research that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to numerous acute and chronic medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, etc… However, since most our readers are athletes, lets look at how a vitamin D deficiency can effect your acute and long term performance measures, and we will look into quality of life measures in later posts:
- Increased susceptibility to infections – vitamin D is vital for the immune system functioning and keeping you on the playing field at all times. (3)
- Decreased adaptive immune response - if you cannot adapt to the stresses imposed on your body, you will not perform at your highest level (4,5)
- Increased inflammatory related injuries – inflammation in your tissues can increase the susceptibility of non-contact injuries (6)
- Decreased neuromuscular function – this will impact your bodies protein synthesis capabilities, causing muscle weakness, decreased strength and altered muscle functions (7)
- Decreased bone density – vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, but it is critical to take vitamin K2 (MK7) with vitamin D3 supplementation.
Unlike vitamin supplementations, which are heavily used as antioxidants and helping enzyme activity, Vitamin D functions differently. Vitamin D works inside your cells regulating small sections of your gene expressions. Without adequate Vitamin D in the body, your genes will not function adequately. Physical exercise influences neurotransmitter levels, and there is a possibility that the interactions between neurotransmitters and the specific receptors that they affect can play a role in the onset of fatigue. (8) For example, if our brain is not producing enough neurotransmitters, your brain can call on Vitamin D to ramp up production of an enzyme that will make more neurotransmitters. These connections are crucial for affecting mood, perceived exertion and athletic performance.
Another function of Vitamin D3 is to promote calcium absorption. Calcium can be absorbed into the bones and teeth and strengthen those structures. Vitamin D supplementation without Vitamin K2 supplementation can also be absorbed into the soft tissues like the arteries. Therefore, vitamin D3 without Vitamin K2 can be a dangerous protocol. Supplementing Vitamin D3 without K2 would be analogous to riding in a car without a driver. You might luck out and end up in the right destination, but chances are you will not end up where you need to be. Taking vitamin K2 with your D3 is like adding a driver to the car. It tells the calcium where to be dropped off, into the bones and teeth and staying away from the arteries.
As you can see, vitamin D deficiency can wreak havoc on the hard work that you are putting into your performance. In order to take adequate dosing of vitamin D and monitor success, it is important to maintain optimum blood levels of vitamin D. The most accurate way to measure this is thru a serum blood analysis for 25-hydroxy vitamin D. A trained physician or nutritional adviser can assist each client.
(1) Norman, AW. From vitamin d to hormone d: fundamentals of the vitamin d endocrine system essential for good health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008:88 (suppl):491S-9S.
(2) Holick, MF. Vitamin D: evolutionary, physiological and health perspectives. Current Drug Targets. 2011 Jan:12(1):4-18.
(3) Aranow, C. Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med. 2011 Aug:59(6):881-6.
(4) Deluca et al. Vitamin D: its role and uses in immunology. The FASEB Journal. 2001 Dec: 15(14):2579-85.
(5) Peterson and Heffernan. Serum tumor necrosis factor-alpha concentrations are negatively correlated with serum 25 (OH)D concentrations in healthy women. Journal of Inflammation 2008, 5:10.
(6) Willis et al. Vitamin D status and biomarkers of inflammation in runners. Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012 (3):35-42.
(7) Pfeifer et al. Vitamin D and muscle function. Osteoporosis Int, 2002 Mar:13(3):187-94.
(8) Meeusen and De Meirleir. Exercise and Brain Neurotransmission. Sports Med. 20 (3): 160-188. 1995.