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Vitamin D and athletes

Vit D is known to most people as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

Sunlight is indeed the most important source of vitamin D since the body can produce vitamin D itself under the influence of sunlight.

Vitamin D has a positive effect on immune system, cell growth and cardiovascular effects. Higher vitamin D levels can reduce the incidence of MS, diabetes, arthritis, obesity & metabolic syndrome.

Positive effect on immune system

Vitamin D stimulates immune system cells to produce AMPs – antimicrobial peptides. These are substances known for  defense against bacteria and viruses  that want to penetrate.

The vitamin D status has an influence on the individual’s susceptibility to, for example, the flu or a cold.

Athletes who train intensively for a long time have a suppressive effect on their immune system.

So make sure you have a good vitamin D status, possibly through supplementation, if you can stimulate the production of AMPs and reduce the suppressive effect.

Furthermore, it has also been proven that athletes who train intensively for a long time have an increased risk of upper respiratory infection. However, vitamin D produces anti-inflammatory cytokines and decreases the production of inflammatory cytokines. This therefore ensures a  reduced risk of inflammation.

Vit D also ensures the production of growth factors.  Think of substances that stimulate and support cell function and ensure the production of myelin.

Myelin ensures that nerve impulses are transmitted more quickly. If there is a shortage of myelin, an impulse would take much longer to reach the nerve cell via the axon.

So think of the importance of sports that require a fast reaction speed.

Which athletes have an increased vitamin D requirement?

Athletes who train indoors  and at times such as 11am-3pm, the best time to expose your hands and face to the sun for 15 minutes. We are thinking of strength athletes, gymnasts, swimmers, basketball, martial arts, …

Vitamin D and athletes
Vitamin D and athletes

Also athletes with dark skin color.

Dark skin produces  less (efficient) vitamin D when exposed to the sun than lighter skin.

Finally, athletes at an older age, women & children will also have an increased need.

Consequences of a vitamin D deficiency

Among the most common symptoms are bone decalcification (osteoporosis), a weakened immune system and weaker muscles .

In addition to osteoporosis, you also have osteomalacia , which is softening of the bones.
Osteomalacia results in poor bone density, as well as muscle weakness .
This means that with a vitamin D deficiency, the risk of bone fractures, infections and falls (with or without fractures) is higher.

Muscle weakness and/or cramps can therefore be one of the first symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency. 

Sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is therefore found in high-fat foods.
Think of oily fish (such as salmon, herring and mackerel) & eggs.

Milk and milk products unfortunately do not contain vitamin D, even if you choose full-fat dairy products. That is why vitamin D is added to low-fat margarine, margarine and baking and roasting products. 

You get about ⅓ of your Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin D from your diet.
The other ⅔ is produced by your body itself through sunlight through your skin.
It is also important to know that there are 2 types of vitamin D.

Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3
Vitamin D2 is mainly found in mushrooms and fungi and is therefore the vegetable form of vitamin D. Vit D3 can be found in high-fat, animal foods and is therefore the animal form.

If you are looking for an easily absorbable form of vitamin D, go for vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is also the form of vitamin D that we produce when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

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