Vitamin D Is Even More Important Than You Think – T Nation Content

How to Boost Performance, T Levels, and Immunity

Low levels of vitamin D not only ruin your general health, but they can also ruin your athletic performance and more. Let’s fix that.

What’s the most painless way to get healthier? Get adequate vitamin D.

There’s a direct association between vitamin D deficiencies/insufficiencies and mortality rates from health conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The difference between the two terms – deficiencies and insufficiencies – is just a matter of degree, like the difference between bad and sorta’ bad.

For instance, without optimal vitamin D levels, T cells can’t battle against infectious diseases, including cancer or pathogens like the coronavirus and flu. The trouble is, it’s very hard to maintain adequate vitamin D levels without supplementation.

Symptoms of deficiencies or insufficiencies, aside from an anemic immune system, include musculoskeletal pains often diagnosed as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, brittle bones, weak or small muscles, low sex drive, low testosterone levels, hypertension, endothelial dysfunction, sudden cardiac death syndrome, and a long list of other undesirable stuff.

And it’s not just unfit folks affected. In studies, about half of all professional athletes had low vitamin D levels.

What Does Vitamin D Do for You?

Vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone and not a vitamin. When ingested, it must be converted by the body into its active form, the hormone 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol. Once that happens, it plays a vital role in various functions, including protein synthesis, muscle and cardiovascular function, cell growth, musculoskeletal regulation, and inflammatory response.

1. Vitamin D and Skeletal Muscle

When athletes have adequate levels of vitamin D, they exhibit better sports performance. They build strength more easily, and they have fewer injuries.

The vitamin regulates skeletal muscle by activating the expression of genes that modulate muscle growth and differentiation, particularly Type II muscle fibers. When there’s an insufficiency of vitamin D, Type II fibers are scrawny. Put them on supplementation and they get bigger. Vitamin D also strengthens the interaction between myosin and actin (two muscle cell proteins) so that muscle contractions are stronger.

More generally, having optimal levels of vitamin D increases muscle protein synthesis, jump height, the production of ATP, and the overall capacity to perform both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

2. Vitamin D and Lung Function

Low levels of vitamin D correlate strongly with reduced lung capacity. Optimum levels of vitamin D, however, ensure healthy lung structure, capacity, optimal oxygen exchange, and the ability to finish a task without wheezing.

3. Vitamin D and the Heart

There appears to be a relationship between severe vitamin D deficiency and sudden cardiac death in athletes. Without proper levels, arteries get stiff, and atherosclerosis is a possibility.

4. Vitamin D and the Nervous System

Vitamin D has direct effects on serotonin and dopamine levels, which are vital to muscular coordination and the avoidance of fatigue.

5. Vitamin D and Sex

Having high(er) levels of vitamin D increases circulating levels of estradiol, testosterone, FSH, LH, and DHEA in women in general, which, logically, can lead to them being more orgasmic. Similarly, vitamin D supplementation, in at least one study, significantly increases testosterone levels in men.

Why Are People Deficient?

We get vitamin D from certain foods and sunlight. But very few foods contain it besides fortified dairy products, eggs, mushrooms, and the livers of fatty fish.

As far as sunlight, every skin cell in the body contains the machinery to convert sunlight to a vitamin D precursor, which then undergoes two hydroxylations before it becomes metabolically active. Unfortunately, but understandably, everyone fears skin cancer and wrinkles, so most people try to avoid sun exposure.

Then there’s pollution, which further limits the amount of UVB radiation reaching the earth’s surface. Also, consider the angle of the sun. In wintertime, vitamin-D-producing UVB rays don’t reach latitudes above 35 to 37 degrees (just about anywhere north of San Francisco, New Mexico, Arkansas, and North Carolina).

Lastly, there’s nature’s cruel sunlight/vitamin D paradox. Any melanin you develop to give you a tan hinders UVB absorption, so much so that dark-skinned athletes need to expose their skin to UVB light up to 10 times longer than light-skinned athletes to get adequate vitamin D production going.

Okay, What Do I Need to Do?

The least risky approach is to supplement and, if possible, regularly expose your largely naked body to sunlight. But there’s no definitive way to tell if you’re deficient in vitamin D without getting a blood test. And even if you did get a blood test, there’s a broad range of medical opinions about what’s “normal.”

The Institute of Medicine believes that blood levels of 20 ng/mL are good enough. To meet that level, the RDA is about 600 IU of vitamin D. The Endocrine Society, however, prefers that people take between 1500 and 2200 IU a day, but even that’s based on guesswork and is still a little too conservative.

Most biohackers and progressive nutritionists think you should supplement vitamin D daily. Most think vitamin D levels should be maintained at 50 to 70 ng/ml. Most recommend around 5,000 units of vitamin D3 a day.

While it’s technically possible to get too much vitamin D, it’s hard to. It would take months of intentional “overdosing.” Many people can’t even get their blood levels up using regular vitamin D capsules.

How to Get (and Keep) Your Vitamin D Levels Up

First, forget the vitamin D capsules you buy at the grocery store. Use microencapsulated vitamin D3. This microencapsulated form is the most bioavailable. In short, that delivery system solves the absorption problem. Biotest’s D Fix supplement contains 5000 IU of microencapsulated vitamin D3 in each tiny softgel.


Second, vitamin D can’t be metabolized without sufficient magnesium. Without it, vitamin D would just hang around, possibly leading to higher levels of calcium and phosphate, which could lead to a host of physiological and metabolic consequences.

Not coincidentally, most Americans, particularly athletes, are deficient in magnesium. So, take 400 mg. of magnesium a day. Ideally, use fully chelated magnesium, found in Elitepro Vital Minerals (Buy at Amazon).

ElitePro Minerals


  1. Uwitonze AM et al. “Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function.” J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018 Mar 1;118(3):181-189. PubMed 29480918.
  2. Canat M et al. “Vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with female sexual dysfunction in premenopausal women.” Int Urol Nephrol. 2016 Nov;48(11):1789-1795. PubMed 27522658.
  3. Mousa A et al. “Vitamin D supplementation increases adipokine concentrations in overweight or obese adults.” Eur J Nutr. 2020 Feb;59(1):195-204. PubMed 30649593.
  4. Pilz S et al. “Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men.” Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5. PubMed 21154195.
  5. de la Puente Yagüe M et al. “Role of Vitamin D in Athletes and Their Performance: Current Concepts and New Trends.” Nutrients. 2020 Feb 23;12(2):579. PubMed 32102188.

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