How Does Vitamin D Affect Your Body? Science Says It Can Give Your Workout A Boost

When you’ve got all the fitness goals, but zero stamina to put in the work, the mere idea of trying to pump yourself up can be a workout in and of itself. Listen, I get it: You’re exhausted, and deciding whether to get active early in the morning or head to the gym after eight hours at the office sounds like a lose-lose. But let’s talk stimulation, guys, because according to new research, vitamin D affects your body like a pre-workout supplement, so you don’t have to rely on things like shots of espresso to wake you up, or diluted, fruity powders to get you hyped. All you need to do to feel motivated is soak in a little sunshine, and treat yourself to the right foods.

For me, when it comes to my workout routine, there was a time when I practically lived at my local GNC. I’d stop in every few weeks or so to restock on all sorts of protein powders and tubs of watermelon-flavored pre-workout — most of which made my sensitive stomach flip, but I was doing it for the #gains. At the time, I was following a bunch of fitness gurus across social media, and I definitely fell into the trap of buying whatever my favorite influencers were selling. Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits to taking pre-workout supplements if you need that extra boost, but I’ve come to find that there are also plenty of all-natural solutions to an endurance slump, including upping your vitamin D intake.

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Over one billion people across the world are deficient in vitamin D, aka “the sun vitamin,” according to a paper published in the January 2010 issue of the International Journal of Health Sciences — which is really a shame, since the paper points out that vitamin D is essential for so many aspects of your health, including your general growth and development. And now, a new study, which has been published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, has found that consuming normal to high levels of vitamin D may also improve your VO2 max, aka how much oxygen you use during a workout. According to ScienceDaily, your VO2 max is an indicator of your physical performance, so the better your VO2 max is, the better your workout is, too, and the more capable your body is of pushing itself a little harder.

For the study, as per ScienceDaily, researchers from the European Society of Cardiology wanted to explore the ways in which vitamin D affects the body beyond encouraging healthy bones. To do this, they collected data from nearly 2,000 participants between 20 and 49 years old, which included information on both their vitamin D levels, as well as the average amount of oxygen their bodies use when working out.

In the end, according to ScienceDaily, the study's results showed that the higher a person's vitamin D levels, the more advanced their physical performance was. However, Dr. Amr Marawan, study author and assistant professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement for ScienceDaily that this study in particular is preliminary at best, and that more tests need to be done in order to determine just how much vitamin D is necessary (and safe) to improve physical performance, as well as your overall cardiovascular health.

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According to Healthline, there are three major sources of vitamin D you should know about: The first, vitamin D2, is found in mushrooms, while the second, vitamin D3, is found in things such as oily fish, fish liver oil, and eggs. The third source of vitamin D is the sun, but unless you’re spending hours outside every day when those shiny golden rays are beating down, it’s not always easy to soak them in on a daily basis. Bottom line: The more vitamin D you can work into your diet, the better.

I know myself, and I’ve always confused foods with vitamin D for vitamin C, but the good news is you probably already have some foods rich in vitamin D stocked in your fridge. Things like egg yolks, canned tuna, cheese, salmon, orange juice, milk, and even some fortified cereals are all made with vitamin D, as per Healthline. You can also take vitamin D supplements to ensure you’re getting the right dosage each day, if need be.

As far as how much vitamin D you should be taking, it really depends on your lifestyle, diet, and where you live. A general rule of thumb to abide by, though, according to the Mayo Clinic, is that the average adult should consume at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D from diet and sunlight, or 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D from a supplement. Be sure to talk to your doctor to get a better idea of how much vitamin D is best for your individual body.