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Vitamin D, known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, is crucially important to our health. It’s estimated that 85% of Americans are chronically deficient in vitamin D, and your probability of being deficient is even greater if you have dark skin. In fact, even if you do live in a sunny area year-round, there’s a good possibility that you don’t get enough sun exposure for your vitamin D needs. Working indoors and covering up or using sunblock also prevent us from taking in the sun’s UVB rays that would allow us to naturally manufacture our own vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause a wide array of health issues and diseases including muscle weakness, kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, periodontal disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, schizophrenia and depression and many more. That’s pretty much your whole body from the ground up! Why is vitamin D involved in so many parts of the body?
It turns out that vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin but a hormone (which makes sense since the body is able to produce D it itself). All of the cells throughout our body contain vitamin D receptors. Vitamin D is even involved in the regulation of many important genes, including those implicated in cancer and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
HOW TO FIND OUT IF YOU’RE VITAMIN D DEFICIENT
The likelihood that you’re deficient in vitamin D is pretty high unless you’re already taking a supplement or you know you’re getting 5 – 30 minutes per day of sunblock free sun exposure. You can ask your physician to order you a blood test to find out if you’re deficient in vitamin D.
Some symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include:
- General muscle pain and weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Joint pain
- Chronic pain
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Restless sleep
- Poor concentration
- Bladder problems
- Constipation or diarrhea
Getting adequate vitamin D is important to our fitness and weight loss goals as well. Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium when eaten with calcium-rich foods, and thus is crucial to healthy bones. In older adults, vitamin D and calcium can help prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also essential for muscle strength. People deficient in vitamin D can experience bone softening, muscle twitches and cramping, all of which could have an impact on your workouts. Getting appropriate levels of vitamin D also increases insulin sensitivity, thereby helping to decrease fat storage. Lack of vitamin D may also interfere with leptin, the hormone in your body that signals your brain to stop eating when you’re full.
SOURCES OF VITAMIN D IN THE DIET
Vitamin D is produced by our bodies in response to sunlight exposure, but very few of us get the amount of sunlight exposure necessary to produce the vitamin D we need. This is due largely to lack of sunlight during part of the year, as well as use of sunblock which prevents sun rays from reaching our skin. While there are a few natural dietary sources of vitamin D including some fish, fish liver oils and egg yolks, it would be nearly impossible to get the amount of D we need from these sources on a daily basis without supplementing. Dairy is not a natural source of vitamin D, but it is often fortified.
SUPPLEMENTING VITAMIN D
The USDA recommends 600 IU of vitamin D per day if you’re under age 50, but many health experts recommend more, up to 2000 IU daily, especially during the winter months. See what Dr. Andrew Weil has to say about vitamin D dosage here. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, many experts recommend taking it with a fat-containing meal.
Vitamin D3 tablet supplements are generally known to be better absorbed than D2, but if you’re vegetarian or vegan you should know that D3 supplements are generally not vegetarian.
At Athlean-XX for Women we’re committed to healthy nutrition because it’s the foundation of overall fitness and well being. Our nutrition plan recommends eating healthy lean protein, slow-burning carbohydrates, veggies and fruits at every meal and snack to provide good nutrition and help keep you feeling full. In fact, the Athlean-XX for Women nutrition plan is anything but a diet – we actually recommend you eat more – 5 – 6 times per day! This type of diet will help turn your metabolism into a fat burning machine – when combined with our killer 30 minute workouts. Yes, with Athlean-XX for Women, eat more healthy food, exercise shorter but harder and weigh less! Join us on Team Athlean to start your lifestyle makeover now!
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