You’re Not Getting Enough (Vitamin) D – The Supplement You NEED!
Last Updated on
You’re Not Getting Enough (Vitamin) D
The Supplement You NEED!
(and why it’s more important than any multi-vitamin!)
Vitamin D is one of the most important micronutrients:
It’s got a huge role in keeping you healthy and boosting performance.
Not only is it essential, but you’re probably not getting enough of it!
Today we’re going to take you through the main reasons you need vitamin D, why you’re not getting enough and how to fix it so that you can live better.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the most important micronutrients: the group of nutrients that include vitamins, minerals and a bunch of other small compounds that are important for the metabolic and energy functions of your body. These are key for keeping cells healthy and efficient.
Vitamin D is well-known for 2 key reasons:
- It’s synthesized in your skin when you’re hit by sunlight
- You are probably deficient in it (1)
It’s important because your body is not able to synthesize it from other compounds, so you need to either get it from sunlight or in your diet.
You’ve probably guessed by now that these are difficult – otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article!
There are 5 different types of vitamin D (from 1-5), but Vitamin D2 and D3 are the most important and commonly found in the diet and supplements.
The most popular and effective form is Vitamin D3
When you’re looking at food and supplements, Vitamin D3 is going to be the gold standard of vitamin D.
Are You Vitamin D Deficient?
Vitamin D is the number-one vitamin deficiency in economically-developed countries like the U.K. and has been estimated to affect more than 50% of all people, with greater deficiency seen in those with darker skin (2).
The problem with vitamin D is that you’re probably not at the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for this crucial vitamin.
What’s even worse is that the RDA is probably nowhere near enough to maximize your wellbeing!
The RDA is a simple number for figuring out if you’re clinically deficient – it’s not the same as the optimal amount.
Even if you’re getting your RDA, you’re probably going to need more to gain the benefits that we’re going to describe below.
Deficiency in vitamin D is also based on the fact that you don’t get enough sun in the first place. Since this is the main way that your body produces its own vitamin D, the weather in places like the U.K., Northern Europe and North America are all too dark to give you what you need, even in the SUMMER!
What makes it even harder is that there are very few foods that provide significant amounts of this wonder-vitamin. You can get small amounts from milk (both the dairy kind and the plant kind), as well as a few other foods – however, if you’re on a plant-based diet you’re going to be short on options and need to put in some real effort.
Is It A Vitamin At All?
We’ve already told you what vitamin D is, but the science of vitamin D is a total enigma.
Not only is it not essential, but it might not even be a vitamin!
You might think that the name makes this obvious, but the way that calciferol (Vit D) works in the body is more like a hormone than a regular vitamin. You don’t just eat this compound and have it in your system: it requires your body to synthesize it independently.
If you can develop it within the skin when exposed to certain eternal stimuli, you’re probably dealing with a hormone not a vitamin. This is one of the reasons why its status as a vitamin has been disputed: it’s not essential in the diet because you can build it in your own skin – something you can’t do with any other vitamin like B12 or C.
The reason that we discuss it as a vitamin is because there are serious risks associated with the way that vitamin D is synthesized in the skin that make it a real concern…
The specific part of sunlight that you need for vitamin D to be made is UVB: a serious contributor to the development of skin cancer (3).
Basically, you might be able to produce enough vit D on your own – but you’re also putting yourself at risk of developing serious health problems that are far more severe than vitamin D deficiency!
Therefore, we always recommend taking a high-quality, natural Vitamin D supplement: less risk, better results!
Why Is Vitamin D So Important?
If you’re deficient, it’s important to supplement for that reason alone.
Your body is missing something that it needs, and you should be rushing out to get your hands on some D already.
However, if you need even more motivation to fix yourself, below we’re going to take you through the most amazing benefits of vitamin D for health and performance…
(if you don’t want health and performance then you’re on the wrong website!)
Recommended Daily Allowance
Your RDA for vitamin D is achievable without any supplementation but, as mentioned above, it puts you at huge risk of serious health problems.
So – what’s the deal with the Vitamin D RDA and why are we banging on about it?
Firstly, the RDA system is totally outdated.
Even the way that RDA is written points out how wrong and outdated it is: it suggests how much you’re allowed, despite being a bare minimum for many micronutrients.
RDAs are designed to make sure you’re not clinically deficient, rather than telling you how much your body needs for optimum performance.
How Much D Can You Handle?
While the RDA is around 500iu, we’d recommend getting at least 2000iu a day (4).
Most studies suggest that anywhere between 2000iu and 4000iu is best for getting all the benefits without any real side-effects.
Vitamin D isn’t likely to cause any problems even if you take 10,000iu a day – but you won’t see any benefits for taking more than 5000iu per day unless your doctor advises you that you’re severely deficient. (5).
The difference to your body between sufficient and optimal is huge.
It’s the same with any nutrient: you’re going to need to hit a minimum amount, but if you’re looking for the best results then you need to give your body plenty of what it needs!
The lesson here is that your goals and needs are going to determine how much you need – government recommendations are just meant to keep people from getting ill.
If you’re looking to gain the huge benefits of vitamin D for health and performance, you need to approach it with the mentality of chasing optimal levels, not simply ‘good enough’.
Remember, ‘good enough’ is never actually good enough – give your body what it needs to be its best!
The Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation
Now we’ve established why you need to supplement to reach peak levels, we’re going to take you through the benefits of optimal levels of vitamin D.
We’re also going to look at how deficiency risk can negatively impact you and the benefits you get from simply not being deficient: it’s the place to start!
If you’re looking for a leaner, more muscular physique then you’re going to be interested in raising your testosterone levels. This is one of the basics to naturally boosting your testosterone levels and adjusting your body composition without huge changes to your lifestyle.
The science shows that vitamin D between 2000 and 3,332iu of vitamin D can raise testosterone significantly (6 ).
This is a good guide to the amount that you should take for health and performance, (though the same studies showed no testosterone increase for women).
Vitamin D is a natural vitamin supplement. It’s an important part of your health but it’s also going to mean improved performance and recovery.
This is one of the reasons it’s the most important supplement: it contributes to everything from muscle gains to cancer protection!
This is why the Top Testosterone Boosters we recommend all have optimal dosages of 5000iu of Vitamin D3.
Brain and Nerves
Vitamin D is neuroprotective.
This is just a fancy way of saying that it protects your brain and nervous system.
Neuroprotection is one of the most important qualities that you should be chasing: studies link vitamin D to reduced risk of degenerative brain disease (like Alzheimer’s), improved cognition and even protection against mood disorders like depression and anxiety (7).
You’ll also see improved health outside of the brain – the nervous system is in every part of your body and keeping it healthy is essential. You’ll reduce your risk of other common problems like Guillain-Bahr syndrome (a contributor to MS) and keep your motor control as you age (8).
By protecting these nervous system tissues, you’re also likely to benefit your sport and exercise performance! The nerves of the peripheral nervous system (PNS: the stuff that makes you move), you can improve power output and strength.
Like we said above – getting healthier and stronger is what we do, and vitamin D is the #1 supplement for both.
Absorbing & Using Other Vitamins
Vitamin D is a key player in the way that your gut works. We’ve seen a huge rise in the importance of gut healing for nutrition: if you’re digestion is not working properly then it doesn’t matter what you’re eating!
When you have good levels of vitamin D, you’re going to absorb and use other key minerals more effectively.
The most important benefit is calcium metabolism – you can use calcium more effectively which means stronger bones and a reduced risk of osteoporosis as you age (9).
This means less fractures – one of the biggest problems in the quality of life for the elderly!
You probably knew about the benefits of calcium on bone health, but did you know it also has huge benefits in reducing the risk of breast cancer? If you’re female, you’re going to protect yourself by getting plenty of D… AKA making sure that your vitamin D and calcium levels are optimal (10).
It’s not just Calcium – vitamin D also boosts your body’s ability to use magnesium and phosphorous. If you’re supplementing these without enough vitamin D you’re wasting your time, so remember to start with the basics and add these in afterwards!
How often do you think about keeping your DNA healthy? …Probably not often!
Genes are important, but they’re at huge risk of oxidative stress.
This is what happens when you’re exposed to environmental stresses (like smoking, drinking alcohol or being stressed) and can cause mutations and cancers. Obviously, these are bad, and you need to protect yourself and your genes.
Vitamin D is great for this: it is an antioxidant but also plays a big role in the expression of genes (11). This fantastic compound helps you build healthy DNA in the first place and then it protects it from free radicals – the waste products of your metabolism.
Immunity: A Resilient Body is a Healthy Body
What does health and fitness mean to you?
For me, it’s about improving your body’s performance and quality of life. This means that improving your immune system is at the center of keeping yourself healthy and fit.
Nothing ruins your fitness like being ill!
Vitamin D is not only a key player in protecting the brain but the rest of the body by improving the immune system (12). This means staying healthier now and into the future: the quality of your immune system is an important factor in how you age and getting sick is often the start of the down-hill process of rapid aging.
It’s important to remember that what you do now is the biggest factor in your health and fitness when you get older. If you’re training to improve your wellbeing and life, you need to put immunity first and invest in your long-term quality of life.
Supplementing vitamin D is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to do this!
Getting Your D
We’ve talked about how difficult it is to get enough vitamin D and the benefits of doing so. The big question is: how do you get optimal vitamin D levels?
Vitamin D Rich Foods
It starts with your milk – whether you’re plant-based or not, milk is a great way of getting your vitamin D baseline. Plant milks and dairy both provide a small amount and they’re very versatile: an almond milk shake with spinach, protein powder and fruits is a great, balanced snack that puts you closer to your goals.
There are a few more options for omnivores, with eggs and fish providing large quantities of vitamin D (relative to other foods). Obviously, if you’re plant-based then you’re not going to be able to meet these needs, so you need to put effort into finding omega-3 fats and vitamin D from other sources – often supplements from coconut.
Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D is one compound that we always recommend supplementing.
While you might get 40iu (40 International Units = 1 microgram) of vitamin D from every 100ml of plant milk, you need at least 2000iu a day to maintain optimal health and wellbeing. Estimates for optimal function are as high as 5000iu – that’s a lot of almond milk to drink!
You can get closer to optimal quantities by taking a Vitamin D3 supplement – but choose wisely as some supplements online can provide worthless amounts or up to as much as a ridiculous 50,000iu dosage! More isn’t always better, you’re advised to consult a doctor before supplementing over 5000iu of Vitamin D per day, so stick to 2000 – 4000iu and you should be safe, as we discussed earlier.
Combining this type of supplement with a healthy diet is a great way to improve your results.
There also a few important compounds that can help your absorption of vitamin D or improve its effectiveness:
- B vitamins (especially 2, 3 and 12)
- Vitamins E and K
Supplement Some Nature!
If you’re looking to get your vitamin D levels up, it’s still important to get yourself outside in the sun whenever you can. This doesn’t mean sunbathing on a beach but just being outside in the sunlight being active and embracing the climate is a great place to start. But make sure to cover up or get into the shade well before you burn to enjoy the benefits of a natural vitamin D immune system boost without the risk of skin cancer!
Combining supplementation with an effective diet and lifestyle is an easy way to get your vitamin D levels every day. It’s a small amount of effort that will be essential to health and wellbeing.
Warning: Possible Side Effects
While vitamin D is a great way of improving your health, it’s not without its own limitations. Studies have associated the intake of extra vitamin D with increased incidence of kidney stones (13 )
The study was huge and showed some trends towards increased kidney stone formation, but you should remember that kidney stones are a complicated health problem and their occurrence was only slightly more common.
Our advice is that, when supplementing vitamin D, you should make sure that you’re getting plenty of water and consuming a balanced diet. The formation of these compounds in the kidney is a real problem, but it is often the result of lifestyle: dehydration, high quantities of red meat and low concentrations of leafy greens are bigger risks than vitamin D supplementation (14 )!
Vitamin D Conclusion
Vitamin D is a controversial vitamin because it is so important and difficult to get enough of if you don’t live near the equator. There’s an estimated 1 billion people who are deficient in the world.
It requires some serious attention and a little effort to reach optimal levels, but the rewards for doing so are huge.
If you’re going to focus on a balanced approach to fitness that pushes your health and quality of life, then you’re going to benefit from daily vitamin D3 supplementation.
We’re generally sceptical about supplements: they need to actually work to get our blessing – but vitamin D is one of the most important and we believe that everyone should supplement it. (You can even find a great 5000iu dosage in our top recommended testosterone booster: TestoFuel or a helping 1000iu dosage in the top fat burner for women: Hourglass)
It’s a simple investment in your own long-term health performance and wellbeing.
Take the D!
Professional sport/fitness writer at ApexContent.org, weightlifter and S&C enthusiast. Liam has over 5 years experience in coaching positions, learning under the best mentors and sport coaches in Britain. At the same time developed a love for relentlessly researching and writing scientifically backed content in health, fitness and sport performance.
Liam wears many hats, but they’re unified by a love for competition, performance, and engaging writing. You can throw abuse (and questions) his way in the comments and he’ll be happy to help you!