As coaches, we often are approached by members and asked for ideas on what supplements to take to optimize the time spent here training hard. The truth is, food and sleep are far more important than any powder, pill or drink for sale in the supplement world. The basics have to be in place before we fill in the details with supplements.
There is one vitamin, however, that actually aids in both sleeping well and best-utilizing nutrients from food: Vitamin D. It has been linked to calcium absorption, immune system support, metabolism boost, lower risk of heart and brain disease, cancers and more. The key difference between D and other vitamins? We cannot create it in our body without aid. It is found only in certain enriched dairy and meat products, and some kinds of fish or egg yolks. This means certain diets that limit or exclude dairy and meat are essentially devoid of vitamin D. Otherwise, you only get it from the sun. Sounds simple, but most people do not spend nearly enough, if any, time in the sunshine daily. Some research suggests as little as 10-15 minutes in the sun can be a big boost, but many would be hard pressed to say they honestly get 15 minutes of straight sunshine daily (plus Pennsylvania is a very gray, cloudy place frequently.) Darker skin pigmentation also can make absorbing D via sunlight more difficult.
So, what can we do to ensure we are giving our body enough of this essential vitamin? If you are not purposely eliminating animal products like eggs, dairy and meat, you should make sure you’re getting quality versions and eating them regularly. It is also important to make a real effort to spend time outside in the sun. Walk the dog, hike with family or friends, or just lie by the pool for a bit to get the benefits (be careful not to stay out too long though. Sunburn and sun skin damage can outweigh the positives if we’re not careful, and sunscreen cuts vitamin D production by up to 95%!)
To ensure that any missteps or missing links in these first two parts don’t become detrimental, add a vitamin D3 supplement to your diet as well. Base recommended intake of vitamin D is 1,500-2,000IU a day for adults and 600-1,000IUs for children 1-18 years old. Note: doses for pregnant woman are different and should be given by a doctor to be safe. There are many studies though that suggest higher dosages are both safe and perhaps even more useful. As one study said: “One should be far more worried about not getting enough vitamin D, than getting too much.” It is important to check the supplement you choose for quality and potency, too. Regulations are loose in the supplement world and sometimes you won’t get what’s advertised on the bottle. Look for brands that have certified potency markers or other quality control insurances clearly listed.