Vitamin D Deficiency: How its Hurting your Game

Did you know that up to 80% of people in the United States are deficient in vitamin D? This isn’t a problem just for American’s either, since vitamin D deficiency is largely based on sunlight exposure. If you’re more than 30 degrees north of the equator (North of Atlanta, Georgia or the Mediterranean Sea) then you receive zero vitamin D from the sun between November and March, and since vitamin D is extremely rare in foods, chances are you are deficient in vitamin D (1).

But is being deficient in vitamin D really a problem for you? I’m guessing most of you feel fine… but is fine really enough? Especially when I have some studies lined-up to talk about that show that higher levels of vitamin D increases muscle growth, improves muscle recoveryreduces injuries, boosts testosteronereduces body fat and overall improves athletic performance. 

Yes these are real studies that show the advantages you are missing out on (and I missed out on for years of my playing career). So lets dive into them so you can see that this isn’t a load of bull.

Vitamin D Increases Muscle Growth

Vitamin D has all types of benefits, but one that is especially helpful to soccer players is that vitamin D helps muscles grow faster by reducing the production of myostatin and increase IGF-2, Myog and MyoD. You don’t need to worry about exactly how vitamin D increases muscles, the important part is that it actually does (2). But not only does it help your muscles grow, it has also increases muscle strength without extra training due to it improving the intake of calcium (3). This is great news for players who are looking to get an extra edge on their competition.

Vitamin D Improves Muscle Recovery

We all want to recover faster from trainings and workouts. The faster we recover, the harder we can go at our next practice. Luckily, vitamin D has been shown to help with muscle recovery. Vitamin D supplementation decrease chronic inflammation, which can be a nagging problem for players who are never letting their bodies fully recover (4).

While vitamin D can’t take you from an out of shape person to the energizer bunny, it can give you a jumpstart on your muscle recovery. In fact, pre-workout vitamin D levels significantly predict muscular weakness immediately after exercising, along with 48, 72, and 168 hours after exercise as well. This means that soccer players with optimal vitamin D levels will recover faster after training (5).

Vitamin D Reduces Injuries

Once again, the effects of vitamin D on calcium uptake comes to the rescue again. This time, however, it is because vitamin D levels have a positive effect on bone metabolism (6). Bone metabolism is the life-long process of our body removing old bone tissue and replacing it with new bone tissue. This is how our bones not only recover from fractures, but also from daily wear and tear. Stronger and faster recover bones is a great attribute to add, especially when it comes simply from reaching optimal vitamin D intake.

Vitamin D Boosts Testosterone

Vitamin D, as we are coming to see, is in charge of a lot of things in our body and adding to this list is the job of regulating a genes that producing testosterone. This simply means that if you are low in vitamin D, then your body is not producing the ideal amount of testosterone (7). Low testosterone levels cause fatigue, loss of muscle mass, increases in body fat and many other problems. We can simply avoid this with optimal doses of vitamin D!

What else is great about vitamin D is that it is anti-estrogenic, but only where it’s needed. Estrogens are the family of hormones responsible for female sex characteristics. But the anti-estrogenic effects of vitamin D are expressed mostly in the fat tissue (8). This means that it will not cause problem for women or men, since estrogen is good for bones in both sexes.

Vitamin D Increases Fat Loss

Soccer players are lean athletes. When it comes to sprinting around a big field for 90 minutes, we don’t want to be carrying around extra weight. Vitamin D can come in handy for this as well, since it speeds up fat breakdown and when combined with strength training, increases fat loss even more (9, 10, 11).

Vitamin D Improves Athletic Performance

While it is obvious that all the above benefits of vitamin D will improve athletic performance, I thought it was interesting that there are studies that show that overall athletic performance in sports increases when athletes have optimal levels of vitamin D in their systems (12, 13). When getting enough vitamin D increases muscle strength and recovery along with testosterone, all while decreasing injuries and fat, it’s not surprising that your performance on the field would improve.

How Much Vitamin D Should I take?

Well now that we have ran through the benefits of having optimal vitamin D levels, we now need to figure out how much vitamin D we should be taking. There is a toxicity level for Vitamin D, but it is rather high, such as taking 10,000 IU per day for more than six months. Please do not do this.

I recommend taking 4,000-6,000 IU per day if you are not constantly in the sun, in a place close to the equator. Taking any more than this is useless, since all the effects of vitamin D plateau at 55 ng/ml. I use NOW Foods Vitamin D3 and have been for over a year now with great results. You also get better results if you take Vitamin D with a meal, so I recommend taking it at whatever meal is before your training, to help with post-training muscle recovery (14).

With all the amazing benefits of simply getting enough vitamin D, it’s weird to think of how many soccer players are deficient in it. If you live in a Northern location or you wear sun screen outside, chances are you are deficient. So take some vitamin D as a way to step up your game simply through getting the nutrients you really need.

Thanks for reading. If you found this interesting, please share it. Until next time,

Casey Ames
Head Trainer at Optimal Soccer

Have you supplemented with vitamin D before to increase performance or have any questions about it? Leave a comment below!


I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the support of the OS community. If you enjoy the information here, please share it and/or comment below. I love engaging in discussion and answering questions in any aspects related to the game we all love. The more we develop a community of players, coaches and performance specialists helping each other out, the more we all gain. Thanks again!

One Response

  1. Parajumpers jackor December 27, 2013