Vitamin Issues
Can Vitamin D Improve Your Athletic Performance?
Sep 17, 2013 - 7:55:06 PM

( - The fall is synonymous with the beginning of running season.  With the weather cool enough to run outside comfortably and marathons already scheduled through the New Year, it is very important to keep your body as healthy as possible - whether you run for fun or training for a big race.   One of the most vital nutrients in a runner's diet is Vitamin D.   Researchers have long known that Vitamin D is important for bone health and that a deficiency can lead to serious bone diseases.  But new research has proven Vitamin D's broader health benefits such as lower risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease - as well as increased athletic performance.

"Vitamin D is an often overlooked element in athletic achievement," says Dr. Scott Weiss, D.P.T, A.T.C., CSCS of Bodhizone in New York City.  "Unlike other nutrients, Vitamin D can be obtained by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, as well as through foods or supplements.  However, as the seasons start to change and the days become a little shorter, access to sunlight becomes a bit more limited."

According to Dr. Weiss, Vitamin D once was thought to be primarily involved in bone development.  But a growing body of research suggests that it's essential in multiple different bodily functions, including allowing body cells to utilize calcium, muscle fibers to develop and grow normally, and the immune system to function properly.

"Vitamin D helps the body absorb the calcium from food and supplements that in turn maintains calcium homeostasis," says Dr. Weiss.  "Maintaining the appropriate levels of calcium in the bones is crucial for keeping bones as strong as possible.  This is extremely beneficial if you are someone who suffers from stress fractures.  Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone that are usually developed from overuse of impact sports, such as running.  Keeping track of your Vitamin D intake is the number one way to ensure healthy bones and prevent future stress fractures."

Vitamin D is not only important for bones, but muscles too.  Scott explains, "Vitamin D plays a huge role in muscle physiology and sports performance. Deficiency of the vitamin has been shown to negatively affect our fast twitch type II muscle fibers, shown by more fatty infiltration and fibrosis in the muscle tissue itself, ultimately leading to atrophy."   The good news is that supplementation has been proven to help reverse the type II muscle atrophy, aiding in muscular function and recovery. Consumption of Vitamin D through daily supplements is a good start in terms of getting the recommended 600 IU daily dosage, but it isn't the only option.

"Just because the weather is cooler doesn't mean your body won't absorb Vitamin D naturally from the sun, it is just a bit harder for your skin to absorb through bulky sweaters," says Dr. Weiss.  "Wearing thin, close to the body workout clothing while running outside as opposed to bulky sweats will allow your skin to absorb the vitamin that it needs."

There are almost no symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, so one of the only ways to know you're getting an adequate amount is with a blood test. Runners who live in the northern half of the United States and all of Canada and Europe (where winter sun isn't strong enough to make vitamin D) are more at risk than others. People who use sunblock, spend a lot of time indoors, or have dark skin (more pigment works as a natural sunscreen) are also at risk of a deficiency.

About Dr. Scott Weiss, D.P.T., A.T., CSCS

Dr. Scott Weiss is a licensed physical therapist and board certified athletic trainer in the state of New York.  He is also a registered exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning specialist and advanced personal trainer with over fifteen years of experience. Scott possesses both a bachelor's and master's degree in exercise physiology and a doctorate in physical therapy.  His affiliations and certifications with all the major certifying bodies domestically and internationally like the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS), American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), American Society of Exercise Physiologist (ASEP), allows him to be a consultant to collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes as well as a trainer to the stars.  Throughout his career he had the pleasure and good fortune to work with some of the world's elite athletes. These include several United States Olympic Teams, National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL) and the New York Liberty-WNBA.   In 2012, Scott was selected to be a member of the USOC's sports medical team for the Olympic Games in London where he provided emergency medical and physical therapy services to all our U.S. athletes.  He also served in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games.

Scott is presently the owner and clinical director of Bodhizone for Human Performance & Sports Physical Therapy, PC. He has four offices in New York City, midtown east, upper east side, down in gramercy and in Astoria, Queens.  A physical therapy or fitness session at Bodhizone is guaranteed to be unique and effective each and every time. Scott and his staff combine yoga, martial arts, sports, physical therapy and functional strength training into many of the workouts, enabling you the patient, to heal while improving your overall health and fitness level.  Bodhizone specializes in creating sport specific workouts for all sports and customizing physical and fitness training sessions to meet your rehabilitation goals and needs of your body.

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