Vitamin D is the darling of the supplement world these days. From slowing mental decline to shrinking prostate tumors to accelerating weight loss, the “sunshine vitamin” seems to be linked to an endless catalogue of health benefits. And now to add onto the list: lower blood pressure and better exercise performance.
A new study from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh found that those who took vitamin D every day were able to cycle farther by the end of a two-week trial—from three miles in 20 minutes to four miles in the same amount of time. (The participants took 2,000 IU of vitamin D, the amount in a typical over-the-counter capsule.) Daily vitamin D takers cycled 30 percent farther than participants taking a placebo, while showing “lower signs of exertion,” reported Daily Mail. Additionally, participants taking vitamin D had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that raises blood pressure and is linked to weight gain.
The study results bode well for super supplement vitamin D. So how can you get your D fix to maximize your fitness? Although it was once common to think you can get a sufficient dose of vitamin D from sun exposure, the fact that 42 percent of the U.S. population is believed to be deficient suggests otherwise. And getting the right amount of sun may be trickier to get than you’d think. “If you go out in a bathing suit with no sunblock in the middle of the day and the sun is high enough in the sky, within minutes you’ll have made 1,000 IU, but we are not just talking about exposing your hands,” John Cannell, president of the Vitamin D Council, told The Washington Post. “It takes true sunbathing for 15 or 20 minutes a day with a majority of skin surface exposed to the sun…which just isn’t practical for most people.” Plus, Cannell adds that depending on where you live or the season, the sun’s rays might not be at an optimal level for your skin to synthesize any of the vitamin.
Some other ways to get your vitamin D dose beyond sun exposure includes supplements or foods like fatty fish (think salmon, tuna or swordfish) and fish liver oils (one tablespoon of cod liver oil provides 1,360 IU). According to the National Institutes of Health, men and women between the ages of 1 and 70 should aim for 600 IU of vitamin D each day while anyone over the age of 70 should be targeting 800 IU. How are you getting your daily vitamin D?