Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Vitamin D Is the New Fish Oil

D is for Doping

The Vitamin D molecule

If you aren't supplementing with vitamin D, you should be - and a lot more than most people might suggest. I have been taking between 3000 and 4000 iu a day for a few months now, and I have noticed an increase in muscle mass and fat loss without changing anything in my diet. Now the changes aren't huge, like on drugs, but they are noticeable and have resulted in bigger weights and more recovery.

There are lots of other good benefits as well, as this article from T-Muscle reveals.

"D" is for Doping

"D" is for Domination

In 1927 a controversy arose in the athletic world.

The German Swimmers' Association had decided to use a sunlamp on their athletes to boost performance. Some felt this ultraviolet irradiation constituted "athletic unfairness."

In other words, doping.

How could sitting under a sunlamp be construed as doping? Because, according to Dr. Tim Ziegenfuss, this artificial sunlight penetrates the skin and converts cutaneous 7-dehydrocholesterol to previtamin D3, which in turn becomes 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D in the kidneys.

That in itself might not constitute athletic unfairness, but if you're deficient in Vitamin D (which is pretty damn common), then modern studies have shown that it can indeed be a performance enhancing substance.

The irradiation of athletes has continued since.

Fast forward to May 2009, a headline in the Post Chronicle:

This headline was a reaction to a new paper published by The American College of Sports Medicine on the positive effect of adequate Vitamin D on athletic performance.

Now, although some scientists, including Dr. Tim Ziegenfuss, would not classify Vitamin D as a hormone, its metabolic product (calcitriol) is a secosteroid hormone (a molecule that's very similar to a steroid). In fact, many come right out and classify Vitamin D as a steroid hormone.

But is this really doping?

Most experts agree that it's not.

The majority of athletes — like the majority of people in the general population — are deficient in Vitamin D. Treating this deficiency can help athletes prevent stress fractures as well as maintain a healthy vitality. If this also happens to improve the athlete's reaction time, muscle strength, speed, and endurance, well... that's just a very nice side effect of getting adequate Vitamin D.

So Vitamin D has been making waves in the athletic community since at least 1927, but it's also becoming a hot topic in another field: life extension. Add to this some evidence that it could help with fat loss and strength gains, and you just might have...

The Next Big Vitamin

Dr. Jonny Bowden calls Vitamin D the most underrated "vitamin" on the planet. (Quotation marks because it isn't technically a vitamin at all.)

Dr. Ziegenfuss, a researcher and sports nutritionist to elite athletes, tests himself often to make sure he's getting enough. He even tests his kids for it and supplements them as needed.

Coach Eric Cressey says Vitamin D might just be the next fish oil. He makes sure the athletes under his care get plenty of it. Charles Poliquin does the same.

And finally, medicinal chemist Bill Roberts says that you should "absolutely" be taking Vitamin D.

What about the stuffy and often behind-the-times nutritional organizations and agencies? Well, the FDA has stated that they're likely going to up their Vitamin D recommendations the next time they release new standards.

In October of 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled the amount of D they recommend for kids (from 200 IU per day to 400 IU per day). And the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Wyoming has recommended that sports nutritionists assess levels of Vitamin D in their athletes. If they're getting too little, they contend it will compromise the athlete's ability to train.

From government agencies to in-the-trenches trainers, the trend is clear: Vitamin D is important. And if you think you're getting enough of it from natural foods, fortified foods, and sunlight, then think again, Sunshine.

Vitamin D: Why Should You Care?

Three reasons: Longevity, performance, and lookin' good naked.

Let's break those down:

1) Longevity

You know what really gets in the way of building muscle, losing fat, and benching a ton?

The New England Journal of Medicine recently warned that the number of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency is growing. And who's deficient? Most people, the studies seem to be saying, including otherwise nutrition-conscious athletes and gym rats.

In one mind-blowing study (Melamed, et al.) using population data, researchers found that total mortality was 26% higher in those with the lowest 25(OH)D levels compared with the highest. And a meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials found that supplemental vitamin D significantly reduced total mortality. That means quite simply this: vitamin D supplementation prolongs life.

Here's just a handful of examples:

This section could go on endlessly, so let's just say this: If you care about living a good long life, then Vitamin D looks like it could certainly help with that goal.

2) Performance

Studies on Vitamin D, sunlight, and performance go back for decades. Russian studies in the 1930's showed that 100M dash times improved in irradiated athletes vs. non-irradiated athletes undergoing the same training (7.4% improvement vs. 1.4%).

German studies in the 1940's showed that irradiation lead to a 13% improvement in performance on the bike ergometer vs. no improvement in the control group.

In the 1950's researchers saw a "convincing effect" on athletic performance after treating athletes at the Sports College of Cologne. Findings were so convincing that they notified the Olympic Committee.

At one point, even school children were irradiated and given large doses of Vitamin D in 1952 Germany. Treated children showed dramatic increases in overall fitness and cardiovascular performance. UV radiation was also shown to improve reaction times by 17% in a 1956 study.

In the 1960s, a group of American college women were treated with a single dose of ultraviolet irradiation. The results: improvements in strength, speed, and endurance.

Other studies showed "distinct seasonal variation" in the trainability of musculature. Basically, athletes performed better and got stronger in the late summer due to their greater exposure to the sun and subsequent Vitamin D production.

Vitamin D has also been shown to act directly on muscle to increase protein synthesis. Deficient subjects administered Vitamin D showed improvement in muscle protein anabolism and an increase in muscle mass.

Improvements in neuromuscular functioning have also been seen. People with higher levels of Vitamin D generally have better reaction time and balance.

3) Looking Good Naked

If Vitamin D does indeed improve the effects of training and helps to stave off various illnesses, then it's easy to see how this can translate into an improved aesthetic: you're healthier, you feel better, you get more out of your training, and you end up looking better when you make sexy-time. But there could be a more direct effect as well.

Dr. Shalamar Sibley's new research shows that adding Vitamin D to a reduced-calorie diet may lead to better, faster weight loss. Not only did she find that excess body fat came off faster when plenty of D3 was present, but it also came off the abdominal area.

The icing on the cake? The same D-supplemented subjects retained muscle mass while losing the fat.

In other studies, subjects receiving Vitamin D therapy lost weight, lost their sugar cravings, and saw a normalization in blood sugar levels.

The Quick and Dirty of D

Before we get to the TMUSCLE recommendations, let's review some Vitamin D basics and some little known facts:

How Much Vitamin D?

In researching this article, I looked to find a consensus among the experts. Here's what I've found:

So the government says 200 to 400 IU for most of us, but even they admit that's low. Those more in-the-know suggest anywhere from 1000 to even 5000 IU per day.

But this may depend on how much sunlight you get and your ethnicity. Some estimate that dark-skinned individuals, brown and black guys if you will, may need double the amount of D that a pasty white guy needs.

TMUSCLE will leave your personal dosage choice up to you and maybe your physician (if he knows a damn). If you really want to dial this in, we suggest getting tested. (See section below.)

General Recommendations

Can You OD on D?

Yes. But it's unlikely.

Dr. Vieth suggests that critical toxicity may occur at doses of 20,000 IU daily (for many months), and that the Upper Limit (UL) of safety be set at 10,000 IU, rather than the current 2,000 IU.

So while toxicity issues exist, you probably won't have to worry about it when staying at 5000 IU per day or less according to most forward-thinking researchers and nutrition experts.

Good Dope

As we "go to press" I just received another study about Vitamin D from the Public

Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). It seems that Vitamin D may offer protection against Swine Flu, the H1N1 virus.

In short, if you get plenty of Vitamin D and catch the flu, it's a mild illness. If you're lacking — and most people are, especially in the winter — then you're more likely to develop full-blown symptoms.

The message is loud and clear: It's time to start "doping" with Vitamin D.

References and Further Reading

Melamed ML, Michos ED, Post W, Astor B. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of mortality in the general population. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1629—37

Autier P, Gandini S. Vitamin D supplementation and total mortality: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(16):1730—7.








Rosso said...

You mention that polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are best used with D3.

Well you are partially correct, in fact more incorrect than correct. Polyunsaturates and monounsaturates generally inhibit the action of D protein uptake. Those fats that DONT do this are omega 3s and saturated fats e.g. coconut oil.

william harryman said...

the guys in the article are nutritional experts, what are your qualifications for this assertion?

have any supporting evidence? links?

Rosso said...

From the Weston A. Price website:

The assimilation and utilization of vitamin D is influenced by the kinds of fats we consume. Increasing levels of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids in the diet decrease the binding of vitamin D to D-binding proteins. Saturated fats, the kind found in butter, tallow and coconut oil, do not have this effect. Nor do the omega-3 fats. D-binding proteins are key to local and peripheral actions of vitamin D.

Maybe you can enlighten us with your source too?

william harryman said...

cool - thanks - will look into that.

I didn't write the article, but the guys mentioned are all PhDs and well-known strength coaches (Dr. Jonny Bowden, Dr. Tim Ziegenfuss, Coach Eric Cressey, medicinal chemist Bill Roberts, Dr. Clay Hyght, Dr. Reinhold Vieth, Dr. Robert P. Heaney) - follow the link to the site, or simply follow the links provided in the article