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Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon, and is caused by inadequate exposure to sunlight. This means that athletes who regularly train indoors may be at particular risk. Even if you are regularly exposed to sunlight, the absorption of vitamin D may be compromised due to the use of sunblock.
In supplement form vitamin D is available in two forms: D2 and D3. Look for supplements containing vitamin D3, as this form is produced naturally within the body and is therefore more readily absorbed.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in the absorption of calcium. If you become deficient the health of your bones can suffer, leaving you vulnerable to injuries such as stress fractures.
Vitamin D has also been linked to the normal function of muscles in athletes, impacting protein synthesis and in turn muscle strength.
Finally, vitamin D also boosts the production of immune cells, so has an important role in fighting and preventing illness.
A daily intake of 25mcg (1,000 IU) is recommended to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D. If you are found to be vitamin D deficient a dose of 100mcg (4,000IU) is recommended to quickly correct deficiency.
Some experts recommend taking vitamin D with food to aid absorption. But according to the Vitamin D Council this is unfounded, and vitamin D can be taken at any time as long as it is taken regularly.