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Vitamin D is a friend of muscles

Warmer weather brings about greater motivation to be active, whether it’s taking a brisk walk, hiking, biking, swimming or working in the yard. Unfortunately, it’s easy to overdo it sometimes, which can result in stiff, sore muscles.

An interesting study from The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) found that vitamin D can help facilitate faster muscle recovery after intense exercise, and may even help prevent muscle damage caused by overdoing it.

Damage to the muscles can be caused by a variety of factors, such as experiencing a strain and accompanying inflammation. For example, after a long steep hike, muscles may be extremely sore, leaving them unable to exert normal force. With rest, they repair and regain their full strength again.

“We wanted to study the relationship between vitamin levels and recovery following intense exercise,” says TOSH researcher Tyler Barker, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “What we found was that those who had higher vitamin D levels had a faster rate recovery from muscle damage.” The research was published in the journal, Nutrients — Vitamin D and Human Health.

“This research sheds new light on the importance of vitamin D in our bodies,” said Dr. Brian Dixon, executive director of scientific and clinical affairs at USANA Health Science, and contributing author of the study. “This study is especially appealing on a personal level. For those of us who consider ourselves ‘weekend warriors’, it looks like we can play a little harder and maybe not suffer as much on Monday.”

Fourteen physically active adults participated in the study. Vitamin D levels and the amount of force a participant could exert were measured before and after intense exercise.

Each participant performed intense exercise with one leg while the other leg acted as a control. Then their strength was tested at day one, two, three and seven following the initial intense exercise by pushing against a special force plate. By assessing the amount of strength the leg has with the force plate, researchers could assess the initial muscle damage and then the recovery time.

Researchers found those with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood were able to regain their strength back quicker.

Based on their data, researchers also concluded that vitamin D may protect against muscular weakness caused by muscle damage. They say vitamin D helps to regulate calcium and protein synthesis within the muscle that ultimately help a muscle move. Scientists continue to study the relationship between diet and exercise. Future studies may look at the degree to which vitamin D is helpful in aiding muscle recovery after intense exercise.

Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, and helps to keep bones strong. It can be obtained from sun exposure, food and supplements. Some of the best food sources include swordfish, salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish liver oils. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Fortified foods including milk, orange juice, yogurt and ready-to-eat cereals provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D vary by age, and gender.

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