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Runners…should you be supplementing Vitamin D?

Feb 6, 2018 | Dietetics, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Running, Wellness | 6 comments

should runners supplement vitamin D

It’s sunny outside today, which is a rarity for February in the UK. In fact, the week I got back from Australia/New Zealand, I don’t think I saw the sun at all for days. It was certainly a bit of a shock after spending days on the beach over New Year.

If I could live anywhere but the UK, it would be somewhere sunny.

should runners supplement vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the few things that I regularly supplement, and have been doing so for a few years. I started taking Vitamin D after suffering from severe anxiety and general feeling crap, and the doctor discovered I had a severe vitamin D deficiency.

Research suggests that up to 50% of the world’s population could be Vitamin D deficient!

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and helps to maintain your body’s calcium homeostasis. This is particularly important for runners at risk of stress fractures! Studies have also shown that people with higher levels of Vitamin D can jump higher, quicker and with more power than those who are Vitamin D deficient – it increases the fast-twitch muscles and muscular strength!

7 Reasons Vitamin D is key for runners; 

  • reduce risk of stress fractures
  • required for muscle contraction
  • helps boost your immune system
  • necessary for nerve stimulation for the messages to carry from your brain to other areas of your body
  • inhibits the proteins that trigger inflammatory response
  • can have a protective element on heart health
  • it can improve mental health

should runners supplement vitamin D

Yes, studies have shown a link between mental health and vitamin D, in particular in the use of Vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of depression. High doses of Vitamin D have been found to ameliorate some symptoms of the disease. Vitamin D deficiency has also found to be more prevalent in those with anxiety.

The most well-known form of vitamin D is from sunshine which our body is able to synthesise for use (15-30 mins daily is usually sufficient). It is one of four essential fat-soluble vitamins, meaning we need to be eating enough dietary fat to absorb Vitamin D. You can find dietary sources of vitamin D in fatty fish, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified foods e.g. cereal.

In order to make sure your body is absorbing the vitamin D you’re ingesting, you need to make sure you’re eating enough healthy dietary fat, e.g. avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, oily fish. Magnesium is also a cofactor for Vit D absorption – which I supplement regularly through magnesium baths after long runs – but can be found in nuts, beans, leafy greens, and whole grains (all of which should be part of a balanced diet!).

should runners supplement vitamin D

As runners, most of us are outside a lot and therefore may not think we need to supplement Vitamin D. However, unless you’re running outside at midday in shorts and a tank top, then you probably aren’t getting enough, especially during the winter months when most of our runs are done in the dark, covered with multiple layers of clothing.

So whilst you might spend an hour or so outside a day for your run/walk to work etc, you may not be hitting your daily Vitamin D requirements during the cold, dark winter months. And it could be worth supplementing until the mornings/evenings get lighter… The NHS actually suggests everyone in the UK considers taking a 10mcg daily supplement from October – March!

How can you tell if you’re Vitamin D deficient? 

The way to test for Vitamin D deficiency is a blood test, however the symptoms of deficiency are muscle weakness, tiredness, getting ill often, muscle pain, bone fractures, rib/hip/pelvis/thigh and foot pain are typical signs.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are most at risk, as are the elderly, vegans, vegetarians, people with darker skin pigmentation and those with other medical conditions, such as renal and hepatic disease.

I’ve started using the Pukka Mushroom Gold (this post is not sponsored by them, I was sent the first bottle of these but have paid for another myself) daily to try to combat any Vitamin D deficiencies and to get through this long, cold winter. I typically think that you should be able to get all of your vitamins and minerals through a mixed, balanced diet, but when the days are so short and dark, supplementing is worth a try. (The only other things I supplement are Omega 3s, and have recently told Tom that he needs to start taking it too!).

should runners supplement vitamin D

I haven’t had any blood tests done for a while (years) but I’m seriously tempted to give Inside Tracker a go to see if I do have any areas of concern. Especially as I try to run a PB at the London Marathon in April.

Do you take any supplements? When was the last time you had a blood test to check your biochemical markers? 

Wearing Sweaty Betty. Zero Gravity Leggings Homestraight Run Crop Top 



  1. pursuingtheprocess

    The only supplements I’ve taken before have been protein powders, and previous blood tests have found my ‘blood work’ to be fine. Be that as it may, this is definitely interesting and something I think I’ll be looking further into – interesting post, for sure.

    • charlotte

      Thank you! I had always thought about supplementing but didn’t realise the NHS now recommends it!

  2. Stuart

    Like you, I generally tend to believe that we can get most of our required vitamins from a healthy balanced diet. So I’m always sceptical about the use of supplements.
    However, I do have a couple of exceptions and Vitamin D is one of them. I think the issue is made worse by the increasing use of sun screens (although not proven) – and having suffered from sun-damaged skin, I am now rigorous in the use of high factor (50) sun screens at all times. And I tend to cover up in the sunny weather anyway. As a result I take Vitamin D supplement throughout the year, even though we arguably get more sunshine here in France than in Henley! Having googled this extensively, I take Vitamins D3/K2 together.
    For the record my other “exception” is magnesium, which I take together with calcium (I don’t like milk!).
    Apart from that, it’s caffeine and chocolate!
    I’m not recommending others to do the same (check with your doctor / have a blood test), but that’s my regime after several years of studying nutrition through the internet!

    • charlotte

      Haha agree with you on the caffeine and chocolate! I do the Magnesium baths twice a week which seem to be enough for me!

  3. Lucy Edwards

    After getting a stress fracture in my hip in 2015, I’ve been supplementing with Vitamin D. I used a mouth spray which was recommended by my doctor. Definitely a good idea for runners as stress fractures are the worst 🙁

  4. Ruth

    I take it year round as I was deficient once & felt so crappy. I also take magnesium & think this helps me recover quicker from long runs/gym workouts & helps my anxiety


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