With Summer upon us I'd like to talk about Vitamin D, the ''sunshine Vitamin" . One of the emerging insights of COVID-19 is the inverse correlation between Vitamin D and outcomes of COVID-19.
The higher the Vitamin D the better the outcome, the lower the Vitamin D the worse the outcome. This airtight inverse relationship also extends to other Corona Viruses including the common cold, influenza viruses, depression, heart disease and so much more.
This is old news to us. We’ve been optimizing Vitamin D as one key OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism) protocol for over a decade, and our athletes can feel the difference it makes in their health and performance.
Now I know ‘Correlation is not Causation’ but consider this. With this COVID wake up call in perfect alignment with other disease states that also have an inverse correlation with Vitamin D levels are you going to wait for the data?
Take this graph for example. It is is surveying outcomes for the deficient and bottom of the medical reference range. In my opinion, the bottom of the reference range is not only sub-optimal for athletes, it is deficient. With over a decade working with athletes I’ve observed that anything below 50 ng/ml is deficient for an athlete and, ideally, I like to have athlete in the range of 70-90 ng/ml - which is still below the top of the reference range but optimal to handle the training load of training and competition.
There is another ‘science’ already available which clearly yields the scientific basis for Vitamin D optimization, EVOLUTION. When you look through the lens of evolution things make sense so Let’s have a look . . .
We are children of the sun
...from our relatively hairless bodies, to our sweat glands, human metabolism and physiology are intimately tied to harnessing full spectrum sunlight for robust health.
Whether it is the warmth and pleasure we get from sunlight or the disinfecting properties of UV light on our skin, hair and nails, the Vitamin D producing properties of the sun's UVB rays or the alignment with the sun’s rising and setting to produce a Circadian Rhythm, to get plenty, but not too much melatonin, all of these and more are coded into our DNA.
Our ancestors migrated from equatorial Africa across the globe, and Evolution's natural selection process conferred both long & short-term skin pigmentation and tone based upon daily and seasonal sun exposure. As we migrated away from the equator, where sunlight is a constant, our skin color lightens to harvest more UVB as it’s availability becomes more seasonal and limited to a few months of summer in the far north. . . .and here’s another ‘Peter’ thought for you females to ponder ….as I say, “from a biological perspective, females are designed to eat and save for two” ...this is no different with harvesting the sun and storing Vitamin D. This is why females tend to have lighter skin tone than men of the same genetic and ethnic background….they need to get enough sun for two!
Skin color also matters.
The darker the skin the more exposure necessary. . . think about this in the larger context of today. Equatorial Africans are living in far northern latitudes, essentially transported out of the environment evolution shaped them for to an environment where their Vitamin D production and metabolism are severely compromised and, yes, deprived. It’s not hard to see this is one reason this population struggles with it’s health.
The counterpoint is today’s man-made world where we are inside most of the time, under artificial light, avoiding the sun, using sunscreen when we are outside, wearing clothing most of the time and significantly disrupting our Circadian Rhythm and you don’t need a literature review to ‘suggest’ in the parlance of ‘science speak’ that there is an endemic problem with respect to low Vitamin D. Fortunately, there are a host of fairly simple and inexpensive solutions.
Since most of you viewing this reside in northern latitudes we are in the months of peak sunlight so the simple, easy and no-cost solution are:
1) Get outside and expose as much of your skin to full spectrum sunlight for 10-20 minutes once or twice a day preferably around midday. This can result in a 10,000-20,000 IU dose of Vitamin D based upon a variety of factors.
2) Entrain your Circadian Rhythm to sunrise and sunset, including strategies for reducing non-native blue light after sunset.
3) Be active and sweat when you are out in the sun. Your skin cells need ‘exercise’ just as much as your muscle cells. Working your sweat glands and skin in conjunction with sunlight exposure are some of the best ways to produce Vitamin D and maintain healthy vibrant and young skin.
Now, if you can’t do this in a way that mimics our evolutionary heritage here is some information to help guide your individualized needs.
1) If you burn really easily or suspect your Vitamin D is low, get a 25, Hydroxy Vitamin D test (Lab Corp Test # 081950).
2) Consider improving your level of fat adaptation. Vitamin D and cell integrity are lipid-dependent metabolic functions so if you are burning a lot of glucose you could be impairing critical pathways necessary for functional Vitamin D metabolism whether through sunlight, diet or supplementation.
3) Optimal Vitamin D3 supplementation is not as simple as popping a bunch of Vitamin D3 capsules. There are your own individual metabolic factors and key co-factors, like Vitamins A & K2 (read liver) and Magnesium that need to be optimized to so you can enjoy the benefits of ‘The Sunshine Vitamin.’
So enjoy your summer by taking full advantage of being out in the sun and active. Training to optimize your performance by optimizing fat metabolism not only makes you a better athlete but a much healthier and robust one.
We’ve helped hundreds of athletes of all ages and abilities attain a level of health they did not realize was possible. Some are profiled on our Heroes Page.
Bottom line: With OFM optimal performance yields optimal health. This is the best disease prevention strategy.
I’ll be back in the fall with a specific installment on how to manage your Vitamin D during the winter months before COVID, Influenza and the common cold start to re-circulate.
In the meantime if you want any individualized guidance on how to optimize your Vitamin D (or anything else for that matter) we are here to help.