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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Vitamin D helps power athletic performance

By Rachel Murphy

Optimal nutrition is essential for supporting physical activity as well as athletic performance.  The importance of protein and electrolytes including sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium for performance and recovery are well-known and are widely found in sports bars and energy drinks.  The role of other nutrients for performance is beginning to be appreciated and a recent study by Maroon and colleagues is sure to peak interest around vitamin D, especially among aspiring football players or parents cheering from the sidelines.  

The researchers hypothesized that vitamin D may be a critical nutrient among football players because of its role in bone health and performance.  They measured serum vitamin D in 80 professional football players in the NFL during the off-season.  Vitamin D was then compared against injury reports in the prior season and in the season following vitamin D measurement.

Overall, 84% of players were vitamin D deficient and vitamin D levels were lower in players who had one or more bone fractures compared to players without fracture.  Even more compelling; players who did not obtain a contract position because of injury or poor performance had lower vitamin D levels than players who had regular season play.

Will higher Vitamin D help aspiring football players get a coveted contract?  Maroon and colleagues suggest so in their conclusion, but it is likely that higher levels of vitamin D reflect a diet that is replete in other nutrients as well.  A balanced diet that meets energy, macronutrient and micronutrient needs will optimize the performance of athletes and is also important for those of us with the goal of simply ‘moving more’.

Main Citation

Maroon JC et al.  Vitamin D profile in National Football League players.  Am J Sports Med 2015, doi:10.1177/0363546514567297

Other Citations

Saunders MJ et al. Carbohydrate and protein hydrolysate coingestion’s improvement of late-exercise time-trial performance.  Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2009, 19(2):136-49

American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009, doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31890eb86