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The Nutrient Every Runner Needs (and Almost No One Gets)

Everyone, especially runners, needs vitamin D. It’s a key nutrient linked to a host of health and performance-related outcomes, including bone and muscle health, anti-inflammation, and heart health. Research has also suggested that vitamin D has the potential to optimize athletic performance.

Boost Endurance Studies have shown that vitamin D may increase maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), which is an indicator for endurance capacity. This could mean having proper vitamin D stores can lead to more successful long runs. 

Enhance Muscle Recovery In order to train for long periods of time, runners need to be able to recover quickly. Studies have found that vitamin D helps with muscle recovery and reduces some inflammatory markers. 

Increase Muscle Force Building muscle is important for runners to get stronger. There have been mixed findings as to whether vitamin D aids in strengthening muscles. But some research has suggested that vitamin D increases muscle force and power output in vitamin D-deficient individuals.  

Despite its importance, nearly everyone falls short in their vitamin Dintake. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 600 IU (15 ug). Deficiency can lead to depression, muscle weakness, and a greater likelihood of bone disorders. Runners are especially at risk for deficiency because of their increased use of vitamin D during exercise. 

Unlike many other vital nutrients, there are only a few ways to get vitamin D: we can make it after sun exposure, and get it through food and supplementation. Vitamin D is found in certain plants, but the more bioavailable form is found in animal products. 


Find Your Number Test your vitamin D levels at your next doctor visit. Optimal serum levels typically fall between 50 to 100 nmol/L.


Sunbathe  Spend five to 20 minutes in the sun two to three times a week to make the more bioactive form of vitamin D. But be sure to slather onsunscreen. Your body can still produce vitamin D from the sun even withsunscreen use, which helps prevent skin cancer.


Eat and Drink Stock up on vitamin D-rich foods, including fish (salmon, tuna, swordfish, sardines—aim for two 4-ounce servings a week), egg yolks, fortified milk, fortified cereal, fortified orange juice, and mushrooms. If you rarely eat these foods, you can take a vitamin D3 supplement. But avoid consuming more than 2,000 IU per day, since too much vitamin D can be harmful.


Don’t Forget Vitamin K and Calcium These nutrients work together with vitamin D to promote bone health. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, and calcium is found in dairy products, tofu, and fortified orange juice.


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Source: Runners World (

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