Being able to exercise harder and longer but having it feel easier sounds like the Holy Grail of fitness. After all, isn’t the worst part of working out how much work it is? But you can make this dream a reality, and all you need is one little vitamin, says a new study.
Vitamin D has been the superstar mineral for several years now. Research has linked it to a stronger immune system, a lower risk of heart disease, a better mood, and stronger bones — just to name a few. And now you can add “going beast mode” in the gym to that list.
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Adults who took 50 micrograms of vitamin D per day for two weeks were able to increase their distance biked by 30 percent during a timed test, according to a study done by Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Thirteen adults were matched by age and weight and then half were given the vitamin supplement while half got a placebo. Not only was the vitamin D group able to go harder and faster, but they reported the workout felt easier and they saw a significant drop in their blood pressure. Compare that to the placebo group, who saw no improvements.
And it’s not just study participants who report such great benefits. Sasha Brown-Worsham, the associate editor of beauty, love and health here at SheKnows, swears by the fitness powers of vitamin D, saying, “I did this and my workouts went nuts!”
The researchers said that vitamin D is such an effective workout booster because it blocks the action of enzyme 11-?HSD1, which is the precursor to the “stress hormone” cortisol. Cortisol is known to raise blood pressure by restricting arteries, narrowing blood vessels and stimulating the kidneys to retain water — so by reducing cortisol, vitamin D may improve exercise performance and lower cardiovascular risk factors.
“Vitamin D plays a very important role in muscle function as studies have shown that proper vitamin D levels in the body are associated with both muscle strength and performance,” says John Cuomo, M.D., the Executive Director of Research and Development for USANA Health Sciences. He adds that vitamin D also helps the body with energy production and metabolism on a cellular level.
Increasing your vitamin D levels may be as simple as stepping outside. It’s often called “the sunshine vitamin,” as your body makes it when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight and experts say all you need are 15 minutes of direct sunshine a day to fill your quota.
In addition, oily fish and eggs are good sources. Still, the researchers caution that 2 in 5 adults are deficient in the mineral, particularly those who live in dark, winter climates. So supplementing may be the best option for people who aren’t able to fill their need in other ways. To maintain optimal levels in the body, Cuomo recommends taking 4000 to 6000 IU supplemental vitamin D every day.