Vitamin D3 isn’t anything new. We all know that regular milk is fortified with D3, and that fatty fish contain a lot of it. As well, during summer months UV radiation from sunlight dermally transforms cholesterol into vitamin D3.
But, what exactly does Vitamin D do besides fortify our bones and prevent rickets?
Turns out, a lot.
It has been discovered that there are Vitamin D receptors on nearly every type of cell in the body. This includes muscle tissue, and we’ve uncovered a lot of evidence suggesting that adequate levels of Vitamin D boost not only mineral absorption; but energy, performance, strength, testosterone, and muscle growth.
So is this relevant to your goals?
Considering that vitamin D deficiency is extremely common, and more likely than not during cold winter months; we would say absolutely.
Here we are excited to share with you all the benefits of vitamin D for building muscle and boosting performance.
Table of Contents (Jump Ahead)
- Vitamin D3 and Athletic Performance
- Vitamin D3 and Muscle Growth, Strength, Composition
- Vitamin D3 and Testosterone
- Implications with too much D3
- Best Vitamin D3 Supplements
Vitamin D3 Improves Athletic Performance
Since the discovery of VDR (vitamin D receptors) on muscle cells, researchers have become quite interested in whether or not vitamin D levels influence performance.
For instance, we know that inadequate vitamin D levels have been associated with poor physical performance. But, is it possible for vitamin D supplementation to facilitate enhanced muscular development?
That’s the grand question.
Earlier studies have sought out to compare the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and overall performance, but they didn’t quite come to a complete conclusion (source).
But more recently, it has been determined that individuals with low vitamin D concentrations who are treated with vitamin D supplements display an improvement in physical performance (source).
Furthermore this study goes on to suggest that Vitamin D concentrations of at least 50 nanograms per milliliter is the optimal level to maintain. This is the same concentration found during full-body summer exposure to the sun. Interesting.
Even more recently, a 2013 study evaluating vitamin D3 levels and physical performance in athletes really caught our eye. In this study, researchers gave 30 athletes and 30 non-athletes 5,000 IU’s of vitamin D per day in a placebo controlled trial.
Of this group, 62% of the athletes, and 72% of the controls were considered deficient (standard population).
What they found, was a significant increase in sprint and vertical jump times among the supplemented group, whereas the control demonstrated no improvements. These results suggest that Vitamin D deficiencies common in cold climates are detrimental to muscular function.
Something that even the English Premier Football League is concerned about in their athletes.
With this we conclude that most people are deficient in vitamin D, and therefore are experiencing reduced levels of performance. This reduced level of performance can be fixed with proper Vitamin D3 supplementation, thus elevating performance to the ideal physiological standard all-the-while becoming more responsive to strength training.
Vitamin D3 Improves Muscle Growth, Strength, and Composition
Back to the grand question – does optimal vitamin D3 lead to enhanced muscular development? The answer appears to be yes, depending on how deficient in vitamin D you currently are.
As you will see, Vitamin D supplementation leads to greater strength, muscle growth, and overall body composition in comparison to commonly deficient levels.
Above in the “Vitamin D Improves Athletic Performance” section, we touched on how researchers believe that athletes could benefit from seasonal D3 supplementation to prevent muscle wasting.
In this study, researchers again confirm that vitamin D deficiencies cause just that – the unnecessary breakdown of muscle tissue.
Granted this was a rat study, researchers compared two groups of rats eating the exact same diet for changes in muscle composition. The only differences between these two groups, was that one was receiving Vitamin D, and the other was deficient.
What they found, was that the vitamin D deficient group was losing muscle mass, despite having the exact same diet as the group not deficient in vitamin D who maintained their muscle mass.
How exactly is this taking place? And can it happen in humans?
For more answers, we found a 2013 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. In this study, which is also a rat study – they discovered that adequate levels of vitamin D work to enhance leucine and insulin’s stimulatory effect on muscle growth.
Given that we as humans contain all these elements in a similar working fashion, this could be the exact mechanism in which proper vitamin D levels prevent muscle wasting and hopefully produce greater muscle gains in us.
Vitamin D Increases Strength in Humans
Here we have a study that to us is pretty bona fide: Effects of vitamin D supplementation on upper and lower body muscle strength levels in healthy individuals: A systematic review with meta-analysis.
Here, researchers took over 300 people aged 21-30 years old and did 7 controlled studies in which upper limb and lower limb strength was assessed. To our delight, the groups taking vitamin D (ranging from 4,000 IU a day to 60,000 IU a week) were much stronger than the non-supplementing group.
Based on these results, anyone strength training, or wanting to be stronger, should ensure that they are getting enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D Promotes Fat Loss in the Obese
A recent 2012 study evaluated the effects of vitamin D supplementation on obese adults undergoing exercise. Specifically, they wanted to see how vitamin D influenced body composition and muscle function.
What they found, was that participants receiving vitamin D gained strength faster, and over time displayed a reduced waist-to-hip ratio. This suggests that vitamin D improved muscle function and stimulated fat metabolism in the mid-section.
So what happens when you give vitamin D to healthy overweight and obese individuals over say, 12 weeks, without requiring exercise?
That’s exactly what researchers tested with 77 women, published here on Biomed central.
What they conclusively discovered, was that vitamin D supplementation led to a decrease in body fat mass. They attributed this effect to vitamin D reducing iPTH concentrations.
IPTH concentrations are important, based on the hypothesis that iPTH influences calcium thresholds in fat cells. High iPTH is believed to stimulate more calcium into fat cells which promotes the creation of new fat cells while preventing the metabolism of fat cells.
So, to reiterate – the researchers believe that vitamin D supplementation reduces iPTH concentrations, which in turn reduces fat build up while promoting fat metabolism.
Vitamin D3 Raises and Maintains Testosterone Levels
The majority of Men who seek out the benefits of vitamin D, do so for greater testosterone. That’s exactly why we included the other perks of vitamin D like muscle growth and performance above – so that you understand all the powerful benefits.
So, does Vitamin D raise testosterone levels in men?
From what we’ve read, it all comes down, once again, to if you are deficient in vitamin D. Most men are, and if you are, then yes – vitamin D supplementation will raise your testosterone levels.
Vitamin D and Testosterone: How it works
The correlation between vitamin D3 and testosterone began back in 1995 when researchers discovered that vitamin D deficiencies in rats retarded sperm production by interfering with the testicles (Sertoli and Leydig cells).
Later studies proceeded to determine if this same effect is present in humans. Turns out it is the same in humans, as demonstrated by this 2010 study evaluating VDR (vitamin D receptor) and vitamin D metabolizing enzymes in the male reproductive tract.
Next, researchers went a step further based upon the rodent trials, and sought to evaluate the relationship between male androgens and vitamin D levels. What they found, was that men with adequate levels of vitamin D had significantly higher testosterone than men deficient in vitamin D.
Even more interesting, was that they observed a seasonal fluctuation in both vitamin D and testosterone levels, which resulted in higher D and T levels during summer and lower D and T levels during winter.
What this tells us, is that if you have adequate levels of vitamin D in your body – you will have higher testosterone.
To achieve an adequate level of vitamin D, supplementation is recommended. During winter months, this recommendation is even stronger and non-supplementing individuals may experience a drop in testosterone levels.
Implications for Taking Too Much Vitamin D3
This is all fantastic information, but, can any harm come from taking vitamin D3 supplements? Can you take too much?
Yes, you can.
This is because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it gets stored in your fat and can build up whereas other vitamins and minerals are easily excreted.
However, the likelihood of taking too much Vitamin D is extremely rare. More times than not, vitamin D toxicity occurs in individuals taking way too much prescription based vitamin D3 supplements (Source).
These are products that contain 100 times larger dosages than what we, and the researchers we’ve cited recommend.
How Much Vitamin D3 Should You Take?
The United States and Canada have established the safe upper limit of vitamin D supplementation to be about 4,000 IU’s daily. These doses can be fine-tuned via bodyweight to 20-80 IU/kg daily depending on your activity level, current season, and time spent in the sun.
Now that you know the benefits of vitamin D3 as well as how much you should take – its time to talk about which D3 supplements you should consider. Below we have listed our 5 favorite D3 supplements to help you save time.
Best Vitamin D Supplements to Take
#1 Marine Essentials Vitamin D3 with Fish Oil and Brown Seaweed
Fatty fish are one of the greatest animal sources of vitamin D. Marine Essentials takes advantage of this with their hybrid Vitamin D3, Fish Oil, and Brown Seaweed supplement.
Besides the individual benefits of D3, Fish Oil, and Brown Seaweed; the fish oil in this product is believed to help deliver D3 into your body more effectively.
While this product is quite expensive, it is one of the highest quality D3 supplements money can buy. You will, however, need to take multiple servings to hit 4,000 IU.
#2 Ortho Molecular Vitamin D
Ortho Molecular is a brand trusted and recommended by many doctors. For that, we’ve given it a high rating as well.
However, it is worth noting that this stuff is very expensive and we can’t identify any signals of greater quality compared to different brands. Other than the fact that this brand has a physician recommended reputation.
Each serving of Ortho Molecular Vitamin D contains 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 and no other additives.
Additionally, your getting 120 capsules per bottle – which makes the price point burn less in the long run.
Continue reading for more vitamin D3 supplement options.
#3 Bulk Supplements Pure Vitamin D3 Powder
Coming in as a massive value, we have Pure Vitamin D3 Powder made by Bulk Supplements. This product, to us, is a pro/con situation.
On the pro side, we have massive value!!!
You’re literally getting almost 20,000 (yes twenty thousand) servings for like 50 bucks. That’s unheard of!
But on the downside, you’re taking a powder… Its not only D3, there are other ingredients like maltodextrin… So actual consistencies may vary… And the whole thing may spoil before you finish it.
But, if you live your life like a chemist – this is a no brainer.
Buy it, break it into groups, store it properly, and enjoy the savings!
#4 Innate Response Vitamin D3
Innate Response is a strong brand, but we rank it low simply because we don’t see the value.
This D3 supplement offers 2,000 IU’s per serving and contains 60 servings at $30 a bottle, that’s pretty pricey.
Going further, this brand claims to be mega natural, but they do not explain how their D3 is more natural than the competition.
Instead, they added in a bit of vegetables and probiotics to make up for the difference. Unfortunately, taking vegetable powder in only milligrams really doesn’t have a point…
So we didn’t give them credit for it.
#5 Vitamin D Supreme – D3 and K2 combined
Next, we have Vitamin D Supreme by Designs for Health. In their product, they include Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K2.
Research has suggested that D3 and K2 work together synergistically. And, to get the most out of D3 you are going to need ample K2.
This is a great consideration for those who are aware of their K2 blood concentrations, and whom need more. However, for those of you who have ample K2, this product isn’t the best option.
More so, Vitamin K2 is present in vegetables to a large enough degree that one could reasonably get their full daily allowance that way. While D3 on the other hand is much, much harder to obtain.
Instead, consider our top 1-2 ranking vitamin d3 supplements.
Conclusion on the Best D3 Supplements
There you have it, our take on why vitamin D3 is so incredibly important as well as how you can take it. We hope you enjoyed reading this massive article, and if you have any questions or comments – below is the place to dish them out!