Do you want the “D”? If you’re interested in building muscle, burning fat, and possibly even improving your mood, the answer to that question should be a resounding “Yes.” More and more evidence is coming to light linking the oft-overlooked vitamin D to these health and lifestyle improvements, and it has the science to back it up.
The list of benefits from taking vitamin D reads like something off of a late-night infomercial, and in addition to those listed above, include decreased abdominal fat while maintaining muscle mass, a decreased reaction to colds and flus, lower blood pressure, restored insulin sensitivity, an overall enhancement in strength, speed, and endurance, and even increased longevity.
Odds are that the only reason you know what vitamin D is is because the FDA has mandated that foods be fortified with it to combat rickets in children. Well, they’ve done a good job, so good that the average person probably doesn’t give vitamin D a single thought throughout the day. The biggest difficulty in getting vitamin D is just that: getting it. Aside from the foods fortified with it (think of any of your favorite General Mills cereals—cheat day fare, maybe, but not a staple in the diets of big, strong men), the only other sources are halibut liver oil, cod liver oil, wild salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Good news if you like fish and fish-related products, but not the most convenient means of getting your recommended dosage of between 1,000 and 4,000 IU/day (as suggested by Drs. Clay Hyght and Conrad Veith). What, then, is a D-seeker to do? Short of irradiating yourself in a tanning bed (which I really can't recommend, given what we know about their prolonged usage), two options come to mind:
You’ve probably heard this one from your mom enough, but it can’t hurt to repeat it: health experts suggest spending between 5 and 30 minutes outside in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at least twice a week—sans sunscreen—to help meet your adequate intake of 400 IU/day for vitamin D. Remember, vitamin D is unique insofar as it can be synthesized naturally in the body when sunlight is present.
The easiest way to get more D is to simply pick up a vitamin D3 supplement from your local drug store. Super potency D supplements can run as high as 2,000 IU per tiny-ass pill, so make sure you only take one a day, preferably with a meal that contains some fats to help absorption. Being a fat-soluble vitamin, D isn’t quickly excreted like B or C, and you can reach toxic levels by receiving too much, but this doesn’t occur until you approach about 20,000 IU. Still, you’ve been warned.