Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Sometimes called the “Sunshine Vitamin”, Vitamin D is involved in so many physiological functions, when looking at the detail, you almost wonder if there is anything this vitamin doesn’t do!  It has received increased attention in the last 10 years, with many people taking daily supplements as part of their everyday routine.

Vitamin D is normally obtained through exposure of the skin to UVB through sunlight. This is great in the summer months, but during the winter, when days are shorter and exposure to sun is less, we run the risk of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. This is quite widespread in those that live in northern latitudes where sunlight levels are lower, including little old us here in GB! Another great reason to lap up any winter sunshine when it appears, let alone because it makes training or being outdoors much less bracing!

The variations of Vitamin D deficiency status between individuals can also be seen as a result of dietary intake, clothing worn during exercise and overall lifestyle (30). Whatever the reason for Vitamin D deficiency, it can have a significant effect on not only sporting performance but more importantly overall health and wellbeing.

 

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays many vital roles in our body. The most renowned is its role in aiding the absorption of dietary calcium, and subsequent role in maintaining bone health. So, without Vitamin D present, we don’t absorb as much or any calcium from what we eat and drink, missing out on its vital benefits without realising. It also plays a crucial role in muscle function, recovery, and repair. A study in the Journal of Physiology showed that supplementing with 4000IU/day of Vitamin D had a positive effect on recovery following a bout of damaging eccentric exercise (31).

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamins D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.

 

Where can I get Vitamin D from and how much should I take?

Vitamin D exists in very few foods, but mainly oily fish, red meat, liver, eggs yolks and fortified foods such as cereal and spreads). As a result, it’s very hard to meet daily requirements through food consumption alone. The Department of Health recommends taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms  (400 IU) through the winter months and all year round if you are not outside very often or you wear clothes that cover you up when outdoors.

If you are deficient you may need to supplement with more, however, as there are not clear signs to look out for it is hard to judge. General signs such as recurrent injury, fatigue and muscle soreness can be warning signals but hard to identify, as a lot of athletes can feel like this simply as a result of training.  Rather than guessing, the best way to find out is having a blood test. This can give you a clear answer on whether you need to supplement or not and will be advised by your Dr or dietitian as to what level to take. Although rare, as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (excess amounts get stored, rather than excreted) there is always a chance that you can obtain too much Vitamin D if you supplement with high levels without a clear reason to. Although we know maintaining Vitamin D levels within the recommended amount is beneficial for our health and athletic performance, it is still unproven that Vitamin D supplementation is a direct performance enhancer.

 

Vitamin D’s effects on Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF)

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function, especially if you’re active.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamin D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.

Additionally, a recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked into a link between Vitamin D and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). They tested the blood of 2000 subjects to determine their Vitamin D levels compared to their VO2 max (a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness showing how efficiently your body utilises oxygen).

They found that those in the higher quartile of Vitamin D levels had significantly higher VO2 max levels, compared to those in the lower quartile. This suggested an association between CRP fitness and Vitamin D levels. However, it is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as the researchers are still yet to conclude from this if CRF is better because of higher Vit D levels, or if Vit D levels are better because of higher CRF.

The general consensus is that Vitamin D deficiency can affect athletic performance, but it is still unknown if Vit D supplementation in those that are not deficient will have the same effects on performance and recovery as those that have a proven Vit D deficiency. More studies on this are needed.

 

Article by Alex Cook, The Sports Dietician

https://www.thesportsdietitian.co.uk/

 

 

Top Tips for Winter Wellness

Top Tips for Winter Wellness

As ol’ Ned Stark said, “Winter is coming”, and after the Arctic spell we had last year, we need to think ahead and be prepared.  Although we know that moderate exercise is good for keeping the bugs away, it is also evident that those of us engaged in more intense training, or have recently competed in an endurance event, appear to have an increased risk of developing symptoms of the upper respiratory tract (URT) (1). To us at Amplify Life, that just seems unfair!

To make matters worse, if you’re training to compete at any level, getting unwell can lead to a nice relaxing anxiety attack about time ticking away towards your next race! Many of us constantly analyse our levels of fitness, or lack thereof when the flu comes around. It adds an extra intensity and stress to a winter bug that maybe non-athletes don’t get.

We are itching to get back in our trainers and training schedules and, as a result, we may not rest quite enough and allow our bodies to recover before pushing the heart rate up again.

So, from learning through experience, here are my top tips for staying well and top of your training game during Winter (..and not ending up feeling like a white walker in the army of the undead)!

Eat well and hydrate often

  • It may seem simple, but one thing that does your body no good is training hard and not eating correctly to meet your requirements. Immune system function appears to be suppressed during periods of low calorific intake and weight reduction. Therefore, if you are prone to catching illness, it is advised to lose weight slowly and during non-competitive training phases when training volume is lower (2). In general, eating a healthy balanced diet on a day to day basis is a simple step to ensure an optimally functioning immune system. As, if you are energy deficient your immune system may suffer, and you may be more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).
  • A healthy immune system benefits from a diet adequate in calories, high in fresh fruit and vegetables, omega 3 fats, nuts and whole grains. Ensuring three meals a day and good recovery meals / snacks that contain carbs (50g) and protein (20g) post training will help keep your body in top form.
  • Keep hydration levels up. Drink regularly throughout the day (moderate tea and coffee intake also counts) and ensure after you have trained you hydrate enough for your urine to be clear.

Carbohydrate and fluid intake during exercise

  • Studies have found that carbohydrate intake may play an important role in maintaining effective immune function. Low carbohydrate intake may cause direct immunosuppression, as immune cells function best on glucose alone.
  • Additionally, ingestion of carbohydrates during prolonged, intense levels of exercise can reduce the production of cortisol as a response to training. Cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’, has been linked with immune suppression. If an athlete is training fasted or in an intentionally low-glycogen state, it is advised not do this more than a few days at a time. Plus, if you’re prone to illness and bugs it’s probably a safe bet to not do it at all until your immune system is back to strength.
  • Staying hydrated during exercise has multiple benefits. One key reason is that it ensures saliva flow is maintained (mmm nice right?). Saliva is important as it contains antimicrobial properties, so if saliva flow decreases there is a chance that we become more susceptible to infection from viruses and bacteria (1).

VitaminC

  • Vitamin C has antioxidant properties which help counteract the effect of damaging free radicals you produce as a result of heavy exertion. If you manage to have plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet, then supplementation may not be necessary. However, during high levels of training and getting over illness, you may benefit from increasing your Vit C intake to give your body that extra boost.
  • A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (3) showed how the supplementation of 600mg Vitamin C per day for 3 weeks prior to a 90km ultra marathon race, reduced the incidence of URTI during the 2 week recovery period.

Probiotics

  • Probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’ are getting more and more attention these days. Whether you are fermenting your own food or taking a supplement, we are much more aware of how significant our bowel health plays in so many aspects of our wellness. Thinking about adding these into your diet may be a wise idea to help fortify your immune system.
  • Active people should look out for probiotics that contain at least 10 billion live species of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. If you don’t want to take supplements, try using live natural yogurt or foods such as sauerkraut and kefir for example.
  • A double blinded study in the International Journal of Sport, Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (4) supplemented 84 endurance athletes with a probiotic or placebo over 4 months of winter training. They measured the incidence of URTI in both groups. The number of athletes that experienced 1 or more weeks of URTI was 36% higher in the placebo group compared to those that took a probiotic.

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is recognised as having an important role in immunity and helps to defend against the common cold. Vitamin D deficiencies are common in the athletic population, although the general population also suffers, especially in the months between October and March due to lack of natural sunlight.
  • Individuals are advised to supplement every day with 10 mcg of Vitamin D a day, and make the most of daylight hours!
  • It’s also crucial in assisting phosphate and calcium absorption, so getting enough Vitamin D is important when making sure you can get everything you can from what you eat and supplement.

Immune Boosting Top Tips summary!

  1. Don’t skip meals and avoid negative energy balance. Overall energy intake should match your requirements. Don’t shy away from carbohydrates, and if you are doing fasted training / training low carb, only do it for a few days at a time.
  2. Consider taking carbohydrate during training (30-60g / hr). Taking this in fluid form also helps maintain hydration and saliva flow.
  3. Ensure regular intake of protein (20g per meal per day) and focus on post training meals (0.3g/kg of body weight).
  4. Regular intake of fruit, vegetables and salads (at least 7 a day). If you think you will struggle with this consider taking a multi vitamin.
  5. Take Vitamin D supplement between October and March.
  6. Take probiotic every day ensuring it has at least 10 billion live bacteria
  7. Consider supplementing with extra Vit C (no more than 1000mg) leading up to focus races.

(* note : if you are taking a multivitamin, to avoid double dosing check what it contains as you may not need extra vitamin C or D, for example.)

Article by Alex Cook – Registered Sports & Clinical Dietician

References

  1. Gleeson M 2016 Immunological aspects of sport nutrition. Immunology and Cell biology 94 117-123
  2. Nieman DC et al 1996 Immune response to obesity and moderate weight loss Int. J Obesity relatedMetab. Discord, 20:353-360
  3. Peters EM et al Vitamin C supplementation reduces the incidence of postface symptoms of URTI in ultra marathon runners Am Journal Clinical Nutrition 57: 170-174
  4. Gleeson M, Bishop NC, Oliveira M, Tauler P 2010 Daily probiotics (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) Reduction  of infection incidence in athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 1-10

Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home

Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home

We’re proud to be backing today’s stage of the Long Run Home and donating money to Martin Yelling’s chosen charities (see below).

So far Martin has run 133 miles in four days and today he’ll cover a total of 32 miles between Crackington Haven and Padstow. Martin’s goal for the long run home goal is to run the entire South West Coast path, a total of 630 miles in  21 days.

Check out where Martin’s running, by clicking on the image below.

Martin Yelling's Long Run Home
Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home

We’re supporting Martin who is running the south west coast path for three charities he cares about: The Southmead Hospital Charity, Julia’s House and MacMillan Cancer Support. You can too sponsor Martin at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MartinYelling128.

Martin sets off Martin and runner

For more action today:

* Stage discussion: https://www.facebook.com/events/1048183521933746/
* Live tracking of Martin for every stage: http://live.opentracking.co.uk/longrunhome/

 

Getting Carbs Right for Sport

Getting Carbs Right for Sport

Runners love pasta parties, and endurance athletes are fuelled by gels and sweets, but do we need to rethink our relationship with carbs for the best performance? Runner and coach, Fiona Bugler and sports nutritionist Lucy Ann Prideaux report.

The movement to ‘train low carb and race high carb’ has gathered momentum in recent years amongst triathletes, cyclists – and even runners! And former carb fans, such as world renowned running expert, Tim Noakes, author of the The Lore of Running have had a complete change of view, saying excess amounts of carbs (especially high GI, sugary and refined carbs), are not good for runners and that sugar and processed food is responsible for the obesity epidemic and shocking rises in diseases such as diabetes (Diabetes doubles in twenty years ) found that there is 3.7 Million people living with diabetes in the UK.

Carb diet options for athletes

So how does the ‘traditional’ endurance athlete’s high-carb diet work? The body will easily adapt to a high-carb diet, becoming highly efficient at metabolizing carbohydrates for energy. In a long run or race for example, a runner may top up with energy-boosting carb gels. If they don’t have gels, they may under perform not because carbs are the only answer, but because their body has adapted to carbohydrate metabolism, burns carbs quickly, and needs regular top-ups. It expects to receive regular amounts of glucose to continue making energy.

The theory goes on that if you train the body to use fat when you run you do not need to be loading up with extra carbs. However, some athletes find that during this transition period, when relying too much on burning fat as fuel it’s harder to move faster or step up a gear, as the body can’t make energy quickly enough, and they run out of juice during training – and catastrophically, on race day. Many opt to ‘train low’ on carbs (50 per cent fats, 25 per cent carbs, and 25 per cent protein) for five to 10 days. Then, one to three days before a race, they opt for carb-loading with 80 per cent of their food coming from carbohydrates, 10 per cent from fat, and 10 per cent from protein, and take carbs on board during the race, i.e. ‘race high’.

We still need carbs – but watch your GI score

Carbs do supply readily available energy for performance but it’s important that the carbs we eat are healthy and we understand that not all carbs are equal. Carbohydrates are ranked using a scoring system called the glycemic index (GI). The GI score of a food is based on the rate at which it breaks down into sugar (glucose), how fast it is absorbed, and consequently how quickly is raises levels of blood glucose.

High GI Carbohydrates breakdown quickly during digestion, and release glucose into the blood very quickly.

Examples: processed ‘white’ foods, pure sugar, and energy gels.

✗Eating too many high GI foods can block the ability to burn fat.

✗High GI foods don’t fill you up and you’ll get hungry again quickly.

✓High GI food can provide fast-energy replenishment or be used during exercise – e.g. energy gels.

Low GI Carbohydrates breakdown slowly, releasing their glucose gradually into the blood stream.

Examples: Apples, pears, plums, oranges, grapefruits, raspberries, blueberries, kiwis, fresh figs; brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, a few wholegrain breads such as dark whole rye bread, soy/linseed bread, and vegetables.

✓Provide longer-lasting energy, and a more sustained feeling of fullness, therefore aid in fat loss.

✓Generally, these foods are higher in fibre and nutrients, too.

 

The ultimate solution and best diet for athletes, is one that is flexible and includes moderate amounts of healthy carbohydrates balanced with quality proteins and essential fats. During periods of intense training, and leading up to long endurance events, the athlete should increase the amount of carbs, based on their particular energy expenditure, and their response to carbohydrates. Trial and error is necessary to a degree, and eventually the individual finds the perfect amount for them to train, recover, and race successfully.

 

#MyMarathonMeal by Martin Yelling

#MyMarathonMeal by Martin Yelling

Top endurance sports coach and former international runner, Martin Yelling shares his choice of pre marathon meal:

“Rice (white or brown), a light sauce, stir fried green beans, broccoli and chicken. A little vanilla ice cream (simple!) and perhaps half glass of red wine.

“Relaxing, easy no fuss food that I’m used to. Carbohydrates, proteins and a waft of something sweet.”

You can meet Martin at the Virgin London Marathon Expo: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/training/training-seminars/

7 Ways to Think Like An Athlete


We admire athletes for their focused approach to performance. They tap into discipline, strength and positive thinking and get results. Think like an athlete and perform better at sport – and in life!

 

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  1. Think big. Be limitless in your thought process. In a special article for the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors reveal that the more ambitious the weight loss goal, the bigger the success!
    However, it also makes sense to start small, and remember the phrase, ‘every journey starts with a single step’. The moment you make a commitment to getting started is when things start to happen.
  2. Be mindful. In the run up to Wimbledon 2013, it was widely reported how tennis player Novak Djokovic practised both mindfulness and meditation, paying regular visits to a Buddhist temple in London. Mindfulness is a method of focusing on the current moment through activities such as meditation, yoga and breathing.A 10-year study of mindfulness in sport suggested that mindfulness is effective because it helps athletes focus without distraction. “I have to really focus on the job in hand,” Jessica Ennis told Women’s Fitness. “If your mind wanders, you don’t get the most out of the session,” she added.
  3. Endure the pain. “That’s the closest I will come to knowing what it’s like to have a baby,” said Sir Bradley Wiggins when he broke the world record for distance cycled in an hour in the summer of 2015.Don’t get comfortable! Athletes are happy to put up with pain and a review from 2012 revealed that they have a higher pain threshold than the average. Push out of your comfort zone and keep in mind the phrase made famous by Susan Jeffers’ book: Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.
  4. Have a vision. Visualise and rehearse in your mind your best performance. In the film Rush, there’s a scene when world champion racing driver, James Hunt, drives the entire course in his mind, holding his steering wheel and talking through each and every twist and turn. Visualising your success, your race, a slimmer healthier you in action gets results.
  5. Believe in yourself. A study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology aimed to examine what mental toughness was all about. They found of the 12 attributes that define mental toughness an “unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals” emerged as the most important.
  6. Repeat a mantra. Positive self-talk works. Researchers have shown that using simple positive phrases, such as “I can” or “ball-target” help with both power-based and more precision-based skills according to the British Psychological Society.
  7. Celebrate success. Mo has the ‘Mobot’ and Usain Bolt has the ‘lightening’. It’s vital to celebrate your success as it confirms that all the work and commitment was worth it – so bask in your glory.