That’s right. That light in the sky we love so much contains much more than just golden rays: it contains crucial elements we need to synthesize and extremely important hormone in our bodies:
Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone but is nicknamed, “the sunshine vitamin,” is responsible for so much more in your body than you ever thought possible, including muscle growth, fat loss, your mood, energy levels, reproductive health … and more.
However (and unfortunately), even though this vitamin is so crucial, a majority of the population is actually deficient in it due to not getting enough sunlight. And let me tell you: even if you’re doing everything else “right” when it comes to health, if you aren’t getting this vitamin, you’re still setting up your body for serious health consequences and limited gains.
Let’s dive in to the benefits of this amazing hormone, as well as how you can make sure you’re getting enough.
Benefits of Vitamin D
1. Boosts Testosterone
As many of us are aware, adequate testosterone levels are essential for muscle growth and fat metabolism (aka: maintaining leanness).
After all, one of the main reasons workouts here are structured the way they are (in a higher-intensity fashion) and involve plenty of weight, either through kettlebells or other equipment, is due to the fact that high-intensity interval training and moving heavy weight have both demonstrated the ability to significantly increase testosterone levels.
However, even if you’re lifting weights and getting in plenty of HIIT, lack of vitamin D can severely limit your testosterone production. Studies show that vitamin D deficiency is directly linked to lower testosterone … but, when participants get enough sunlight during the day, their testosterone levels significantly increase.
In other words, not getting enough sun exposure could limit your gains, even if you’re doing everything else “right.”
As an aside for men, consider this extremely interesting fact: The male reproductive tract has been identified as a “target” tissue for vitamin D, suggesting that it and its hormones depend pretty heavily on getting enough vitamin D!
2. Strengthens Bones
We tend to not worry about our bone health until we reach a certain age. However, in reality, not caring for our bones now could be setting us up for trouble as we age. After all, our skeletal system is what supports our muscle gains, so if this foundation is weak, it’s only a matter of time before we experience an injury, especially if we’re on an intense training regime.
Luckily, vitamin D can help keep our bones sturdy by assisting in calcium absorption and mineralization: two key factors in bone health. On the flip side, lack of vitamin D has been associated with weak bones and osteopenia (low bone mass), both of which can lead to bones that are more liable to break.
Since we want to avoid breaking anything at any age, we want to make triple sure we’re getting adequate vitamin D.
3. Can Boost Motivation By Boosting Mood + Energy Levels
There’s a reason us humans love “summer time” and tropical vacations: the sun is a huge source of our biological happiness!
Research has shown that vitamin D plays a significant role in mood regulation, and that a lack of it can be a major cause of depression. [*] In addition, studies have also shown that supplementing with vitamin D can cause a lift in mood, resulting in less “depressive” symptoms overall.
To add to this, other research also shows getting adequate vitamin D can also reduce fatigue and boost energy levels.
Both of these factors are huge when we consider motivation. The more stable your mental state, emotions, and energy levels are, the more likely you are to be motivated to keep improving your life (and your health/fitness).
4. A Deficiency Could Cause Weight Gain And Stunted Growth
As we saw earlier, vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone strength and development.
An interesting animal study related to this showed that a deficiency of vitamin D resulted in overall stunted growth, alongside abdominal fat gain. Obviously, not a great combination!
But it doesn’t stop there: the study also showed that vitamin D deficiency disrupted gene networks associated with growth hormone and insulin signaling – two key factors for muscle growth and leanness. Growth hormone is essential for increasing strength, exercise performance, cell repair, body composition, and metabolism, while insulin is responsible for regulating your blood sugar levels, which also plays a crucial role in fat storage. [*]
Other studies also show that the amount of belly fat you accumulate is directly associated with your growth hormone production, which explains the belly fat gain in the previous study!
Overall, not getting enough vitamin D seems to spell trouble for fat storage, metabolic efficiency, and muscle growth.
5. Can Boost Your Immunity
Vitamin D is also essential for maintaining a strong immune system. In fact (and this is extremely important for current times), studies have shown that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who had sufficient levels of vitamin D had a decreased risk for negative outcomes and death.
This is likely because vitamin D is crucial for the activation and regulation of your immune system, and also has anti-inflammatory properties (which is especially helpful for respiratory conditions).
Studies also show not getting enough vitamin D has been linked to decreased lung function, which may affect your body’s ability to fight respiratory infections (such as COVID-19).
How to Get Enough Vitamin D
Your most optimal strategy for getting enough vitamin D is to get enough sun. As a general rule, you want to spend more time in the sun in the winter, and can get away with less in the summer, depending on your latitude.
The recommendation is typically to get at least 15-20 minutes of direct sun exposure to your skin every day (not through a window) to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. So, if you can, try to take a daily walk in the sun (or even take your workout outside).
Other ways to get additional vitamin D include:
• Eating wild, fatty fish such as sardines and salmon
• Supplementing with a quality vitamin D3 supplement (check out the one I recommend below!)
Keep in mind that these last two options are great, but sunlight is the ultimate vitamin D producer for your body, so try to prioritize getting enough!
A Key Factor For Vitamin D Absorption
Something extremely important to remember when it comes to getting enough vitamin D is your diet.
Vitamin D is synthesized with the assistance of cholesterol, or fat. Even if you’re getting your vitamin D from sunlight, cholesterol is required to transform those rays into usable vitamin D.
What does this mean? Be sure to eat enough healthy fats, such as cold-pressed olive and coconut oils, avocados, grass-fed meats, and fatty fish (also a good source of dietary vitamin D) every day.
Try a FREE TRIAL of Onnit’s Total Human day and night packs, which feature vitamin D, plus healthy fatty acids.
• Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin” is synthesized in your skin from sunlight and cholesterol.
• It is essential for testosterone and growth hormone production, which fuel muscle growth and fat loss
• It can boost your mood and energy levels, leading to increased motivation and happiness
• Get at least 15 minutes of daily direct sun exposure
• Other sources of vitamin D include: wild, fatty fish and vitamin D3 supplements