Lifting weights shouldn’t be thought of as something reserved for the stereotypical protein shake guzzling, meathead-types that people associate with the words ‘muscle’ or ‘bodybuilding’. Muscle building needs to be a goal for everyone. Especially since we all lose on average 3% of our overall muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. So what can we do to support our bodies as best we can?
When it comes to recovery from exercise the first supplements that spring to mind are magnesium and zinc. These are both great and worthy, however there is another big player that is often overlooked - Vitamin D.
How does Vitamin D help muscle recovery?
Vitamin D is already well-known for supporting our immune system and improving our mood. This naturally occurs thanks to our bodies ability to synthesise Vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin. This is why supplementation of Vitamin D is extremely important in winter months when we don’t have as much access to sunlight.
An additional and potent attribute of Vitamin D, albeit lesser known, is its ability to speed up our recovery from exercise. It does this via its influence on the mitochondria of our muscle cells. Mitochondria are the engine room of our cells, dictating the speed at which replication and other cell processes occur. This is why low levels of Vitamin D are associated with poor posture and weak muscles.
The importance of lean muscle building
When we exercise, more so in resistance training than endurance training, the repetition of lifting and exhausting muscle fibres causes micro-tears within these fibres. These tears aren’t a bad thing. It’s normal and it stimulates our bodies to build these muscle cells back stronger and sometimes bigger. These micro-tears are how we rebuild lean muscle.
If the idea of these micro-tears or muscle building turns you off, it's a good time for me to remind you that lean mass (muscle) is the number one predictor of longevity and quality of life across all human populations. Lean muscle provides better strength, more power and enhanced physical performance. This has been determined through a multitude of studies and it is why every person should be concerned about how much muscle mass they can maintain and take with them into old age.
Due to the mechanism of how it improves recovery, it will also come as no surprise that vitamin D will also help speed recovery from injury, where tears of soft tissue (and damage to bone) are more severe, due to the enhanced cell regeneration. So if you’re not already taking Vitamin D for its immune and mood benefits, do it for your muscle-gains and injuries!
What’s the best source of Vitamin D?
I like to get my Vitamin D mine from the sun (preferably on a beach or on a boat) however as a precautionary contingency plan, I get supplemental Vitamin D with my daily Bare Biology Rise and Shine capsules. I was already taking Bare Biology’s omega-3 so the addition of Vitamin D to their capsules made this habit pretty easy to adopt. It's great to know I'm doing the best I can to optimise my recovery from those precious hours I spend in the gym.
Tim Blakey is a Physiotherapist, Personal Trainer and the creator of the PrimeBody App : an Online Training platform he uses to improve people's lives through simplified nutrition and effective resistance training that includes emphasis on mobility and flexibility to reduce injury risk and improve posture.