One of the simplest things you can do to lose fat is to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D. Over and over again, research shows the many health benefits of vitamin D. Meanwhile, if you have low vitamin D, you will be more likely to be overweight, have less muscle mass, and be at higher risk of a long list of diseases.
What is concerning is that even though vitamin D deficiency is SO easy to solve, it is SO widespread!
Surveys estimate that anywhere between 40 and 90 percent of the population is deficient depending on ethnicity and season. Here are ten things you should know about vitamin D if you want to lose fat and be strong and healthy:
#1: Vitamin D Is The Sunshine Vitamin
The body produces vitamin D in response to direct sunlight. To maintain vitamin D levels from sun exposure, scientists suggest you need to be in direct sunlight for at least 20 minutes every day between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm.
#2: Dark Skin Color Increases Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency
Wearing sunscreen or sunglasses, or having dark skin color will significantly impede your body’s ability to produce vitamin D.
For example, a 2010 survey of Americans found that 70 percent of whites but 93 percent of blacks were deficient in vitamin D. A second study comparing the relationship between belly fat percentage and vitamin D status in white Europeans and South Asians found that the South Asians had much lower vitamin D levels (the average level was 21 ng/ml, which is just above “deficient” status). Lower vitamin D was associated with greater belly fat and total body fat percentage.
#3: Vitamin D is Inversely Related To Body Fat
Separate surveys of children, men, and women show that those with lower vitamin D had more body fat, and more belly fat. Out of 237 children, the majority were deficient in vitamin D (73 percent of blacks and 40 percent of whites were deficient) and vitamin D levels were inversely associated with body fat percentages.
Supplementing to restore vitamin D status can reduce body fat. In one study of overweight women, those who took vitamin D for 12 weeks lost 2.7 kg of fat compared to a placebo group that lost nothing. They didn’t even modify diet or weight train.
#4: Low Vitamin D Leads To Inflammation
Body fat is inflammatory. At the same time, low vitamin D causes inflammation. Together low vitamin D and high body fat are a vicious cycle that lead to more inflammation. For example, l
ow vitamin D also decreases pancreatic cell function and affects insulin sensitivity because there are vitamin D receptors on insulin cells. In addition to increasing the amount of fat you have, low D puts you at risk for continual fat gain and diabetes.
#5: Low Vitamin D Compromises Muscle & Metabolism
The inflammatory state associated with vitamin D compromises muscle function and leads to fat accumulation in muscle. For example, among college-age women in Southern California, vitamin D status was inversely correlated with the amount of fat they had in their muscle.
Researchers were alarmed since the population was young, fit, and living in a sunny climate. Twenty-four percent of the women were deficient (below 20 ng/ml) and 35 percent had insufficient (between 20 and 30 ng/ml) vitamin D.
#6: Low Vitamin D Increases Injury Risk
Because vitamin D influences muscle and strength, lack of vitamin D will increase injury risk. Vitamin D enhances the immune system, while low D increases chance of illness. For example, in a study of professional football players, the average vitamin D level of those who experienced an injury was 19.9 ng/ml. The African American players on the team were more likely to be deficient and more likely to be injured.
#7: Vitamin D Is Necessary For Muscle Power
Vitamin D levels are associated with muscular power. Adequate vitamin D increases the size and strength of type II muscle fibers in a variety of populations. A recent study found that overweight adults who took vitamin D while doing a strength training program increased their explosive power significantly more than a group that didn’t take vitamin D.
#8: Low Vitamin D Leads To Low Testosterone In Men
Low vitamin D is associated with low testosterone and poor fertility in men. The theory goes that vitamin D inhibits aromatization of testosterone to estrogen. Research shows that men with adequate vitamin D (above 30 ng/ml) have higher testosterone levels, the leaner body composition, and a greater percentage of lean mass than men with insufficient D.
Supplementing with vitamin D can help men lose fat. A study found that giving men with low testosterone and vitamin D deficiency 3,332 IUs of vitamin D daily for a year raised their free testosterone levels by 20 percent. They also lost 6 kg over the course of the study!
#9: Vitamin D Protects Maternal Health
Women need vitamin D for reproduction, hormone balance, and body composition. Just as vitamin D affects testosterone in men, it influences sex hormone levels in women too.
For example, mothers who have adequate vitamin D have leaner offspring. Research suggests that vitamin D affects genetic signaling pathways linked to metabolism in a developing fetus. Low vitamin D has also been associated with greater risk of gestational diabetes and diabetes in offspring during childhood.
Another study showed that pregnant women who were given 4,000 IUs of vitamin D daily for a month from 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy had healthier babies. Rates of pre-term labor were also lower women who took vitamin D.
#10: Vitamin D Supports Athletic Performance
Vitamin D is a natural performance-enhancing substance. It raises production of hormones like testosterone that influence strength and power in both men and women. It also enables the action of calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for powerful muscle contractions.
Surveys of athletes show that performance is significantly enhanced during summer months when vitamin D levels are naturally higher. Performance drops off over the winter, reaching a low point in March or April. In addition, injury and illness rates increase over the winter season as vitamin D levels naturally drop.
If you are not attending to your vitamin D level, you are not going to be as lean and strong as you could be. The solution is SO simple: Optimize your vitamin D level to lose body fat and get better results from training.