Vitamin D Deficiencies in Cyclists

It is automatically assumed that as outdoor athletes, most cyclists don't need to be concerned with low levels of vitamin D. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Recently one of the athletes I coach who lives and trains in sunny Las Vegas tested deficient for vitamin D. But how could this be? Cyclists are outside in the sun more often than most, but this alone doesn't make you immune to low levels of vitamin D. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is widespread among athletes in general.

For cyclists in training, vitamin D impacts skeletal muscle protein synthesis, inflammation, recovery, immune system health and bone-density maintenance. In order to determine whether or not you need to supplement with vitamin D, you'll need to have a blood test that measures the circulating form of vitamin D. This is referred to as serum 25 (or serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D).

More: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

For athletes training and racing, the U.S. RDA guideline suggests a serum between 25- to 30-hydroxyvitamin D concentration. Fortunately, if you're one of the many cyclists low in vitamin D serum levels, there are ways to boost production that will make you healthier and help you improve your performance on the bike.

Ways to Increase Serum Vitamin D

In order to receive the amount of vitamin D that your body needs to function properly, you should get your requirements through a combination of:

1. Diet
2. Supplementation
3. Synthesized by the skin following safe sun exposure.

More: What is Vitamin D?


To increase serum levels through your diet, the following are foods highest in vitamin D:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Wild salmon
  • Sun-dried shitake mushrooms
  • Canned sardines
  • Farmed salmon

More: Protecting Against Bone-Density Loss

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