The Importance of Vitamin D on Young Athletes – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette D is one of the most important vitamins our bodies need and it’s list of functions are quite lengthy. Our bodies make the vitamin, however we also need get it additionally from the sun, certain foods and supplements. Many people, especially younger children and teens, aren’t necessarily getting as much of the vitamin as they should be. Deficiency in Vitamin D can cause a wide range of disorders. Nearly every single tissue in the body has a receptor for it, which requires Vitamin D to function. So what exactly are the benefits, why are young athletes in need of it, and how can you increase it?

Benefits of Vitamin D

  • Supports cardiovascular health — This is as simple as creating a preventive for heart disease and even the flu. Athletes, especially younger kids in school, are exposed to countless germs in the locker room, at school, practice, etc so keeping up a strong immune system is important. In addition, having a strong heart ensures better cardiovascular development and endurance during activities and sports for years to come.
  • Regulates absorption of calcium and phosphorous — Absorbing these nutrients is vital for normal growth and development of bones and teeth. Young athletes are especially at risk when it comes to their likelihood of breaking a bone or getting an injury playing sports.
  • Aids in recovery of skeletal muscle strength — Studies have shown that vitamin D aids in the recovery of the muscle strength and allowing for quicker recovery time during and after exercise. This is important for young athletes especially, who often have long practices, play multiple sports or even do two-a-days.
  • Various benefits throughout body — These include reducing triglycerides, lowering cancer and arthritis risk, lowering blood sugar and lowering the loss of muscle strength and mass as we age. These benefits are so important for a person of any age. Fortifying young athletes with enough vitamin D at a young age will help to ensure their health for the future.

Young Athletes at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency 

Younger athletes are often at risk for a vitamin D deficiency due to simply not getting enough of it in their diets. Supplementation is very helpful, but not absolutely necessary with a healthy and well balanced diet. Junk food certainly will not provide enough vitamin D, however, so parents need to be aware of ensuring that their child is eating enough vitamin D rich foods.

Increasing Vitamin D

  • Exposure to sun for 10 minutes per day helps to supplement but won’t give you quite enough
  • Foods:
    • salmon, shrimp and sardines
    • mushrooms
    • fortified dairy products
    • fortified orange juice
    • fortified cereals
    • egg yolks
  • Supplementation

    • The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recommends only 600 units of Vitamin D for children and teens daily. However, other sources vary in their unit recommendations. Others state from ages 8-12 that children should take in 500 units twice a day. Teens ages 13-18 should take 1,000-2,000 units twice a day.

Regardless of discrepancies in exact recommendations, parents should be aware for both their young athletes and themselves of the importance of getting enough vitamin D. Fortifying with some sun exposure, a well balanced healthy diet and possibly adding in a supplement can go a long way in keeping the entire family healthy.


Blog post by Brn Fitness. Learn about them here! BRN Fitness is a member of the Pittsburgh Fitness Council, a professional member organization that strives to connect the best professionals in the area to provide and enhance client services. For more information about PFC and its members, please visit

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