Does vitamin D affect your energy levels?
Vitamin D is often perceived as an essential nutrient (which it certainly is!) but some experts feel that this vitamin would be better labeled as a hormone due to the variety of roles it plays within the body. It only makes sense then, as vitamin D is so important, that when you’re deficient you can experience a range of symptoms.
These symptoms, such as low immunity, sore muscles and joints, and slow wound healing, can often be explained by the various roles of vitamin D – it’s essential for supporting your immune system and it’s necessary for the healthy absorption of calcium. However, one of the more persistent symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is fatigue, which seems to indicate that vitamin D could also be involved with your energy levels too!
The Newcastle University study
Until recently, this connection was more speculative but thanks to research carried out by Newcastle University it’s starting to look as though vitamin D could be influencing our energy levels. The study specifically compared muscle function and recovery in 27 participants, 12 of whom suffered from vitamin D deficiency while the 15 that did not acted as a control group.
The scientists involved in the study measured the participant’s responses to exercise using non-invasive resonance scans. These were capable of showing how the mitochondria was working and found that those with low vitamin D levels had less efficient mitochondrial function, which only improved after supplementing with vitamin D.1
So what exactly does this mean and why is it significant? Well, mitochondria are the tiny, rod-shaped organelles (tiny cellular structures) that act as the power generators of your cells. They help to manufacture ATP, an energy-rich molecule, from glucose and oxygen. ATP acts as the main energy source when it comes to metabolic functions and, interestingly, poor mitochondrial efficiency is often linked to fatigue-related disorders. This study definitely appears to imply that vitamin D could be needed for healthy mitochondrial functioning, thus supporting your energy levels.
Can low levels of vitamin D cause mood and sleep problems?
Poor mitochondrial function might contribute to muscle fatigue and tiredness but could vitamin D also be influencing your energy levels in other ways?
When it comes to energy levels, two areas of your health that can have a huge impact are your sleep patterns and your mood. In the case of sleep, the reasoning behind this idea is fairly obvious – it’s difficult to maintain healthy energy levels when you’re absolutely exhausted and starved of rest. But where exactly does vitamin D come into the picture here? Well, our Sleep Advisor Marianna goes into a bit more detail in her blog ‘Does vitamin D help you sleep?’ but, to keep things simple, I’ll just briefly mention the main reasoning behind this.
An extensive study involving 3048 male participants found that low vitamin D increased their likelihood of experiencing insufficient sleep and were linked to lower sleep efficiency scores.2 So, if you’ve got low levels of vitamin D, it’s possible that this could be impacting your sleep patterns thus leading to increased feelings of tiredness and daytime fatigue.
Now, the link between vitamin D and your mood is slightly more complicated. There are vitamin D receptors all over your body but especially in the areas of your brain associated with low mood and depression, which has led some scientists to speculate that vitamin D could be affecting certain hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. If you want to learn more about this, please read Marianna’s blog, ‘Can vitamin D help SAD?’
So, it’s possible that inadequate levels of vitamin D could be impacting your mood and sleep, thus affecting your energy levels. In most cases, positive results have been produced using vitamin D supplements but this is where things can get tricky. Knowing how much vitamin D is enough can be problematic – everyone has different requirements and these can actually change throughout the year.
How much vitamin D should I take a day?
It’s generally recommended that we all get around 10-15mcg of vitamin D a day but recently Public Health England has stated that, during the winter months when sunlight is in short supply, we may wish to source this from supplements. The problem is that, while 10-15mcg is a good estimate, there will always be some people more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency than others.
Who could be at risk?
- Those who are sedentary
- Sufferers of digestive issues like IBS
- Obese individuals
- Older adults
- Those on certain medications
In the case of these groups of people, sometimes supplementing will be the best option; however, just be mindful when you’re looking for a vitamin D supplement. The NHS recommends that you don’t exceed 100mcg of vitamin D a day3 but, unfortunately, many high street supplements will dramatically exceed this intake. Try to aim for a low dose of vitamin D that’s easily absorbed over high-strength supplements. If you want to learn more about this, please check out my blog ‘Are you getting too much vitamin D?’
What can I do to increase my vitamin D intake?
The good news about vitamin D is that there’s plenty of ways you can go about increasing your intake!
1 – Seek out the sun
Sunlight is your body’s primary way of synthesising vitamin D, so it only makes sense that, if you’re looking to up your intake, you’ll first need to increase your exposure. This is all very well and good during the longer, sunnier summer months but, if you happen to reside here in the UK, winters can present a challenge. Not only are the nights darker, but the weather is also infinitely bleaker which can discourage some from venturing out. However, ideally, winter is when you need to be out and about the most so don’t be afraid to go on a quick walk in the dull weather – it could be just what you need to give your vitamin D levels a boost!
2 – Think about your diet
Sunlight might be your best option if you’re trying to increase your intake of vitamin D, but your diet could also play a role here too. Certain foods such as fatty, oily fish, egg yolks or even mushrooms all contain plenty of vitamin D and, even better if you’re vegan or vegetarian, many grains, cereals and non-dairy milks are now fortified with this nutrient!
You could also try our Balance Mineral Drink. Not only is this strawberry-flavoured drink specifically formulated to help give your energy levels a boost, but it also contains plenty of trace electrolytes, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and, yes, vitamin D! It actually contains 5mcg of vitamin D – that’s half your recommended daily intake – plus it can actually help to keep you hydrated.
3 – If you need to, try a gentle supplement
If winter is setting in and you really feel as though you need a bit of extra support when it comes to your vitamin D levels, you could try a gentle supplement. As I’ve mentioned, our Balance Mineral Drink is a good option but if you’re after something stronger you could visit your local health food store to see what is available.