When we think about training – especially for an endurance event - we tend to focus on two key nutrients: protein and carbs.  And with good reason.  Protein helps to build and maintain muscle and carbs provide the fuel.  But, these are not the only nutrients the body needs and focusing on one area can mean we miss out on some of the others.

Vitamin D's aid to Muscular function & strength

Although protein is essential in building healthy muscle, other vitamins come into play and vitamin D is one that is often missed.  Most of us know that we need vitamin D to help us to absorb and use the calcium we eat.  But did you know that vitamin D is also needed for normal muscle function?  There are several studies looking at the effect of vitamin D on muscle strength and function as well as the impact on musculoskeletal pain in sports.

​The lack of Vitamin D in Ireland

One of the big problems for vitamin D in Ireland is that we are supposed to make vitamin D when the sun shines on our skin.  Anyone living in Ireland knows that we don’t see a whole lot of sun.  This is why vitamin D deficiency is quite common in Ireland.  An additional problem for us is that the sun that hits Ireland between October and March is too weak for us to make any vitamin D.  So even if we have a sunny day in February, it is still not going to help us out. 

A great source of Vitamin D

This means that we really have to focus on food for vitamin D and the richest source is oil-rich fish.  We need about 5 micrograms of vitamin D per day.  Salmon will give you the full amount you need in one serving.  Tuna is also a great source of vitamin D as are mackerel and sardines.  Fish also has the advantage of being an excellent source of protein making it a key food to include in any training programme.

Sarah Keogh in association with John West

Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI

Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation. 

She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.