Effects of Vitamin D on Skeletal Muscle and Athletic Performance

Geoffrey D. Abrams, MD; David Feldman, MD; Marc R. Safran, MD


J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2018;26(8):278-285. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Vitamin D is known to be important for calcium homeostasis and bone metabolism. It also has important direct effects on skeletal muscle. Unlike authentic vitamins, which cannot be synthesized in the body, vitamin D is produced in the skin using sunlight. Through its nuclear receptor (ie, vitamin D receptor) located throughout the body, including skeletal muscle, vitamin D initiates genomic and nongenomic pathways regulating multiple actions, including myocyte proliferation and growth. In some studies, vitamin D supplementation has been shown to increase muscle strength, particularly in people who are vitamin D deficient. Higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced injury rates and improved sports performance. In a subset of the population, vitamin D appears to play a role in muscle strength, injury prevention, and sports performance.


Vitamin D has long been recognized as important in maintaining calcium homeostasis within the body. More recently, vitamin D has been shown to have a direct effect on skeletal muscle through the vitamin D receptor (VDR), leading to the recognition that vitamin D may play a role in muscle function, strength, and recovery and potentially in physical and athletic performance.[1] However, a lack of consensus exists regarding what should be considered normal levels of vitamin D within the blood, what effect vitamin D has on muscle function, and whether higher vitamin D levels can improve athletic performance.