Vitamin D3 Supplementation Does Not Improve Sprint Performance in Professional Rugby Players: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Intervention Study

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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Vitamin D insufficiency is common in athletes and may lower physical performance. Many cross-sectional studies associate vitamin D status with physical performance in athletes; however, there have been few prospective randomized controlled trials with adequate statistical power to test this relationship, and none in the southern hemisphere. Thus, a prospective double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trial was conducted involving 57 professional rugby union players in New Zealand. Participants were randomized to receive 50,000 IU of cholecalciferol (equivalent to 3,570 IU/day) or placebo once every two weeks over 11–12 weeks. Serum 25(OH)D concentrations and physical performance were measured at baseline, weeks 5–6, and weeks 11–12. Mean (SD) serum 25(OH)D concentrations for all participants at baseline was 94 (18) nmol/L, with all players above 50 nmol/L. Vitamin D supplementation significantly increased serum 25(OH)D concentrations compared to placebo, with a 32 nmol/L difference between groups at 11–12 weeks (95% CI, 26–38; p < 0.001). Performance in five of the six tests at study completion, including the primary outcome variable of 30-m sprint time, did not differ between the vitamin D supplemented and placebo groups (p > 0.05). Performance on the weighted reverse-grip chin up was significantly higher in players receiving vitamin D compared with placebo, by 5.5 kg (95% CI, 2.0–8.9; p = 0.002). Despite significantly improving vitamin D status in these professional rugby union players, vitamin D supplementation had little impact on physical performance outcomes. Thus, it is unlikely that vitamin D supplementation is an ergogenic aid in this group of athletes.

Fairbairn, Skeaff, and Perry are with the Dept. of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; Fairbairn is also with Invigorate Nutrition, Dunedin, New Zealand. Ceelen is with the Dept. of Sports and Exercise, HAN University of Applied Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Cameron is with the Dept. of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Address author correspondence to Kirsty A. Fairbairn at kirsty@invigoratenutrition.com.
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