Chocolate Pudding

Vitamin D and Muscle Strength

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which acts functionally as a hormone.¹ It promotes calcium absorption in the gut and helps to maintain adequate serum calcium levels in the blood. Vitamin D also plays a role in neuromuscular and immune function as well as in reducing inflammation.²

The main source of active vitamin D comes from exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sun exposure.¹ However, age, latitude, time of day, time of the year and skin pigmentation can impact the production of vitamin D in the skin.³ Recreational athletes at risk for vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency include those who exercise mostly indoors, have dark skin pigmentation, wear clothing that covers most or all of their body, live at latitudes >35 degrees north or south of the equator, often use sunscreen and/or suffer from disorders causing gastrointestinal malabsorption.¹

Inadequate levels of vitamin D may have significant long-term health impacts (i.e. may increase risk of colon cancer, diabetes) as well as more immediate effects on musculoskeletal health (i.e. increasing risk of injuries like stress fractures).⁴ Vitamin D deficiency has also been found to negatively impact muscle strength³

Over the past several years, it has been suggested that insufficient vitamin D levels may negatively affect performance in deficient athletes. Supplementing vitamin D in athletes with insufficient levels or encouraging higher intakes of vitamin D rich foods may have beneficial effects on an athlete’s strength, power, reaction time and balance.¹ʼ⁴ Vitamin D supplementation in deficient adults has been shown to improve tests of muscle performance and may have possible impacts on muscle fibre composition and morphology.² See below for vitamin D recommendations as well as the vitamin D content of common foods.

* It is not recommended that individuals over expose themselves to UVB radiation in an attempt to increase vitamin D levels as this can lead to sunburn and melanoma.


Vitamin D Recommendations:

Age in years Aim for an intake of Stay below
Men and Women 19-50 600 IU 4000 IU
Men and Women 51-70 600 IU 4000 IU
Men and Women 71 and older 800 IU 4000 IU

                                                                                                                             Tables from Dietitians of Canada⁵

Vitamin D Content of Some Common Foods

Food Serving Size Vitamin D (IU)
Orange juice, fortified with vitamin D 125 mL 50
Soy beverage, fortified with vitamin D 250 mL 123
Milk 250 mL 103
Skim milk powdered 60 mL 103
Rice, oat, almond beverage, fortified with vitamin D 250 mL 88-90
Yogurt, fortified with vitamin D 175 mL 58-71
Egg yolk, cooked 2 large 57-88


Chocolate Pudding

Makes 6 servings.


1/2 cup white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup skim milk powder
1 1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 15oz can evaporated fat-free milk
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
* In place of vanilla extract, try adding 1 tsp mint extract or 1 tsp coconut extract or 1 tbsp grated orange rind.



  1. Combine white sugar, corn starch, cocoa, salt and skim milk powder in a medium, heavy saucepan; stir with a whisk.
  2. Gradually add low-fat milk and evaporated milk, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until thick.
  4. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Stir in vanilla.
  6. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Add garnish if desired.

Recipe adapted from:


1) Vitamin D. Australian Institute of Sports Website. Updated May 2014. Accessed March 13, 2016.
2) Ceglia L. Vitamin D and Its Role in Skeletal Muscle. Curr Opin CLin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(6):628-633.
3) Pfeifer M, Begerow B, Minne HW. Vitamin D and Muscle Function. Osteoporos Int. 2002;13(3):187-194.
4) Hamilton B. Vitamin D and Athletic Performance: The Potential Role of Muscle. Asian J Sports Med. 2011;2(4):211-219.
5) Food Sources of Vitamin D. Dietitians of Canada Website. Published March 20, 2012. Updated 2014. Accessed March 8, 2016.


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