Everything you need to know about vitamin D for men
Getting all the nutrition your body needs is vital if you want to stay strong, active, and happy. The best way to do this is to eat a variety of healthy, balanced foods, however you can also supplement your diet with vitamins.
For men and women, vitamin D is important, particularly outside of the summer months. Read on to find out why, and how much men should be taking each day.
Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps keep the bones, muscles, and teeth healthy. Not getting enough as an adult can cause bone pain and other issues.
Vitamin D is unique, as we get most of it from sunlight rather than from our diet. When sunlight hits the skin, the body can generate vitamin D, which means between spring and autumn we should be able to get all we need just from spending time in the sun.
Outside of these months, vitamin D will mostly need to come from our diet, or from taking supplements.Shop supplements
How much vitamin D does a man need?
With some essential nutrients, like iron, men and women need different amounts. However, in the case of vitamin D the NHS recommends that adult men and women should have the same amount: 10 micrograms per day.
On a bottle you might see this represented as 10mcg or 10μg. You might also see the dosage represented in International Units (IU). 10 micrograms is equivalent to 400 IU.
Generally, it’s considered safe to take up to 100 micrograms/4,000 IU of vitamin D each day. Beyond this the effects could be harmful.
Do I need to take vitamin D throughout the year?
The NHS guidance is to take 10mcg of vitamin D every day in the autumn, winter, and early spring (between October and early March).
You may need to take it the rest of the year if you’re particularly at risk of a vitamin D deficiency, for example:
- You’re mostly housebound
- You work night shifts
- You have dark skin
- You wear clothes that cover most of your skin
What does vitamin D do for males?
Vitamin D has all kinds of benefits for the human body – whether you’re a man or a woman.
It promotes the absorption of calcium in the gut, and helps to maintain calcium and phosphate levels. This keeps the bones healthy, promotes bone growth, and prevents cramps and spasms in the muscles. In adult men and women it prevents osteomalacia – it can also help protect older adults from osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is also thought to reduce inflammation and help to modulate cell growth, immune function, and the absorption of glucose.
Does vitamin D increase testosterone?
According to some studies, there is a relationship between vitamin D and testosterone. The study described here found that vitamin D supplementation may increase testosterone levels. A similar study found a relationship between low vitamin D and low testosterone.
However, more research needs to be done to examine this link.
It’s worth noting that lots of men are keen to find ways to boost their testosterone, because of a misconception about declining testosterone levels and the associated symptoms – an experience sometimes referred to as “the male menopause”.
While it’s true that testosterone does go down, starting in the 30s or 40s, this decline is very gradual and doesn’t tend to cause problems. As we age, issues like low mood, low sex drive, and erectile dysfunction are more likely to be caused by stress, depression, anxiety, and physical health problems.
In short, while taking vitamin D supplements can be a great way to maintain good general health, it’s unlikely to have an effect on your sex life or mood. If you’re having these kinds of problems, you should speak to your GP.
The best ways for men to get vitamin D
The two best ways to get vitamin D are through sun exposure and diet. You can also take supplements.
It’s not clear exactly how long we need to spend in the sun to get a good amount of vitamin D – partly because everybody’s skin is different. As a general guide, the NHS advises the following:
- Between late March and October spend time outdoors in direct sunlight every day (between 11am and 3pm the sun will be strongest)
- For short periods have your forearms and hands, or lower legs uncovered and without any sunscreen.
- Take care not to spend enough time in direct sunlight that you will burn – move into the shade and apply sunscreen if you think you might
- Spend longer in the sun if you have very dark skin
Some researchers have suggested that you only need to spend between five and 30 minutes in the sun each day to get all the vitamin D you need. However, if you have very fair skin, 30 minutes may be long enough to cause a burn, so be careful.
Good dietary sources of vitamin D include:
- Fish liver oils
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Foods fortified with vitamin D
In some countries all cows’ milk is fortified with vitamin D, but this is not the case in the UK. Read our vitamin D rich food guide to find more
Vitamin D supplements
The NHS recommends that adult men and women take 10 micrograms/400 IU of vitamin D supplements each day between October and March.
Vitamin D tends to come in tablet form that you swallow or dissolve in water. It can also come in a spray or drop form, but this may be harder to administer in the right dose. You can buy a vitamin D supplement on its own, or as part of a multi-vitamin.
When choosing a supplement, check for the following:
- At least 10mcg/μg or 400 IU of vitamin D
- No more than 100mcg/μg or 4,000 IU of vitamin D
Usually supplements will list the active ingredient as “vitamin D3”. This is the type of vitamin D that is found in animal products, and it’s thought to be more effective than the alternative dietary type, vitamin D2.
If you’re looking to stock up, we have a good selection of supplements containing vitamin D that can be found here.