Elite archers become elite by doing the exact same muscle motions precisely over and over, through thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of arrows shot. The elite development is because the human body, through evolution, responds to ANY activity by buttressing, reinforcing, that which is working. Bones that are stressed by weights or impact of running flex, and the body responds by sending in more calcium. Muscles that are torn down by weight lifting are rebuilt in larger fibers with more nerve connections, as long as the appropriate nutrients are available.
NERVES INVOLVED IN SHOOTING – the path from the brain to the muscles – are made up of millions up millions of axons (nerve cells) strung together like a string of sausage links. As they are used over and over, the body has little octopus-looking machines (oligodendrocytes) that detect the higher activity and go to work, laying down a wrapping layer of FATTY TISSUE. In this case, the fat (myelin) is like a super-conductor. It turns the nerve from a skinny straw into a firehose, capable of carrying information in both directions so much better that the person becomes elite.
Myelin comes from Oligodendrocytes, tiny little, insanely busy machines that look like an octopus. Oligos lay down the fat. Oligos have been shown to malfunction and are a major factor in Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Studies show Oligos only work most efficiently when they have vitamin D. Seriously. Archers that train in high-quality sunlight, exposing as much skin as possible, will have the best Oligos. The most Myelin. The best chance to reach their potential highest evolution of performance. Proof? There are many studies, which you can access via google, using search terms “oligodendrocyte vitamin D”. I’ve listed a few links below. You will find that many focus on the FACTS regarding MS – a fatal disease where the oligos break down and stop making myelin, and so the parts of the brain lose the ability to talk to the muscles, among other things. I cannot help but wonder if Stephen Hawking had grown up in south Texas instead of cloudy England, whether the course of his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) would have even occurred. Myelin failure is involved in ALS.
From one study: “The authors found that neural stem cells carry receptors that can bind to vitamin D. When they added vitamin D to the cell culture plates, the neural stem cells increased their numbers significantly after one week, demonstrating that vitamin D triggers neural stem cells to activate and multiply. Importantly, vitamin D stimulated the neural stem cells to mature into both neurons and myelin-forming oligodendrocytes, but not astrocytes. The mechanism by which vitamin D activated neural stem cells was through promoting increased activity of several important neurotrophic factors.”
SO the short of it is, athletes need vitamin D levels that are higher than normal mortals because their oligos literally consume it faster, as do the inflamed muscle tissues, if they want MORE MYELIN.
The slightly longer of it is that D is not a vitamin. It is a steroid. It is a hormone. Its functions in the human body are to enhance the functions of the immune system and to deal with any kind of inflammation, whether due to trauma, disease, or purposeful athletic training.
When you want to become stronger, you work out. You lift weights. You run. You use your muscles as hard as you can. This all is literally causing inflammation. Exercise is willful inflammation, destruction, of the muscles. You tear down the muscle, and if all is working right in your body, those muscles get rebuilt bigger, stronger, twitchier, and with more nerve endings (which are more myelinated). That happens if you have enough vitamin D, of course. Low in D? it will still happen, but no where near the “best” or optimal, way. So you want bigger, stronger, faster muscle power? You need an adequate supply of vitamin D for your unique personal needs.
I’ve developed enough understanding at this point to have recommendations for how much D one should take orally, if you cannot get out into high quality sunlight for an hour or two every day. And for extreme athletes it may not be possible to actually make enough for nominal levels unless the sun conditions are perfect.
On a per/day dosage for normal humans, in order of criticality:
- 10,000iu per 100 pounds body weight for pregnant women and the male contributor of the sperm* (obviously this should be established for MONTHS prior to conception) D stabilizes the DNA of the sperm.
- 10,000iu per 100 pounds post-partum, especially if/while nursing.
- 1,000iu per 25 pounds for newborns via drops/liquid form (1000iu per drop) even if nursing.
Athletes and young adolescents subject to growth spurts:
- 15,000iu to 25,000iu per 100 pounds body weight (25,000 is for the extremely heavy training with NO sun exposure – the typical gym rat)
There MAY be no need to vary dosing during periodization training. I do feel that adequate D contributes to achieving supercompensation!
50,000iu daily for 3 to 5 days if apprehending an illness. IOW: “I’m coming down with my roommate’s crud” or “I’m flying for 12 hours to an international competition, and the guy in seat 6b is hawking up a lung” or “I think I’m coming down with something”.
“Normal” people: 5,000iu to 10,000iu per 100 pounds body weight
There is genetic variation in several factors. Dark skin will take up to 8 times longer to make D in the sun. Oral dosing is the same, but much more critical as a result of the sun resistance.
Some will not need this much. The only smart, sound thing to do is to test your blood level 2 months after you start your dosing. The test can be done at home, for as little as $50. (see vitamindcouncil.org to order a test online). You MUST test your level, in order to know whether you are doing the right dose. Your goal should be 50 ng/ml to 100 ng/ml.
For people with a disease related to chronic D Deficiency: RA, MS, Diabetes Type II, Crohns, Lupus, fibromyalgias, inflammatory diseases of any nature, cancers. Much more. Google your disease and “vitamin D”. Double all doses. At least.
By now you understand that the human body responds to precise repetitions of a physical act by hyper-developing the neural pathway involved. In other words the body makes myelin layers on the nerves that are getting the most use.
Myelin is a fat. A lipid. It is vital for brains to interconnect all of the multitude of nuclei of special functions to enable us to be well, us. When someone’s immune system decides that Myelin is a foreign invading body, it develops antibodies that actually attack the myelin. This is a simplistic description of MS – Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, as well as Autism. Studies of these devastating diseases have given us the opportunity to understand how myelin is formed, maintained, and why.
If you are not already familiar with myelin and the “10,000 hour rule”, then do some reading on my bibliography listed in this blog by using the search tool. While the “rule” of 10,000 hrs is not really a “rule” per the author, it’s a valuable concept. It helps us understand a biological process that leads to enhanced physical performance.
Myelin is made, is laid down in a wrapping fashion like a bun around a hot dog, Each axon is the hot dog in this example, so we’re talking a chain of millions of hot dogs in one single series from the brain to a muscle bundle in say, the string fingertip. Now consider how many millions of muscle bundles there are in the muscles involved in a shot cycle. That is a LOT of axons!
Where does myelin actually come from? Oligodendrocytes. I’ll shorten the name to Oligos ’cause I am lazy. Oligos are amazing. Scientists have identified the way D enables enzymes to be expressed, since more than 1000 genes are controlled by D. Some of those enzymes are key in Oligos doing their myelin thing. Other enzymes D facilitates repair damage to DNA. In fact, D makes the only enzyme known that can mend not just one side of the helix, but BOTH sides of the strand of DNA. So D is also one of the most potent antioxidants known to man.
Cautions: D enables calcium (and other minerals) absorption. If you are deficient in D, you’ve been able to take excessive amounts of calcium (say, too many Tums a day), but without the D you haven’t been absorbing the calcium. You fix your D level, and suddenly start absorbing excess calcium, and you can get into hypercalcemia which is life-threatening. So adults, 1 gram of calcium per day. Teenagers, 1700mg (1.7 gms) daily because you are actively growing more bone.
D IS NO SILVER BULLET. But for athletes, if you are not “right” with your D level, you will never reach your ultimate potential no matter how hard you train..