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You’ve probably heard that this mineral and vitamin combine to promote bone strength. Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium it needs to keep your bones and teeth strong and dense. But these micronutrients are also important for muscle function.

Your muscles rely on calcium for sparking the contractions that make them move. (Learn more about calcium at “Why Your Body Needs Calcium and How to Maximize Your Intake.”)

Vitamin D helps regulate muscle contractions, explains Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist in San Francisco. The sunshine vitamin — so called because sun exposure can trigger the body to produce it — also helps muscle recovery. And studies have shown that vitamin D can increase your antioxidant capacity, support the health of your mitochondria (the power generators of your cells), and boost muscle regeneration.

Tips to Optimize Your Calcium Intake

  • Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, are some of the best natural sources of calcium.
  • Canned sardines, salmon, kale, broccoli, and bok choy are good nondairy sources of calcium.
  • Calcium supplements can be helpful for people who have trouble getting enough from their diet, including those who are postmenopausal and those who don’t eat dairy. It’s recommended that adults get 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium daily. (See “How to Supplement With Calcium” for more.)

(Find out more about maximizing your calcium intake at “Are You Getting Enough Calcium?“)

Tips to Optimize Your Vitamin D Intake

  • Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel are ideal food sources of vitamin D.
  • Beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese contain small amounts of vitamin D.
  • Vitamin D supplements can compensate for shortages in your diet and of sun exposure. “The majority of the people I work with need vitamin D supplementation because it’s challenging to get enough through food alone,” Koszyk notes. (See “5 Tips to Supplement With Vitamin D” for more expert guidance.)

(And, discover how to maximize your vitamin D intake at “Vitamin D: What You Need to Know.”)

Feed Your Muscles

You need more than just protein to get and stay strong. Discover more of the essential nutrients that can support your muscles now and for the long haul at “What to Eat for Strong Muscles,” from which this article was excerpted.

Lauren Bedosky

Lauren Bedosky is a Twin Cities–based health-and-fitness writer.

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