Sunbathing VS Vitamin D Supplementation
I didn’t actually get this email from a reader… but let’s pretend I did.
“Austin, I really don’t want to do any nude sunbathing because I don’t want anyone to see my pp. And the last time I went to a nude beach I accidentally went to a gay nude beach and didn’t realize it until I ended up at the after party. It’s really tough for me to even sunbathe in a bathing suit or get out in the sun at all with my current job situation because my boss is making me work the graveyard shift this month. Does it really make much of a difference if I get my vitamin D from supplements instead of the sun? Plz write me back,”
Mr. Anonymous, if I were in your shoes I WOULD do the same thing, I HAVE done this, and I CURRENTLY do this. Although research shows that sensible, midday sunbathing is the superior method for optimizing your vitamin D levels, ingesting vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) absolutely works too. In addition to sunbathing, I actually take a weekly dose of vitamin D3 just to make absolutely sure I’m covered.
I especially like using supplemental vitamin D whenever my area I live in is going through a cloudy/rainy week and during winter – times when it’s harder or impossible to get out in the sun.
Thanks to science and technology, we don’t have to suffer a vitamin D deficiency due to a sun deficiency. In fact, if you live 35 or more degrees latitude north of the equator – you MUST take vitamin D supplements during winter if you want to maintain your levels because there’s literally NO UVB light to help your body make it (see this study for more on that). People tend to experience their lowest vitamin D levels at the beginning of Spring, after several months of being physically incapable of producing any vitamin D from sun exposure. Unless you live in or have easy, year-round access to an equatorial region, we all need to have a bottle of vitamin D3 at home.
Anyway, let’s examine the differences between getting your vitamin D from sunlight versus supplements.
Benefits of Solar-Generated Vitamin D
1. You can’t overdose
For me, the primary benefit of sunbathing for vitamin D is that there is no risk of overdose or vitamin D toxicity when you do it this way. When you sunbathe, your body will make only the amount of vitamin D you actually need and then destroy the excess. Also, there’s only so much 7-dehydrocholesterol in your skin to be converted into vitamin D during a single sunbathing session – so that’s another built-in safety mechanism.
The number differs for everybody, but some vitamin D researchers estimate that a young adult can possibly make up to 50,000 IU of vitamin D from a single afternoon, full-body summer sunbathing session. That’s a big dose! That’s actually the dose many doctors prescribe to be taken on a weekly basis for patients suffering from a vitamin D deficiency and it doesn’t require a doctor’s visit to obtain. An hour or so out in the afternoon summer sun can potentially give you the equivalent of a weekly prescription-strength vitamin D dose and you can do this every single day to really jack your vitamin D levels up (provided you’ve safely developed the prerequisite sun tolerance). If you actually need it, your body will keep making it. If you don’t need it, your body won’t. It’s that simple. Sunbathing allows you to develop the highest vitamin D levels naturally possible with the certainty that you are at zero risk for developing any vitamin D toxicity problems.
When you’re supplementing with oral D3 there is a risk of developing what’s called hypercalcemia if you take large enough oral doses over a long enough period of time. This is where the calcium content of your blood increases to dangerous levels, putting you at risk for developing calcified arteries and kidney stones.
Most documented cases of vitamin D toxicity have been the result of things like incorrect labeling of supplements and incorrect dosing of vitamin D fortified foods. It’s a rare condition and requires extremely large doses over a long period of time, but, still, it’s a genuine risk I just prefer to minimize/eliminate. As I’ll explain below, sunshine is superior in terms of quality anyway.
2. Sunlight is Free
Sunlight is free! Supplements are not. Fortunately, vitamin D3 is very inexpensive, but if you intend on using supplement D3 to maintain optimal levels for a long period of time it can get pricey because you’ll want to get your blood levels tested every few months to make sure that your dose is giving you the results you want. You may also need to take vitamin K2 and alter your diet a bit. Which leads us to….
3. Sunbathing is SIMPLE
You just get out in the midday sun and you know your body is going to make as much vitamin D as you possibly can until your vitamin D needs are met. Supplementation is more complicated because of the necessary blood tests if you’re relying on D3-cholecalciferol for optimizing your levels long-term. You don’t actually know if the dose you’re taking is too much or too little without blood tests. You’ll have to get your blood tested every few months to see whether or not your dose needs have increased, decreased, or are perfect. It’s actually a very slow process that can require years of tracking for people to find their biologically perfect dose. Everybody is different. A 250-pound man will have different requirements than a 120-pound girl and that 250-pound man can expect his biologically perfect dose to change if, say, he were to lose 60 of those pounds. The 120-pound girl may need a higher dose if she becomes pregnant. Someone battling a disease may very possibly require a higher dose of vitamin D than a perfectly healthy person.
So you’ll need to get your blood tested ideally four times per year, which can be expensive. Oh, and you also have to know which vitamin D blood test to get. There are multiple kinds. You’ll need a test that measures for 25-Vitamin D (pre-vitamin D, rather than activated vitamin D). Some doctors are now switching to using a parathyroid hormone test instead combined with a 24-hour urine calcium test to check for evidence of hypercalcemia.
Newer research is showing that by avoiding dairy and calcium-rich foods and checking the calcium content of your urine, you can actually eliminate the risk of hypercalcemia and thereby take much larger doses of vitamin D that were previously considered dangerous.
Another measure being used to minimize the risk of hypercalcemia is also supplementing with vitamin K2. K2 pulls calcium out of your blood and sends it to where it’s needed most in your musculoskeletal system.
Then there’s the whole issue of supplements not always being labeled properly and having inconsistent purity levels….
Oh, and you have to remember which vitamin K2 to take. There’s vitamin K2 MK-4 and vitamin K2 MK-7 and they’re a little different….
Oh and if you get your vitamin D from your doctor they’ll probably prescribe you vitamin D2, the pharmaceutical version of vitamin D, instead of D3 and then that’s a whole topic you’ll have to look into. (There are a lot of studies saying D2 is poopy compared to D3)
Then, if you’re doing this under the supervision of a doctor, you’ll need to find a doctor who’s really knowledgeable about vitamin D and the latest research. Unfortunately, a lot of doctors are behind the times on vitamin D. What is considered to be an ideal or optimal vitamin D blood level has been rising over the years and some vitamin D experts are even calling into question the practice of using vitamin D blood levels tests at all to determine ideal doses, saying people should not be exclusively basing their vitamin D dosing on this information. And then some doctors out there still think we’re only supposed to ingest 400 IU per day, because “that’s all you need to prevent rickets.” Well what about preventing cancer, buddy?!
That’s a lot of crap to have to learn about, keep up with, and purchase, so I just like to bypass ALL of it with sunbathing. Enjoy the midday sun until you get the slightest bit pink, then get out. It’s that simple.
4. UVB-Generated Vitamin D Lasts Longer in Your Body
Vitamin D is fat soluble, so our bodies hang on to it for a while, but a 1993 study found that vitamin D from midday sun exposure lasts twice as long in your body compared to ingested vitamin D. Vitamin D from supplements stay in your body for about 4-6 weeks, whereas vitamin D from afternoon sun exposure stays in your body for 2-3 months. So that’s just a flat-out, objective win for UVB. That nice day at the beach last weekend? Guess what? The 50,000 IU of vitamin D your skin produced that day was actually more like 100,000 IU because it’s going to stay in your body for twice as long! This means if you really stock up on vitamin D during spring, summer, and early autumn with sunbathing, you might actually be able to maintain sufficient vitamin D levels throughout winter without supplementation. Dr. Joseph Mercola writes that he has accomplished extremely high vitamin D levels of 105 ng/ml without supplements from 1-2 hours of daily afternoon sun exposure.
5. Sunshine Has Other Side Benefits
Going to the beach with your significant other or family is FUN. Going to a nude beach is AMAZING. Naked exercise in the sun is good for you. Reading a book while you’re nude sunbathing is better than reading indoors. And when you’re out in the actual sun you’re getting a lot of other great benefits besides vitamin D like a sexy tan. Let’s be real, who doesn’t like to have golden brown skin? When you’re in the sunshine you’re also receiving bright light therapy, which alleviates depression and regulates our circadian rhythms. You know those happy chemical endorphins you feel after exercise? Turns out you get those from sunbathing as well. And by getting “out in the sun” you’re also getting OUTSIDE – outside into nature, into the outdoors, and into fresh, open air, which has been shown to have many positive health benefits. And then of course there’s the fact that the warming rays of the sun are relaxing. It feels like you’re being given a delicate massage. It’s fantastic. You don’t get any of these benefits from oral vitamin D.
Sometimes life gets in the way of our sunshine and that’s when the capsules and liquid droppers come in handy.
Benefits of Vitamin D3 Supplementation
1. It’s Available When the Sun is Not
Like rainy days, rainy weeks, rainy months, fall, winter, morning, evening, when you’re working the graveyard shift, when it’s too cold to get naked.
2. It Allows You to Take Extremely Large Doses of Vitamin D
that may be required if you’re suffering from a health condition that hinders your natural vitamin D processing. People with multiple sclerosis, for example, typically need much more vitamin D. People with kidney problems too.
3. Good for Older People
As we age our skin slowly loses it’s ability to make vitamin D from sun exposure, making it increasingly difficult (though, not at all impossible) for us to produce our own vitamin D in large doses.
4. Good for Maintaining Vitamin D Levels if You Suffer from a Light or Heat Sensitivity
Certain medications and illnesses, even a minor cold, can make venturing out into the hot, bright sun a daunting, painful task.
5. Good for Maintaining a Vitamin D Base Level
As I mentioned above, I personally like to take a weekly dose of 50,000 IU on top of the sunbathing I do. This is a perfectly safe amount for a man my age and weight. I’ve experiencing zero negative side effects from it and I take K2 as well just to be super careful. I like to sunbathe heavily on the weekends and sporadically throughout the week when I can, but by taking a baseline dose of vitamin D every week I know that it’s very unlikely I’ll develop a deficiency. I don’t like the hassle of blood tests, but I do know that as my skin gets darker I feel stronger, healthier, and happier.
I take a dropper full of this Vitamin Shoppe liquid vitamin D3 once a week with this Vitamin K complex daily containing pretty high levels of all the different vitamin K types (you can’t overdose on vitamin K, fortunately).
And while I do supplement to cover my bases, nothing beats a day at a nude beach 😉
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Until next time,
Have you noticed a difference in the feeling you get from sunbathing versus vitamin D supplementation? Leave us a comment about it