Ahhh, myelin! That holy grail for athletes performing precise, repetitious motions.
Daniel Coyle, in The Talent Code, argued for the concept of repeating a task so often, for so long (ie, 10,000 hours) as a general rule, that it would cause the body to generate myelin around the most active nerve pathways. Myelin is a fatty substance which enhances nerve impulse conduction. Huh? (It means the brain’s instructions to the muscles go faster!)
So, myelin is a good thing. When they first dissected Einstein’s brain, the scientists of the day could not find anything “different” to indicate why he was so brilliant. It was only after science advanced enough to identify what myelin was, they realized that he had a huge, far higher amount, of myelin within the brain.
So practicing a motion over and over will stimulate the body to lay down more myelin around the active nerves.
By the way, Coyle is very upset about the way so many coaches have misinterpreted this “10,000 hour rule”. Coaches spend far too much time just counting up hours spent in practice, without making the practice MEANINGFUL and STIMULATING and CHALLENGING. Bored athletes don’t myelinate! Fortunately, most coaches understand the value of quality arrows OVER quantity arrows. I recommend you read his blog!
Now for my fun. Myelin is created by a “machine” in your body, called an “oligodendrocyte”, I’m going to call it Oligo, for short. It literally lays down a layer of fat around and around each axon (nerve segment). The more traffic the axon is asked to carry, the more the Oligo works to lay layers upon layers of myelin.
Oligodendrocytes are literally covered in vitamin D receptor sites. (VDR). This means that vitamin D is relevant to Oligos. In fact, science knows enough now by examining the effects to know that vitamin D actually stimulates Oligos to release chemicals that stimulate nerve growth. VDR appear in the nervous tissue as early as the 12th day of fetal development, it is that integral to neural development and function.
So I conclude that if your athlete is deficient in vitamin D3, he/she will NOT be able to lay down myelin as well. There will be LESS quality in the results of practice. Putting sunscreen on your athlete will guarantee s/he makes LESS vitamin D. Just as you want your athletes to eat right – more fruits, vegetables, berries, and less Twinkies, potato chips, and donuts, so too must you insure adequate levels of vitamin D are maintained.
The body undergoing muscle training – weight lifting for example – is experiencing elevated levels of inflammation. That’s purely what exercise is – inflaming the tissues and hoping they will respond with increases growth, size, strength, etc. and this inflammation literally burns up the vitamin D as it does it’s multiple jobs in the body. So the need for more D in athletes is actually increased!
Vitamin D3 is available over the counter, in 50,000iu capsules and 5,000iu capsules. There are other strengths, which are a waste of time and money. Heavily training athletes may need as much as 50,000 daily, though most 150 to 200 pound athletes will need 20,000iu daily. The only way to know for sure is to periodically TEST the blood level, and adjust dosage until the blood level as measured by the 25(OH)D test, is at least 60 ng/ml, up to 80 or 90 ng/ml. If tested every day, morning and night, there would be a “wave” of up and down, as the body burns it, and makes it/absorbs it from a capsule.
It is so safe to take that testing this frequently is not necessary. But it should be tested several times over weeks or months, to establish a baseline to insure there is ENOUGH so the athlete’s Oligos can all do maximal construction of myelin and maintain nerve health.