Why loading exercise and collagen protein in your performance program may keep you in better (structural) shape.
Collagen supplementation combined with strength training (under the specific conditions) may lead to denser, stiffer and a stronger tissue resulting in greater potential for force expression during sport movements. The combination of collagen and exercise may also lead to an increased resiliency to sport injury.
A possible deterrent to musculoskeletal injury
While early in development, a number of research scientists are beginning to show support for collagen supplementation as a performance aid. Their findings are novel as athletes face a number of challenges in competitive sport that can lead to poor play, loss of play, and a shortened career. Musculoskeletal injuries are often regarded as a chief concern for various members in the sports profession as they are a common complaint in active populations and seen in more than 50% of all injuries in sports (often classified as sprains, strains, ruptures, or breaks of musculoskeletal tissues). (Shaw, 2016). As such, the occurrence of musculoskeletal injuries is continually regarded as a challenge in the competitive field of sports performance. Solutions to such obstacles require a vigilant and constant mindful approach to the availability of innovative resources and practices that can support the health, sport demands and performance of today’s athletes.
Innovations in Nutrition Science are highly valued for today’s athlete.
With each passing day the limits of performance and health continue to be pushed to new levels. Today, we know that running a marathon under 2 hours is no longer impossible. Such human feats are a reminder of the innovation we continue to see in sports practices such as nutrition and performance training. Today’s athletes continue to recognize their nutrition choices as a both a valued resource and an element within a complex system that must work in accordance with a number of factors, especially a goal oriented performance training program in order to achieve maximal performance benefit.
Collagen is the most important protein produced in the body
The relatively new developments in nutrition science regarding collagen supplementation to sports performance reaffirms this mutually inclusive relationship in which nutrition plays to performance training. Collagen supplementation for sports performance benefit (a research area still regarded to be in it’s infancy) focuses on potential performance boosting adaptations to our connective tissue. Recent research has shown that collagen supplementation may increase the potential to support connective tissue growth or repair within our body. This is a novel finding, as collagen is an abundant and valuable protein to human structure and function. Collagen is involved in a multitude of functions that include the development of organs, tissue healing, as well as bone and blood vessel reparation. It is also present in various biological functions of the cell such as proliferation, cell survival, and differentiation. This protein forms the basis of our skin, hair, tendons, ligaments and bones. In other words, collagen gives human beings both structure and shape!
Collagen Supplementation may be a powerful resource for tendon and bone health
While collagen is recognized as the most important protein produced by the body, a particular type of collagen known as native collagen type I can be acquired in our diets commonly through the consumption of animal sources such as bovine, porcine, marine organisms. When consumed in the diet, the collagen molecule is mainly broken down into amino acids such as glycine, proline, lysine and arginine. After digestion of collagen occurs, amino acids appear in our bloodstream to be used by our cells for collagen synthesis or the production of collagen fibrils. These fibrils represent the main building blocks of large connective tissues such as skin, bone, cartilage, and tendon. Researchers have recently demonstrated the ability to impact the integrity of human structure and shape, especially tissues that are susceptible to injury in sport, such as tendons and ligaments through the consumption of collagen. Unlike muscle and unlike bone, our tendons and ligaments have more limited access to nutrient delivery. Tendons for instance, are known to have poor healing capabilities, regenerating slowly and often with incomplete recovery. This is due to a number of tendon characteristics that include low cell density and vascularization. However, through collagen consumption or supplementation in conjunction with a specific exercise program, it is believed that we can help deliver collagen protein to improve connective tissue health in susceptible areas such as tendon, ligaments and bone (Shaw, 2016).
Collagen comes in various forms including supplementation.
Collagen can be supplemented in the diet through such sources such as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides. Hydrolyzed collagen supplementation may presents several advantages for the sport athlete consumption due to its neutral odor, low viscosity in water solutions and it’s colorless form. Moreover, this form of collagen is highly digestible and is easily absorbed and distributed in the human body (Lopez et al., 2019). Collagen supplements can also be acquired as a gelatin product, a colorless and tasteless water-soluble protein prepared from collagen ( Guillerminet, 2011).
The amount of collagen absorbed in individuals can vary based on the supplementation choice and product. Review collagen supplements with your doctor, sport dietician before beginning supplementation. It is important to consider that collagen supplementation is a product of animals, as collagen comes from the skin, bones and essentially the connective tissue of animals. Hence, collagen supplements are inherently animal products. Furthermore, the exercise strategies you choose can serve as effective vehicles for targeting collagen synthesis to important and susceptible areas to sport such as tendons and ligaments. It may be important for you to encourage discussion between sports nutritionist and performance specialist on the best strategies to maximize supplementation for sports performance benefit.
While researchers have previously understood that adequate nutrition together with exercise normally improves the function of connective tissue, recent evidence shows that there may be even greater value to exercise as an intervention for collagen synthesis. Acute exercise is known to increase collagen synthesis as well as the enzymes involved in collagen cross-linking, thereby creating denser and stiffer tissue after training that is both stronger and resilient to higher loads (Shaw, 2016). Thus, it is vital to understand the importance of exercise programming when supplementing collagen within your diet.
Researchers suggest supplementing 15 to 20 grams of a collagen source along with a source of vitamin C approximately one hour prior to exercise and immediately post exercise for maximal benefit. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that consuming gelatin, a derivative of collagen, and vitamin C–rich supplement increases amino acid components of collagen in the blood one hour after consumption. Moreover, mixture of a collagen supplement with a vitamin rich c supplement results in greater collagen synthesis than a mixture without collagen or a mixture with less collagen (Shaw, 2016)
Collagen supplementation is a very new area of science research that must be further investigated. The more we continue to gain understanding of nutrition science and performance science, the more we learn that we must leverage areas for maximal effect. recognizing the mutual understanding the value of a team based approach to nutrition performance. Perhaps what’s most important to take away from the recent developments in collagen supplementation research is that our ability gain perspective through science allows athletes, coaches and performance specialists to be more effective at delivering greater accuracy towards their performance goals. Lastly, understanding collagen supplementation in sports performance is a great example of the mutually inclusive relationship that exists between nutrition and performance training. Understanding the intricacies in the relationship between exercise and nutrition while forming specific and appropriate objectives for your performance goal is an important part of a strategy for reaching performance success.
Guillerminet, Fanny & Fabien-Soulé, Véronique & Even, Patrick & Tomé, Daniel & Benhamou, C-L & Roux, C & Blais, Anne. (2011). Hydrolyzed collagen improves bone status and prevents bone loss in ovariectomized C3H/HeN mice. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA. 23. 1909-1919.
León-López, A.; Morales-Peñaloza, A.; Martínez-Juárez, V.M.; Vargas-Torres, A.; Zeugolis, D.I.; Aguirre-Álvarez, G. Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications. Molecules 2019, 24, 4031.
Rodríguez, María & Rodriguez Barroso, Laura & Sánchez, Mirna. (2017). Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 17. 10.1111/jocd.12450.
Shaw, G., Lee-Barthel, A., Ross, M., Wang, B., Baar, K., Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 105, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 136–143
Svensson, Rene & Herchenhan, Andreas & Starborg, Toby & Larsen, Michael & Kadler, Karl & Qvortrup, Klaus & Magnusson, Stig. (2017). Evidence of structurally continuous collagen fibrils in tendon. Acta Biomaterialia. 50. 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.01.006.