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Should athletes supplement their diet with collagen? Some things to consider:

There is mounting research evidence that points to collagen supplementation as being safe and beneficial for athletes of all ages.

“Collagen is the main structural protein in the extracellular matrix (ECM) found in the body's various connective tissues. As the main component of connective tissue, it is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up from 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content. Collagen consists of amino acids bound together to form a triple helix of elongated fibril known as a collagen helix. It is mostly found in connective tissue such as cartilage, bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin.” (Collagen - Wikipedia)


Microbiologist and leading tendon researcher Dr. Keith Baar explains: “For an athlete, the ECM has two main functions: 1) transmit forces quickly to maximize speed and performance, and 2) absorb energy from impact to prevent injury. Central to the first role is the ECM of muscle and tendon, whereas the second role also includes the ECM in ligaments, cartilage, and bone as well.” (Using gelatin to improve performance and prevent injury (mysportscience.com))


The body’s ability to produce adequate collagen for the structural function and health of the ECM is crucial and the function and health of the ECM is crucial to the connective tissue health and performance of the athlete.


An extensive review of studies done on collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise was published in September 2021 (The effects of collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise: a systematic review | SpringerLink)


The conclusion of this review states:

  • Strong evidence of 5–15 g/day dose of COL in improving joint pain and functionality. However, further research is required to understand the exact adaptive mechanisms.

  • Changes in body composition and strength with 15 g/day COL (collagen peptides supplementation) and resistance training were not as prominent in young recreationally active participants as they were in elderly sarcopenic men.

  • Exercise and vitamin C seemed to aid collagen synthesis. 15 g/day COL was more effective than 5 g/day COL in elevating collagen synthesis, hence 15 g/day may be a more effective dose. COL should be consumed prior (~ 60 min) to exercise to maximize collagen synthesis.

  • Muscle recovery had a modest but significant improvement with COL.


Although the consensus seems to be that collagen supplementation can benefit the athlete’s health and performance, there is still more research to be done to get a better understanding of the mechanisms of collagen production in the body.


Since collagen is a protein and protein supplementation has been commonplace in sport nutrition circles as well as medical practices for helping to enhance the repair and recovery of damaged tissues, you won’t find much opposition to supplementing with collagen. The health and beauty industry also totes collagen supplements as beneficial for skin health. Most research studies have involved 4-15g/day, and collagen supplement producers seem to follow suit and recommend a similar range dosage of their product (4-15g/day) as being safe and effective.


If you are a young athlete or a parent of a young athlete and are wondering if supplementing with collagen is safe for young athletes, Sara Pflugradt, performance nutritionist, gives some insight here: Is Collagen Safe for Young Athletes? - Sarah Pflugradt


In this article, Pflugradt also recommends supplementing collagen in the form of gelatin if you are uncomfortable with the use of hydrolyzed collagen powder supplements or pills for youth athletes.


Gelatin is a partially hydrolyzed form of collagen. Both collagen and gelatin are pretty much the same in chemical makeup and contain the same amino acids. The difference is that gelatin contains longer chains of amino acids than hydrolyzed collagen, contributing to the gelling property.


Packing a 7-15 gram gelatin snack to munch on 30-60 minutes before a game or training session or as a post-game/workout snack is a great way to ensure your body has enough collagen for ECM maintenance, including strengthening and repair of tendons & ligaments.


The following is an easy-to-make, easy-to-pack gelatin snack, great for athletes of all ages:


PRE/POST WORKOUT GELATIN SNACKS

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons (36-40 grams) of gelatin powder (must be animal source)

*bulk store gelatin powder is the most economical purchase*

1 cup of orange juice

2 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate


Spoon the gelatin powder into a small (7 x 10 or 8 x 8 in) glass square or rectangular baking dish. Add ½ a cup of the orange juice and mix it with the gelatin powder. It will mix to a dry paste. Mix the other ½ cup of orange juice and orange juice concentrate together and heat in the microwave oven for approximately 1 minute or until hot (just to a boil). Pour heated liquid over the dry paste in the glass dish and stir/mix until all the paste is dissolved in the hot juice. Let sit to cool on the counter or in the fridge. Cut into 6 even squares for 6-7g servings. Recommend daily servings of 1-2 gelatin squares (or 6-12 grams). Store in the fridge.


You can find video instructions for similar recipes here, as well as info on how to keep your tendons healthy:


The information in this article is not intended as medical advice. Before taking collagen supplementation or any nutrition supplement, it is important to do research and check with your doctor or a nutritionist.


If you have any further questions related to the information in this article or would like information on building strong and healthy tissues for athletic performance or for injury recovery contact me or any of our Alliance Team | Alliance Athletics (alliance-athletics.com)


Thanks for reading!

Sara Gillis – Alliance Coach


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