Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for about one-third of all protein. You may have heard of it as an ingredient in skincare products, but it also has an important role for athletes. It's the major component of tendons, ligaments and cartilage in the body, and is a vital ingredient in maintaining the strength and repair of these tissues. There is very poor blood flow in these areas, so nutrient delivery and absorption can be enhanced with optimal availability of the required nutrients, through diet and supplementation, plus exercise to ‘switch-on’ muscle machinery and increase blood flow and delivery of these nutrients to the area. See our more in-depth discussion of collagen supplementation.
Tips for Collagen Supplements
- Use hydrolyzed collagen supplements for ease of use and amino acid content.
- Gelatin is considered a food product, therefore it does not require batch-testing for use with athletes. It is a better budget-conscious option, and can be used in the form of jellies for easy consumption. See our jellie recipes.
- It is difficult to determine the content of these specific amino acids from regular food because the nutrition databases don’t contain this information. So taking a supplement can be a simpler and more guaranteed option.
- Bone broth does contain a lot of these specific amino acids, however, research shows great variability in the content due to different methods of cooking and ingredients, making it unreliable as a source of collagen due to the inconsistent amounts.
- Consumption one hour before exercise will allow for optimal availability of the amino acids in the bloodstream.
- Best results will occur when collagen is taken prior to a tendon loading session, like weight training, because movement during exercise is the crucial part of the repair process, to ensure the tendons and ligaments heal properly.
- A dose of 15-20 grams of collagen is optimal for increased amino acid availability around exercise, although there is some individual variation in optimal dosing.
- Take adequate amounts of Vitamin C along with the collagen, due to its role in collagen fiber synthesis. Intake needs to reach sufficiency, rather than excess, and research has used ~50mg per collagen dose. The flip-side is that too much can be detrimental for training adaptation, so definitely don’t overdo it with mega-doses of greater than 1000mg.
- Consider taking collagen supplements during the following phases;
- after a soft-tissue injury for quicker recovery
- post-surgery for muscle repair
- daily for the general health of tendons in older athletes
- daily for potential joint pain reduction
- A combination of supplemental sources can help with compliance of intake, as athletes often get flavor (and texture) fatigue when consuming jellies/bone broth too regularly. Mix in some tasteless collagen with water to help with this.
- Collagen and gelatin are derived from the tendons and ligaments of animals like cows, pigs and marine animals. Unfortunately for vegetarians, there is no equivalent option that consists of the same amino acid profile.
- Research has shown large variability in the effects of collagen on an individual level. So trialling this low-risk supplement to see if there is any improvement in joint pain and recovery from injury is needed.
More research is needed to fine-tune optimal dosage and timing for the different scenarios of use of this potentially useful supplement.
- Read our in-depth discussion of collagen supplementation for athletes
- Gelatine Recipes for Athletes — to supplement collagen
- Guide to Athletic Supplements
- Amino Acid Supplements
- Protein and Athletes
- Go Shopping in the Supplement Store