Performance Nutrition: Collagen Supplementation

Okay, so I am not claiming to be a collagen expert, but there is some interesting information I want to share as I think it can help many, many people.

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Over the last couple of years, collagen protein has emerged as the next darling of supplements in the multi-billion dollar fitness industry. It is touted as a way to speed up recovery from injury - and almost any injury at that! 

But is it just another carefully packaged, expensive product with little to show in the way of research supporting its use? Or does it work as advertised? 

Let’s find out more. 

What is collagen exactly?

“Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and helps give structure to our hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments and tendons in our body. Thanks to collagen, we’re better able to move, bend and stretch. Collagen is also behind helping hair shine, skin glow and nails stay strong.” - Vital Proteins website

What does collagen supplementation do?

The product makers claim that making an effort to consume collagen protein can help do everything from restore the bounce in your skin to shine in your hair and even help bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles repair after injury.

Wow, that all sounds awesome! Count me in! Well, wait… let’s explore the last part of those claims a bit by focusing on injury. 

Does collagen supplementation really help?

If you check out these two studies (here and here) it is pretty clear there is evidence that supports its use in acute injury.

That’s really great news. But what you pair the collagen with, plus when you take it, prove equally important.

Here is a bit of structure on how to use during the pre-workout timeframe:

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Step 1: First and foremost, in the realm of recovery from injury, gelatin works just as well as collagen. So, if you are on a budget, making some old fashioned Jello may be just as good, if not better. Secondly, and most importantly, pair the collagen/gelatin with Vitamin C. The dietician I work with recommends 50mg.

Step 2: Consume about one hour before exercise. The idea here is that the collagen will get synthesized into the various structures of the body at an increased rate when taken before exercise and especially when paired with Vitamin C.

Step 3: Have a training session, practice, or rehab session that is loading/stressing the recovering area.

Step 4: New information is surfacing about multiple “doses” per day being especially effective. So, you could consider having a second serving later in the day (not necessarily paired with exercise).

Step 5: Give it some time. How much? I’m not sure, but probably 2-weeks at minimum to see if you notice improvement.

I’ve been using this protocol with some of the athletes I work with and we’ve had very encouraging results. So, I’d say it’s worth a try.

Taking this a bit further, I think there is reason to consider using collagen/gelatin in a pre-workout timeframe for anyone training who wants the best possible adaptation to the training/practice load. Meaning: even non-injured athletes could expect good results.

Part of the benefit to running, jumping, and resistance training is how dense and robust it makes the body’s tendons, ligaments, and bones. All those same benefits can seemingly be amplified by this little tweak to your pre-workout nutrition. Thus, potentially cutting your risk of injury.

Personally, I have a heck of a lot of trouble with my tendons, in particular. So, I’m going to give this protocol a month and see where we end up!

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