What is Collagen and how can it help your performance?
Collagen supplements have become extremely popular with athletes in the past year or so.
What is it and what is all the fuss about?
Nearly 2/3rd of all visits to the physio for sportspersons are due to a musculoskeletal injury. Weakness within the extracellular matrix (ECM) is often the cause of these injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage. Therefore, any improvements we can make in strengthening the ECM will help to reduce the risk of injury. This is where Collagen comes in.
The strength and function of ECM is determined by the amount of collagen and water stored within the tissue. Researchers have shown that to improve the ECM (make it stronger) you need to increase the absolute amount of collagen and the number of cross-links binding the collagen proteins together (this is why plyometric exercisers are used by coaches).
A recent study* was done using a supplement of 15g collagen with vitamin C, and conducting short periods of loading to target specific tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage – the results showed that the specific exercise combined with the supplement compared to exercise alone, increased the collagen synthesis in the tissue two fold.
Improving performance and minimizing injuries by understanding more about collagen and ECM is a rapidly growing area of research in sports nutrition.
So, in short – if you have a musculoskeletal injury, or a high training load, it may be beneficial to include some additional collagen in your diet to promote tissue repair, ideally taken 1 hour before you do your re-hab exercises or strength work.
So how to you include additional collagen?
It comes from the super-nutritious bones, hides and connective tissues of animals. You can buy a powdered supplement to add to water or a smoothie (they are tasteless) or you can make a homemade bone broth and drink it. You know you’ve made a good bone broth if it sets like jelly when it’s cold – (cooked collagen is called gelatin).
Or if you’d prefer a powder I recommend one that is made from collagen peptides (these are the most bioavailable forms of collagen).
My favourite brand is Designs for Health, Whole Body Collagen, it requires a prescription from a practitioner to access it, please ask if you would like me to organise this for you, it can be ordered online.
An added bonus is your hair, skin and nails will also benefit from the extra collagen, and whilst not visible – your gut lining will also be strengthened.
If you would like to read more on this topic, here is an article by one of the world’s leading researchers (guru) on sports nutrition.