The human body is complex. And this is putting it mildly.
Every tissue, joint, system, and process within the body needs specific nutrients.
One notable example is the need for collagen for our joints and connective tissues. Without it, our joints, ligaments, and tendons are much more likely to wear down and become achy and immobile, even more so for active people.
Today, we’ll take a more in-depth look at collagen and its importance for healthy joints in endurance and weight training.
But First, What Is Collagen And What Are Collagen Peptides?
Structurally, collagen is a protein. But not just any protein. Collagen is one of the most common and widely-used proteins within the human body.
The protein can be found in our joints, muscles, organs, skin, and more. What’s more, our connective tissues - tendons and ligaments - are almost entirely made of collagen.
Some researchers suggest that as much as 35 percent of all protein in the body is collagen.
Now, collagen peptides come as dietary supplements and are created to help us get adequate amounts of the protein. Peptides themselves are compounds that consist of two or more amino acids.
How Is Collagen Beneficial For Active People?
As someone who does endurance training or resistance workouts, you’ve probably pushed yourself a bit too much at times. What you probably experienced, aside from the normal muscle fatigue and tiredness, is stiffness and even pain around your joints.
When you put too much stress on your joints, the protective coating becomes damaged, and some level of friction occurs. If left untreated, this can lead to severe issues, such as joint degradation. But, with an adequate supply of collagen and time for recovery, this protective coating is repaired and its integrity - maintained.
This allows your joints to glide freely without friction, which is integral for long-term health and pain-free exercise.
In many ways, the body is like an engine - with proper lubrication, it can last for many years and many miles.
When collagen is low, however, the protective coating around the joints becomes damaged, is unable to recover, and we start to ache. What’s more, our connective tissues also take a hit because of the collagen deficit, and, in severe cases, can become inflamed or even ruptured.
For example, one study from 2008 looked at the effects of 24 weeks of collagen hydrolysate on joint health and pain levels in athletes.
Researchers found that collagen supplements effectively reduced joint pain, and also suggested that supplementation with the protein can be an effective way to prevent joint pain and deterioration in high-risk groups.
Another paper from Benito-Ruiz et al. also had similar findings. In their trial, 250 subjects with primary osteoarthritis of the knee were given 10 grams of collagen hydrolysate daily for six months. They found significant improvement in knee joint comfort.
This paper also supports oral supplementation with collagen powder. In it, subjects were given a placebo or collagen daily for three months. At the end of the trial, subjects that received collagen had improved skin elasticity, reduced joint pain, and improved joint mobility.
And finally, we have this study. In it, researchers set out to examine the effects of collagen peptides on knee pain in athletes with joint problems. A total of 139 athletes were given five grams of collagen peptides or a placebo daily for twelve weeks. In the end, the athletes that were given collagen had significant improvements in knee-related problems, including pain.
So, it appears that collagen supplementation is a great way to reduce joint pain, and as little as five grams per day can achieve that outcome. Less joint pain also means that we can perform better and need less time off for recovery.
Does Collagen Aid Endurance or Resistance Training Performance?
Acutely? Not likely. In the long run? Absolutely yes.
The truth is, collagen is a protein, and its beneficial effects compound slowly over time. We can’t expect to take it, say, before a workout, and experience considerable improvements in performance or a decrease in joint pain and discomfort right away.
But, when supplemented over a long period, it can make a significant difference, as we saw from the trials above.
What’s more, collagen supplementation appears to reverse joint issues, especially in athletes who practice aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
Does the Timing Matter?
There are arguments on both sides:
Some suggest that collagen should be taken before exercise as that supposedly allows it to travel to our joints and connective tissues more effectively thanks to the increased blood flow and work on repairing them.
One paper showed that vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplement taken about an hour before exercise led to significant increases in collagen synthesis, which could play a beneficial role in injury prevention and recovery.
Others suggest that we should take collagen after exercise because, as a protein, it aids in post-workout recovery and may benefit muscle gain. This study suggests that supplementing with collagen peptides after training brings about more strength, muscle gain, and fat loss.
But, until we have more research, this is little more than speculation. Take it whenever it’s most convenient, and you’re likely to reap its full benefits.
Now, if you’re looking for an excellent collagen supplement to try, check out our whey protein with bovine collagen peptides.
1. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, Deitch JR, Sherbondy PS, Albert A. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96.
2. A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of a food ingredient, collagen hydrolysate, for improving joint comfort. P. Benito-Ruiz, M.M. Camacho-Zambrano, J.N. Carrillo-Arcentales, M.A. Mestanza-Peralta, C.A. Vallejo-Flores, S.V. Vargas-López, R.A. Villacís-Tamayo & L.A. Zurita-Gavilanes. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition
Volume 60, 2009
3. Daily oral supplementation with collagen peptides combined with vitamins and other bioactive compounds improves skin elasticity and has a beneficial effect on joint and general wellbeing. Anna Czajka, Ewa M. Kania, Licia Genovese, Andrea Corbo, Giovanni Merone, Cecilia Luci, Sara Sibilla. Nutrition Research Volume 57, September 2018, Pages 97-108
4. Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides. Denise Zdzieblik, Steffen Oesser, Albert Gollhofer, and Daniel König. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017 Jun;42(6):588-595.
5. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):136-143.
6. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Denise Zdzieblik, Steffen Oesser, Manfred W. Baumstark, Albert Gollhofer, and Daniel König. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 28; 114(8): 1237–1245.