What is collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein that is integral to the health of your tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage. Critically, there are a number of types of collagen with Type 1 making up 80% of all collagen and the one that will be the focal point of our supplementation protocol. It accounts for 65–80% dry weight of tendons and is 30% of all the protein in the body.
It’s also used for tissue repair as well as other important cellular functions, our body produces it naturally however that ability declines with age - as seen with the loss of skin elasticity.
When we’re pushing ourselves to the limit, it puts serious wear and tear on our connective tissues, the ligaments and tendons that hold everything together. What we’re going to explore is why the International Olympic Committee considers collagen a substance that has the ability to improve athletic performance, how the correct protocol can help make you a better athlete and how much you’d need to take to make that happen.
The Science on Collagen
In a paper titled Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Combined with Calf-Strengthening Exercises Enhances Function and Reduces Pain in Achilles Tendinopathy Patients researchers used ultrasounds to measure the health of patients suffering with achilles tendinopathy, a common ailment for endurance athletes - and used patients that had not responded positively to periods of rest or physiotherapy.
The study was over 6 months but split into two 3 month segments. One group took the collagen peptide supplement TENDOFORTE for the first 3 while the other control group was given a placebo, they then switched and the ones taking the placebo then got TENDOFORTE and vice versa.
Their study concluded that taking a collagen peptide supplement alongside a structured return to running protocol focussing on calf strength was shown to be significantly beneficial with 75% of the participants returning to physical activity after the study. There were also noted improvements in Achilles vascularity, meaning more blood was reaching the tendon as well as reductions of pain reported in the area.
In a separate meta-study of over a dozen research papers called The effects of collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise: a systematic review - sports scientists looked reviewed over 856 individual studies on collagen supplementation.
Their findings were they noted that in all the studies that met their selection criteria, collagen supplementation was linked with reduction of pain in tendons in ligaments due to extended periods of athletic activity. Young athletes were found to have improved ankle function with collagen supplementation, citing a lower feeling of the ankle ‘giving away’ and a decrease in the recurrence of ankle injuries after suffering from chronic ankle instability.
How much should I take?
There are reports of benefits from collagen supplementation after taking just 5g per/day of Type 1 hydrolyzed collagen. However, most studies point to doses of between 10g per/day and 30g per/day as being optimal depending on your size, diet, age etc.
In one study, it was mentioned that the positive effects of collagen supplementation do take time to accumulate, citing a possible timeline of up to 3 months before an athlete will feel the full benefit.