Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It is one of the major building blocks of bones, muscles, joints and tendons providing strength and structure. It also provides support to our skin, hair and organs.
The word “collagen” comes from the Greek word for glue: collagen is a structural protein that binds cells and tissues together while helping them maintain shape and integrity.
Collagen is made up of many amino acids, primarily glycine, proline, alanine, hydroxyproline, and glutamic acid. There are different types of collagen; some are derived from animal bones or skin, and others from animal cartilage. Most of the studies are based on Bovine Collagen.
There are four main types of collagen called type I, II, III and IV.
- Type I collagen accounts for 90% of the body’s collagen. This is particularly important for support healthy skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue.
- Type II collagen is found in elastic cartilage, which cushions joints.
- Type III collagen provides support for arteries, organs and muscle.
- Type IV collagen is more associated with skin health.
Our bodies are able to make collagen using amino acids (glycine and proline) in combination with vitamin C and copper. As you age, your body produces less and lower-quality collagen which can in turn contribute to some of the noticeable signs of ageing such as wrinkles. Cartilage also weakens with age which can make us more vulnerable to injury, stiffness and pain.
There are certain dietary patterns that can interfere with the production of collagen. Excess sugar and carbohydrates in the diet, uv sun damage, smoking and certain health conditions such as lupus.
You can increase your intake of collagen with certain foods too. Of particular note is bone broth which is rich in gelatine.
Hydrolysed collagen is a popular supplement. Hydrolysed means that the amino acids in collagen have been broken down so that they’re more easily digested and absorbed. Research has demonstrated many benefits from taking collagen supplements.
As collagen is a major component of muscle tissue, collagen supplementation can improve muscle mass, strength and body composition. Collagen comprises a number of amino acids including glycine which is important for the production of creatine in the body. This can provide fuel to the muscles during a workout making it ideal pre and post workout.
Joint Health / Recovery
As we age our cartilage weakens and gradually deteriorates. This can lead to stiffness, muscle soreness and joint pain. Studies have shown collagen supplements can help aid recovery and help relieve joint and knee pain during exercise. Research has demonstrated the use of collagen supplements for reducing stiffness associated with osteoarthritis and lowering inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Being an essential protein in the bone, collagen is also essential for maintaining optimal bone health particularly as you age.
Skin Health & Cellulite
Since collagen is an essential protein providing elasticity to the skin many people take collagen to maintain a healthy more youthful skin. Studies have shown supplementation can improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles. As well as keeping your skin youthful collagen may also help improve the appearance of stubborn cellulite. One study demonstrated type 1 collagen supplementation showed significant improvement in skin texture.
Collagen also support the gut’s connective tissue providing support to the lining of your digestive tract. Supplementation may also help lower inflammation and improve overall digestive health
Using Collagen and Whey Protein Combined
Getting the right amount of protein including the essential amino acids and branch chain amino acids can help athletes improve their body composition, performance and recovery after training.
Muscle is actually broken down during exercise and workouts. During the recovery period, your body uses protein to repair the muscle fibres. The combination of high quality whey protein concentrate and hydrolysed collagen are readily absorbed by the body supporting recovery and muscle growth. The addition of collagen strengthens your ligaments, tendons, bones and connective tissue making it a valuable recovery aid.