Nine years ago, I dramatically improved my health by making several lifestyle changes that included adding collagen to my daily diet routine.
Beyond the many beauty benefits that keep cultural icons like Jennifer Aniston and Melissa Hartwig (of the Whole30 program) consuming collagen, the essential protein also supports your body in ways that can help enhance physical performance.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is a major building block of bones, joints, and connective tissue. In our diet, collagen comes from collagen-rich animal organs, skin, fatty cuts of meat, and bones (think bone broth). Due to modern food processing, which focuses on lean, skinless, and boneless meat, it's currently very difficult to naturally consume the collagen we need.
Collagen is particularly important for building tissues that support athletic performance. People usually focus on their muscles when working to enhance physical performance, but the health of the often overlooked connective tissues is incredibly important in supporting this growth.
Connective tissues are the second biggest mass and organ of our body and are a major part of muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones and are composed of mostly collagen.
Long-term continuous, strenuous exercise and the natural aging process lead to collagen degradation in the body. These degradations are slow, and progressive developments and symptoms, such as pain, only appear in advanced stages. That is why weekend warriors and professional endurance athletes alike consume collagen throughout their training.
Here are five ways that consuming collagen can help boost physical performance:
1. It promotes a healthy response to inflammation caused by endurance training.
When you run long distances or lift heavy weights, you are putting tremendous strain on the body, which causes inflammation. Collagen helps to promote a healthy inflammation response by speeding up the repair of connective tissues that are damaged, and thus inflamed, during an intense workout.
2. It promotes joint health.
If you run regularly, you understand how hard exercise can be on your joints. One study conducted on college athletes at Penn State University has implications for the use of collagen to support joint health and possibly reduce joint discomfort in high-risk groups.
3. It helps reduce injury to the ligaments and tendons.
Ligaments are made up almost entirely of collagen (75 percent), and consuming collagen helps to rebuild these important connective tissues when they are strained by physical activity.
Further, when you start working out regularly, your muscles can potentially grow faster than these connective tissues, which may lead to pain and injury. Collagen helps to keep these connective tissues supple and able to expand as your muscles do.
4. It helps to maintain nitrogen balance.
Body builders often laud the importance of maintaining a positive nitrogen balance. This balance is thought to place the body in its anabolic state, or ideal state to achieve muscle growth. Studies have shown that consistent consumption of collagen supplements helps maintain the body’s nitrogen balance.
5. It reduces body fat.
Collagen consumed before and after exercise helps to maintain and restore the protein content of muscle. Collagen peptides, which consist of 20 percent glycine and 8 percent arginine, may help the synthesis of creatine in the body.
Creatine has been shown to help improve performance during short periods of exercise, thus helping athletes to increase their body mass and reduce body fat percentage.