Collagen has gained immense popularity over the years in the worlds of health and beauty. This is no surprise given the numerous benefits collagen offers, delivering silkier hair, smoother skin, and stronger nails. It also serves as a major building block for muscles and cartilage.
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body, but its concentration dramatically decreases with age. Since the protein is composed of amino acids, exercise can also affect its integrity. Fortunately, collagen supplements may help replenish this deficit.
If you're someone who loves a rigorous workout, or if you prefer lower-impact movements like yoga, read on to learn how you can benefit from collagen in your post-workout routine.
Collagen is the major component of connective tissues that make up various parts of the body, such as tendons, ligaments, muscles, and skin. Collagen performs several significant functions, from providing skin tissue with elasticity and structure to strengthening your bones.
In recent years, collagen supplements have skyrocketed in popularity. Most formulations are hydrolyzed, meaning the collagen has been broken down into a more absorbable form. A variety of foods can also increase your collagen intake, such as chicken skin, fish, and bone broth.
Whether you're a professional athlete or a regular gymgoer, collagen is an ideal recovery protein to help build and repair the tendons, muscles, ligaments, and cartilage that undergo stress during a workout.
Collagen is the primary structural component providing support to the body. It makes up about 90% of the body's connective tissue, including your ligaments, joints, tendons, and fascia. The combination of collagen's bioavailability and its high amino acid content makes it ideal for post-workout nutrition. It quickly absorbs and rapidly works to help replenish and repair the proteins broken down during exercise.
In particular, the amino acids proline and glycine shorten the recovery period, whereas arginine helps improve athletic performance. If your goal is to build muscle, consider finishing your workout with a collagen-rich protein shake.
Clinical trials have revealed that supplementing with collagen helps reduce activity-related joint pain. High-intensity sports and high-impact activities exert serious stress on joints, running the risk of inflammation and injury.
In a study out of Penn State University, 73 athletes consumed 10 grams of collagen every day for six months. By the end of the study, those consuming collagen experienced significant improvements in joint pain while walking and at rest compared to the control group.
Researchers believe that supplemental collagen tends to accumulate in the tendons and ligaments, stimulating tissues to synthesize more collagen. They suggest that this leads to lower inflammation in the body, better support for joints, and a significant reduction in pain.
If you're looking to try taking a collagen supplement for its potential pain-reducing effects, researchers suggest starting with a daily dose of about 8–12 grams.
Strenuous exercise can damage muscle fibers and surrounding tissues, causing soreness and pain so frequently associated with challenging workouts. For athletes, this can interrupt training schedules or risk injuries. Early research suggests collagen peptides may help speed up that recovery window, stimulating collagen synthesis to repair connective tissues.
In one double-blind study of 24 active males, researchers found that consuming collagen peptides before and after a workout reduced muscle soreness and recovery time. Compared to the control group, participants consuming collagen saw significantly reduced muscle soreness 48 hours post-exercise.
Collagen comprises roughly 1–10% of your muscle tissue. As a result, this protein is essential for keeping your muscles strong and functioning optimally. Studies reveal that collagen supplementation, paired with resistance exercise, may help boost muscle mass and body composition.
One study in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at 53 male subjects with sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass. Half of the men took 15 grams of collagen peptides in a double-blind trial while participating in daily exercise for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, subjects who supplemented resistance training with collagen peptides saw further improved body composition than the control group.
Researchers suggest these results are due to collagen supplements promoting the synthesis of muscle proteins such as creatine and stimulating muscle growth following a workout session.
Another randomized study sought to determine the impact of long-term supplementation with collagen peptides and resistance training on body composition in active men. Fifty-seven young men were divided into two groups, with one group receiving a collagen peptide supplement and the other receiving a placebo. While both groups saw gains in strength, the collagen group saw a significant increase in muscle mass compared with the placebo group.
These findings indicate that collagen peptides, in conjunction with a regular strength-training routine, may help increase muscle mass and body composition.
The contraction of your muscles during a workout depends on a protein called creatine. This protein consists of three amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine. High-quality collagen supplements contain about 8% arginine and 20% glycine. These components support creatine synthesis in the body, improving performance during shorts bursts of muscle contraction (i.e., during your workouts).
Research in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness has also linked arginine intake to increased athletic performance. Said study revealed that five weeks of L-ornithine and L-arginine supplementation increased strength and lean body mass in adult males following a progressive strength training program. More research is needed in the field to determine a definitive link between collagen proteins and athletic performance.
Collagen is primarily found in the connective tissues of animals. Therefore, foods like pork skin, chicken skin, fish, and beef are rich dietary sources of collagen.
Foods containing gelatin (like bone broth) also serve as a source of collagen. Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen after it's been cooked down. However, sufficient research has not yet confirmed whether consuming collagen-rich foods increases collagen in your body. It's also unclear if dietary collagen can be as beneficial as collagen supplements in boosting collagen levels in the body.
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Noor ul Huda - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice