The nutrition industry is always looking for the next best “super food” (Acai bowls, anyone?) and the internet is constantly bombarded with new diet trends and supplements to toss into your routine. Every advertisement involves this “one thing” that will “revolutionize/supercharge/Mighty Morph” your performance to the next level. And while a good portion of what’s being advertised aren’t really worth the time in took to read the ad, one of the substances getting a buzz lately holds some weight: collagen. Companies that sell collagen make claims of stronger and healthier hair and nails, a better skin complexion, quicker recovery, and a lowering of joint pain. Are these backed by science? Or is this another health food trend that is going to fade out over time?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, with estimates that it makes up about 1/4 of our protein composition. The structure is fiber-like, which makes it the perfect building block for connective tissue. Collagen is found in muscles, tendons, skin, and bones (there are 16 types of collagen, but the majority are Types I, II and III). Animal proteins, especially connective tissues, are how we get collagen from our diet. Our ancestors used to eat the whole animal, meaning they were able to obtain a large portion of their collagen through their diet. The proteins we pick up from the grocery store and eat today are more favorable cuts with less gristle , cartilage, and connective tissues. And despite what your vegan or vegetarian friends might tell you, plants do not provide collagen specifically, though plant minerals help the body create collagen.
Hair, Skin, and Nails On Point
Does collagen really improve hair, skin, and nails? Short answer, it can. One 2014 study of 72 women 35 and older found that those who took 2.5 or 5 grams of collagen daily for 8 weeks showed a lot of improvement in skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density (4). Another study concluded that skin elasticity was improved after only 8 weeks of supplementation (2). These conclusions are promising for those looking to promote overall skin health, minimize wrinkles, and aiming for a more youthful appearance. Other studies have suggested collagen can support better hair growth, potentially reducing hair loss while also encouraging hair growth. And if you’ve got issues with nails, collagen may help with nail growth, reduced breakage, and improved appearance.
Better Joints? No Bones About It
Type I collagen is extremely strong and can stretch without being broken; gram for gram, these fibers are actually stronger than steel. Type I collagen is also important in the bone matrix, acting as reinforcing rods in the bone (think rebar in construction) (1). Research shows that patients with osteoarthritis reported less joint pain after supplementing with collagen.
Many of these studies, however, have been conducted on older populations. So what about younger athletes? A 24 week study done at Penn State found that younger athletes involved at high level club sports, or at the varsity level, reported less joint pain after supplementing with collagen. The conclusion was that athletes could possibly reduce the risk of joint deterioration and improve athletic recovery (3).
What Kind of Sups, Bro
Collagen peptides are the most popular form of collagen supplements. A peptide simply means it is already broken down, so the supplement is more bioavailable, or readily used by the body. If you’re going to start using them, it’s important to buy collagen and collagen peptides from a reputable brand. Supplements are not regulated by the USDA, but reputable companies opt to get third party testing. I use BUBS Naturals and it’s awesome not only for their commitment to creating good products, but it also helped me to double body weight squat the day after giving birth. Just kidding about the squatting, but seriously check them out!
So Tell Me What To Do
The good news is, you don’t necessarily need to run out and start buying collagen today. Healthy habits can help to protect your natural collagen production, including:
- Eat nose to tail when consuming animal proteins
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t smoke
- Protect your skin from a high level of sun exposure
Collagen can be formed in the body from the animals and plants that we eat. Supplementation is becoming more and more popular, and more studies keep coming out on the positive impact they can have on your daily fitness routine. Research suggests a myriad of benefits from supplementation in the form of collagen peptides, including lowered joint pain and improved skin health. And interestingly, those studies did not report any negative side effects from supplementation. Whether you’re a long time resident on Jacked Street, or just started moving the dirt on Bedrock, collagen supplementation can help you make the gainz you want. But as it always the case, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before you start taking a new supplement.
If you are someone who is ready to make the change happen, take back your health, and truly start unlocking your potential, hit us up and we will help guide you to success.
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Bolke, L., Schlippe, G., Gerß, J., & Voss, W. (2019, October 17). A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/.
Clark KL;Sebastianelli W;Flechsenhar KR;Aukermann DF;Meza F;Millard RL;Deitch JR;Sherbondy PS;Albert A; (n.d.). 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current medical research and opinion. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18416885/.
Proksch, E., Segger, D., Degwert, J., Schunck, M., Zague, V., Oesser, S.,; Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23949208/
Lodish, H. (1970, January 1). Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/.
NA;, C. F. D. S. C. T. J. M. L. M. (n.d.). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30681787/.
Samantha has been an athlete since childhood, focusing on gymnastics, track and field, and cross-country. Samantha found CrossFit, and eventually CrossFit Football as a means to continue personal performance and fill a competitive void. These all led her to Power Athlete, the methodology course, and eventually to earning her Block One. She currently works in the greater Raleigh, North Carolina area as a Power Athlete Nutrition Coach and as a Personal Trainer applying the Power Athlete principles with all of her clients.
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