The benefits of collagen supplementation have been well-documented in the beauty world - but what about the benefits for athletes?
If you’re familiar with collagen already, it might be from hearing someone gush about wrinkle reduction or healthy hair. This might make you wonder – is that all collagen is good for? If collagen can make hair and nails stronger, could it strengthen other body parts, too?
What are the benefits of taking collagen as an athlete?
It’s a great question, and it makes sense that you’d be curious. As an athlete, you want to make sure your body is operating in peak condition as often as possible. Injuries happen, of course, but every athlete wants to reduce them as much as possible. You do stretches, cross-training, and lots of research to keep injury at bay.
If you’re wondering whether collagen can be part of your strength and injury-prevention plan, you’re right on the money. Collagen can help you in all aspects of your sport or workout. But before we get into the specifics of the benefits of collagen supplementation, let’s talk a little bit about collagen itself.
What is collagen, and how does it interact with your body?
To help you understand the benefits of collagen supplementation for athletes, it’s important to do a quick review of what collagen is and how it interacts with your body.
Collagen is a protein – the most plentiful in the human body.
In fact, collagen is so abundant that scientists have a hard time estimating just how much of our bodies are made of collagen. Current estimates state that as much as 40% of your entire body is just different types of collagen. The benefits of collagen supplementation are abundant because collagen is abundant.
Broadly speaking, collagen is a kind of framework or foundation for tissue – from skin and muscles to bones and blood vessels.
Natural collagen production is at its highest when we’re young and begins to drop as we age. This is part of the reason why workouts may seem so much harder in your 30s and beyond than they were in your teens or 20s.
That’s where the benefits of collagen supplementation come in.
Think of it this way. Your body constantly manufactures bricks to heal, repair, and build different structures. It also uses bricks that have already been made – the nutrients in the food you eat.
As you get older, your body can make fewer and fewer bricks. Each brick takes more and more time and energy to create, opening you up to injury and slowing down your healing. So what do you do?
Give your body bricks that are already made.
Collagen is a great protein for athletes because it contains 8 of the 9 essential amino acids – the only bricks our body can’t produce on its own. When you choose a collagen supplement that is a complete protein (like Frog Fuel), you give your body every “brick” it needs to build anything in your body.
But what are the benefits of taking collagen, exactly? Let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits of collagen supplementation for athletes.
Benefits of collagen supplementation for athletes
Here are just some of the incredible benefits of collagen supplementation that athletes can enjoy:
1. Collagen may build stronger muscles
Collagen may help to improve body composition and increase muscle strength. Several promising studies have found a noticeable difference in muscle between participants who followed a training program with collagen compared to those without.
When it comes to the benefits of collagen supplementation, this makes a lot of sense. After all, we’ve known for a while that protein, in general, can help build muscle.
When you give your body other kinds of protein, even complete proteins, you hand it a fully built building. Your body then has to tear that down to build the kinds of protein it needs. Collagen, though, is what your body uses to build. Using a collagen supplement allows your body to do a remodel instead of completely rebuilding.
And now that you know your muscles are largely made of collagen protein, specifically, why wouldn’t you give your body exactly that?
2. Collagen may boost your endurance
Training for a marathon? Collagen can help. In a randomized study, collagen peptides were shown to significantly improve endurance in distance runners. This is an early study, but a promising one.
The theory on why collagen peptides improve endurance goes like this: Previous studies show that protein can help your body metabolize – or burn – fat stores. Burning fat stores gives your body more energy. More energy means, you guessed it, that you can keep going for longer.
And, since your body can absorb more protein from collagen peptides than other sources, the effect is especially strong.
The endurance study also noticed that participants who took collagen showed signs of cardio-circulatory improvement. This means that collagen may improve your cardiovascular health, as well, though research on this is currently more limited.
3. Collagen can help to protect your joints
Joints are some of the most vulnerable parts of the body. They carry a lot of weight and sometimes act as levers – moving entire parts of our bodies with just one tiny mechanism. This means your joints are likely to get injured more easily than, say, your glutes or your pecs.
So what are the benefits of collagen supplementation and joint health?
A 24-week study found that collagen significantly reduced joint pain in athletes when running, lifting, and walking. Your joints are primarily made of type II collagen, so it makes sense that one of the benefits of collagen supplementation would be stronger, healthier joints.
And science isn’t just researching athletes, either. Taking collagen for joints has helped people with arthritis and other age-related joint problems. This is because it reduces inflammation and helps your body strengthen and restore its natural systems.
4. Collagen may improve your bone health
What comes hand in hand with thinking about joint health? Thinking about overall bone health. When your bone health takes a turn, it opens you up to fractures. And a fractured bone can feel like it takes ages to heal, which is the last thing you want as an athlete.
Collagen peptides have actually been shown to improve bone health. How? Paradoxically, one of the benefits of collagen supplementation is the fact that consuming collagen encourages your body to create its own collagen.
This leads to a sort of snowball effect, where taking collagen encourages your body to produce more collagen, allowing your body to rebuild more efficiently. This means that when your bones get injured or undergo any kind of stress – like the stress of running or lifting – they repair themselves more quickly.
5. Collagen can help to prevent injuries
No athlete wants to suffer from an injury. In fact, I think we can go as far as saying absolutely NO ONE wants that. Injuries are not only painful, they completely take you out of your routine, and create huge setbacks in your performance with lengthy recovery and physical therapy routines.
We’ve mentioned some specific cases of collagen helping to build strength, which naturally helps prevent injuries. However, preliminary evidence suggests that collagen can decrease overall injury rates.
This is because of the same amazing benefits of collagen supplementation that we’ve talked about already.
Collagen supplements give your body the bricks it needs. Hydrolyzed collagen, in particular, is like a shipment of bricks that are ready to be rearranged into whatever configuration your body needs.
In addition, the more collagen fibers you have in your muscles and ligaments, the more flexible and durable they will be, which will help them stand up against stress and torque. This can be hugely beneficial, especially if you are in a strenuous or contact sport.
Taking collagen means that your body can fortify or repair muscles, joints, and bones as needed. You might take collagen hoping to see muscle definition, but your body can also use it to prevent your knee from blowing out or your bicep from tearing.
Injury prevention is a complex process. But one of the benefits of collagen supplementation is how this simple action can have a huge impact on your rate of injury throughout the body.
6. Collagen can speed up your injury recovery time
Even the most responsible athletes in the world get injured sometimes. That’s not a failure, that’s just life. Fortunately, collagen has a strong history of helping to promote healing. Most of the studies that have been done cover wound healing – like healing after surgery.
However, the same principles apply to healing athletic injuries. You see, collagen is a critical component in healing. Your body uses collagen fibers to create new skin tissue to fill in a wound site or reconnect a torn ligament.
Giving your body extra collagen stores means that it can complete that healing process more efficiently - speeding up your overall injury recovery time.
Studies on the benefits of collagen supplementation on athletes are still in their infancy, but so far, all have generated positive results. A pilot study found that collagen decreased performance issues 24 hours after a minor muscle injury, opening the door to more research on collagen’s potential applications in muscle repair.
7. Collagen may solve post-workout indigestion issues
No one likes dashing to the bathroom right after a workout, especially not right after you finish a protein shake. So why is it such a common problem?
The answer lies with one common ingredient in protein shakes: whey.
Whey is a complete protein… but it’s not especially kind to your digestive system. Whey molecules are large, meaning your body has a harder time digesting them. Whey is also often over-processed and can gradually lead to over-acidification in your body.
Another issue? Whey is made from milk, which means lactose-intolerant athletes are really out of luck when it comes to this supplement.
One of the clearest benefits of collagen supplementation is an end to your digestive discomfort.
When looking for protein powder for sensitive stomachs, collagen is one of the best. Hydrolyzed collagen can be comfortably digested in just 15 minutes or less – no bathroom breaks required!
In fact, collagen has even been shown to help heal your gut, even in cases of leaky gut syndrome, so it’s an all-around great supplement for your digestive health.
Getting the most out of your collagen supplement
It’s clear that the benefits of collagen supplementation can help you improve your game as an athlete. But the benefits of collagen go beyond your workout. Liquid collagen benefits include helping reduce cellulite and wrinkles, regulating your weight, and, yes, improving the health of your hair and nails.
All this can make collagen sound like some sort of magic cure-all, but it all comes down to the quality of your supplement.
To get all the benefits of collagen supplementation, there are a few things you want to look for.
First, and we can’t stress this enough, use a supplement that’s a complete protein. Remember, we want to give your body all the bricks it needs. An incomplete protein gives your body some clay and an oven… but that doesn’t mean your body can (or will) make a brick with them.
Second, make sure your collagen is hydrolyzed. Collagen is a fairly large molecule, and hydrolyzed collagen has been broken down for your body to absorb it more easily.
As a bonus, look for a collagen supplement with enzymes already added. Enzymes are what your body uses to break down food. And, like collagen, your body can make its own, but providing those enzymes will ensure your body doesn’t waste any unnecessary time or energy.
Collagen with added digestive enzymes makes absorbing the amino acids your body craves even easier, ensuring you get the most out of your supplement.
Frog Fuel hydrolyzed collagen has all of the above. It has tryptophan added to make it a complete protein, it has enzymes added in, and even some extras like citrulline malate and beta-alanine to help you achieve your very best performance. Allowing you to fully enjoy all the benefits of collagen supplementation for athletes.