As an athlete, you need to ensure you get enough protein in your diet. Protein for athletes is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue while maintaining a healthy weight. But there are some forms of protein that perform better than others - so which have the most benefits?
In this article we check out the best protein for athletes, and then dive into the best way to take protein for optimal results.
Which type of protein for athletes is best?
Before we get into specific tips on how and when to take protein, you need to know what type of protein to take! Let’s take a look at some different types of protein for athletes, and discuss how they stack up against each other.
Whey protein is a type of protein for athletes that is derived from milk. It is one of the most popular types of protein for athletes on the market, and it is often used by bodybuilders and other athletes.
Whey protein is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. The unfortunate downside to whey protein is that it is infamous for being hard to digest, and a whey protein upset stomach happens all too often.
Casein protein is another type of protein that comes from milk. Unlike whey protein, casein is not a complete protein, so it does not contain all of the essential amino acids. Casein is also slower to digest than whey protein.
This makes casein a good choice for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain their weight, because it may help you feel full for longer. Of course, you may run into the same digestive issues as with whey protein - especially if you are lactose intolerant.
Egg protein is another popular type of protein powder. Egg protein is a complete protein that is easy to digest, making it a good choice for those who have trouble digesting other types of protein.
If you are vegan, you obviously don’t want to take any of the proteins above, but pea protein may be a good option for you. Pea protein comes from peas, as the name suggests.
Pea protein is not a complete protein, but it is very easy to digest, just like egg protein. Of course, you won’t get as marked results for muscle growth and recovery as you would with complete protein, but it’s still a solid choice for vegan athletes.
When it comes to the best protein for athletes, we would have to say collagen protein - hands down.
Collagen protein is the most abundant protein in the human body: found in the skin, bones, and connective tissues.
Collagen is not a complete protein on its own, but it can be made complete by adding tryptophan. Collagen is also very easy to digest, which is something to consider when you are thinking about the benefits of collagen protein vs whey protein.
But there are so many other benefits of collagen protein for athletes that put it head and shoulders above other protein options.
Studies show that collagen is fantastically effective for wound healing, bone strength, and joint pain. Making sure wounds heal quickly, bones stay robust, and joint pain is kept to a minimum are all vital for athletes.
Supplementing with collagen also protects the integrity of your ligaments and tendons and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injury, making collagen ideal for injury prevention.
Are there any negative effects of using protein powder?
Protein powder has plenty of benefits, particularly if you use collagen protein for athletes. But is this the full story? How about the cons of protein powder? Let’s take a look at a few of the negative aspects.
Firstly, protein powders can be difficult to digest, especially if you have any sort of digestive issues.
There is also the issue of flavorings and additives that are less than healthy. Some protein for athletes even includes sugar, which you should be keeping to an absolute minimum if you want to be at your best for training and competition.
Although protein powder is generally considered safe, some are concerned that the high protein intake can lead to kidney damage. While it is wise to be careful when it comes to your health, there is no need to be worried unless you are ingesting extremely high levels of protein.
One study reported that athletes would need to consume 2.8g per kilo in protein to do any damage. This is just under 200g of protein for a 70 kg person!
It would be very difficult to consume that amount of protein. So, now you know that protein supplementation is safe as long as you check the ingredient label, and that collagen is the best type of protein for athletes. But where should you get it, and how should you use it?
Let’s take a look at some different sources of collagen.
Sources of collagen
There are many sources of collagen that you can choose from, but not all of them are created equal. To get the most benefit from collagen protein for athletes, you want to choose a source that is high in quality and purity.
One of the best sources of collagen is bone broth. Bone broth is made by simmering bones in water for an extended period of time, which allows the collagen and other nutrients to leach out into the broth.
The main downside to bone broth is that it is time-consuming to make and expensive to buy. This is why it is not currently as popular as other forms of collagen.
Most collagen supplements are made from the skin and connective tissues of cows, pigs, or chickens. These types of collagen are rich in amino acids that are essential for gut health, skin health, and joint health.
You can also get marine collagen that is derived from the skin of fish, although this is less common.
Whatever source you get your collagen from, if it’s a supplement, you should ensure that it is hydrolyzed collagen (also known as collagen peptides). This collagen has been broken down into smaller fragments that are more easily absorbed by the body, making it the more effective protein for athletes.
But even if you have hydrolyzed collagen, is there a trick to taking it? Let’s look at how to get the most out of your collagen protein.
How should I consume collagen protein?
When it comes to consuming collagen, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. First of all, it is important to know how much you should take. The general recommended dosage of collagen protein for athletes is 10-15 grams per day.
When it comes to using your collagen, there are a few different options. You can buy it in powder form and mix it with water, juice, or even add it to your food.
Or, if you’d prefer not to mix your collagen with anything, you can buy liquid collagen supplements, which are ready-mixed to allow refueling on the go.
If you want to get the most out of your collagen, it is important to take it on a regular basis. Taking it once per day is generally sufficient, but you may want to increase the dosage if you feel like you are not seeing the results you want.
Of course, there are other supplements and vitamins you can take alongside your collagen to help boost its effectiveness. Let’s take a look at some of these.
Add tryptophan to make collagen a complete protein
While collagen has heaps of great benefits, it is unfortunately not a complete protein. Collagen lacks tryptophan, which has several important roles.
Tryptophan is essential for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood and sleep. Serotonin is also involved in regulating appetite, digestion, and pain perception.
Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and anxiety. Adding tryptophan to collagen can help increase levels of this important neurotransmitter.
Tryptophan is also vital for the production of niacin (vitamin B3), which is crucial for energy metabolism and DNA production. Supplementing with tryptophan may improve niacin levels.
Use vitamin C to boost collagen production
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan athlete, you may be wondering, is there vegan collagen? Because collagen is derived from animals, the unfortunate answer is no. But you can boost your body’s natural collagen production with vitamin C.
In fact, it’s a great idea to take vitamin C alongside your collagen supplementation in general. That’s because vitamin C plays a major role in collagen synthesis.
Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are a great source of vitamin C, but you can also get it from leafy green vegetables, bell peppers, and strawberries. If you're not getting enough vitamin C from your diet, consider taking a supplement to make sure you're getting enough of it.
Take hyaluronic acid for increased collagen production
Hyaluronic acid is found within the body and has shown to be able to increase collagen production. Hyaluronic acid is available as a supplement, and it can be taken orally.
As with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid may boost collagen production somewhat, but will not be able to increase collagen levels to the same degree as ingesting a collagen supplement will.
Use caffeine with collagen for extra endurance
Some collagen protein for athletes comes with caffeine added in. Why is this? The answer is simple. Caffeine is an incredibly effective supplement for performance enhancement, which makes caffeine and collagen a winning combination.
Research shows that caffeine can enhance performance powerfully when it is used by people competing in high intensity activities and endurance events. Caffeine has also shown to be beneficial for athletes who lift weights, with the supplement shown to increase muscle strength after ingestion.
Caffeine affects performance levels so positively that between 1984 and 2004, caffeine was on the list of banned substances by the medical commission of the International Olympic Committee.
Interestingly, some studies indicate that while caffeine supplementation is beneficial for both sexes, caffeine has more ability to create more improved performance in men than in women.
You should also be careful when taking caffeine with collagen, especially if you are taking other BCAAs or supplements that contain caffeine, or drink multiple cups of coffee a day. There CAN be too much of a good thing when it comes to caffeine.
But the same cannot be said about collagen. Collagen is already made naturally by your body, so it is safe to consume as a daily supplement. In fact, we encourage it! Because it really is the top protein for athletes.
The absolute best protein for athletes
Each type of protein supplement comes with its own pros and cons, but when it comes to the best protein for athletes, there is one that comes in first place. Hydrolyzed collagen protein is easy to digest and has powerful healing effects for the body. This makes it perfect for making sure you are in top shape when you compete.
Remember, though, not all collagen supplements are a complete protein. For maximum benefit, make sure you go with a collagen supplement like Frog Fuel Power Protein.
Not only is Frog Fuel collagen fortified with tryptophan, making it a complete protein, but it is also nano-hydrolyzed for full digestion in just 15 minutes or less. Best yet? It comes in easy-to-drink single-serve pouches, which is the perfect protein for athletes on the go.