Collagen is often touted in the beauty industry for its benefits for skin and hair - but why do athletes take collagen? Is collagen really that beneficial for your body and your sport?
Science points to a resounding YES.
Today we’ll be really diving into why athletes take collagen, with studies to back up all the benefits of collagen protein for athletes. We’ll discuss whether collagen supplements are worth it, or if they are just a fitness hype!
But before we answer the question: “Why do athletes take collagen?”, let’s make sure you know what collagen is, and what it does for your body.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein that makes up your body’s connective tissues and cells. In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in the human body.
Collagen can be found in just about every part of your body, including your muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, bones, and even your skin.
There are 28 known types of collagen, and each type has an important role to play.
How collagen impacts the body
Collagen provides a major support system for your body to help keep you strong, mobile, and healthy. If you start to notice extra wrinkle, aches, and pains as you age, that’s because collagen production starts to slow down in our mid-twenties.
With lower levels of collagen, your skin, ligaments, and muscles are less elastic, and it takes you longer to recover from physical exertion. Of course, these things can spell disaster when you’re working on achieving peak performance as an athlete.
Collagen protein is also what our body uses to create new tissue cells. If you get injured, whether it’s a puncture wound or a sprain, your body needs stores of collagen protein to get your body back in good form. In fact, collagen is the main component in the final stages of wound healing.
So you can see that if collagen starts to deplete, ANYONE might want to start taking a collagen supplement, not just athletes. But collagen can be especially beneficial for athletes.
So why DO athletes take collagen? Let’s take a look at some potential benefits of collagen for athletes.
Why do athletes take collagen supplements?
Here are just some of the reasons why athletes take collagen:
Collagen may reduce joint inflammation
For athletes especially, consistent workout schedules can be very demanding on the body - and they can cause inflammation in the joints. Luckily, there is evidence that collagen helps to reduce joint inflammation, which is one of the reasons why athletes take collagen.
In a study performed at Penn State University, 147 athletes were given either a hydrolyzed collagen supplement or a placebo for 24 weeks.
What is hydrolyzed collagen? It is essentially a broken down version of collagen protein that is easier for the body to absorb, which is what helped make the results of this study more clear.
After the study, the athletes that took the collagen showed notable improvement in joint health and a reduction in joint inflammation.
This aid to their joint health consequently helped them improve their athletic performance. When inflammation gets reduced, the body is able to develop strength and increase its flexibility to make you more capable of maintaining a demanding workout routine.
Collagen may strengthen bones
The next reason why athletes take collagen is for bone health.
Demanding workout schedules and routines can oftentimes take a severe toll on the body’s skeletal system, resulting in fractures and other injuries. Research has shown that supplementing collagen can help increase bone density, making your bones stronger and more resilient.
A study published in the journal Nutrients stated how over the course of a year, 131 women were given either a collagen supplement or a placebo - and the women that took the collagen showed a marked improvement in bone density.
Collagen also is among one of the first responders in helping heal a bone or ligament when it is injured or damaged. It is a part of the material that stitches the broken bone or ligament back together, AND it can help strengthen your bones to prevent injury in the first place.
Collagen may protect ligaments from injury
Why do athletes take collagen? For injury prevention!
As we just mentioned, collagen is extra beneficial for your ligaments, and ligament tears are among the most common sports injuries athletes have to deal with. If you don’t want to deal with the painful and time consuming setbacks of an injured ligament, you might want to add a daily collagen supplement.
Collagen is one of the main components of your ligaments, and supplementing with collagen helps to keep your ligaments in top form.
Collagen significantly helps with injury prevention like ACL/MCL tears because it makes your ligaments more flexible and less likely to tear under torque/stress. This means when you make snap decisions on the field, or take a hit during a game, your ligaments will be better protected.
Collagen may help build muscle
The next reason why athletes take collagen is to build muscle strength. We all know that protein helps to build muscle, which is why protein supplements are so prevalent with athletes. Since collagen is a protein, you can also make use of its benefits for muscles.
In one 12-week study, 27 men were given 15 grams of collagen while participating in an exercise program, while the rest were given a placebo. The men who took collagen gained significantly more muscle mass and strength than those who didn’t.
It has also been suggested by researchers that collagen supplements may promote the synthesis of other muscle proteins like creatine, and may continue to stimulate muscle growth even after your workout is over.
So why isn’t collagen more popular? Well, whey protein still corners the market when it comes to muscle building and strength. Collagen has lower levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) than whey, so it might not be quite as effective at muscle building in its natural form.
That being said, you can find high-quality collagen for athletes that has BCAAs added in, and collagen has a lot of other advantages over whey that we will examine further down in this article.
Collagen may improve stamina
When muscles are building and developing during a workout routine, there is a process known as protein synthesis when the cells in your body are creating and pulling proteins together to build strength and therefore, stamina.
Collagen contains essential amino acids and because collagen is such a prominent protein in the body, supplementing it can help amplify this process.
A study done by the Cologne Sports University in Germany gave 57 men either a collagen supplement or a placebo and the men that took the collagen demonstrated notable improvement in their strength and stamina.
This goes to show that collagen really is a great support when you are wanting to build muscle and improve your performance in your workouts.
Collagen may speed healing of sports injuries
Why do athletes take collagen over whey or other proteins? Collagen has unparalleled healing potential. Not only can it help to prevent injuries in the first place, it can also speed up your recovery times for injuries from mild to severe.
Collagen is one of the best muscle repair supplements after injury, and is used in thousands of medical facilities to promote wound healing.
Your body needs collagen fibers to fill in wounds and re-knit torn muscles and ligaments. If you provide your body with ample collagen stores through a daily supplement, it will be able to speed through the healing process much more quickly.
So why do athletes take collagen instead of the most popular protein, whey protein? Let’s examine why collagen is the winning choice for athletes in the know.
Why do athletes take collagen over whey protein?
Collagen protein vs. whey protein, which one is better? A lot of athletes elect to supplement with whey protein for their workouts. As a complete protein supplement, whey protein helps with muscle building, inflammation reduction, balancing blood pressure, and more.
But one of the biggest differences between collagen protein and whey protein is that whey protein is sourced from milk and dairy. Because of this, whey protein can cause some really uncomfortable side effects for people who are lactose intolerant.
Of course, whey protein is just harder to digest in general, so you can wind up with a whey protein upset stomach, digestive troubles, cramping, and nausea - even if you AREN’T lactose intolerant.
Collagen supplementation is a far more easily digestible option, so if you find yourself having stomach issues after your protein shake, it’s definitely time to make the switch.
But as we examined above, digestion isn’t the only reason why athletes take collagen. Collagen is also more effective at ligament protection and healing, which makes it an absolute winner for athletes.
You might be thinking, “but is collagen a complete protein?”
It’s actually not. Which is why some athletes opt for whey protein in the first place. But you can absolutely find hydrolyzed collagen supplements, like Frog Fuel, that contain tryptophan added in - which MAKES them a complete protein.
So there you have it! If you find a collagen supplement that is fortified with BCAAs and tryptophan, then its benefits far surpass the average whey supplements.
Collagen for athletes: the main takeaway
So, in summary, why do athletes take collagen?
There are many reasons why athletes take collagen, including how it improves joint and ligament health, strengthens their muscles, aids in any necessary healing processes, enhances their stamina, and enables them to have better workout performance overall.
For all these reasons, collagen may just be the best protein powder for young athletes and seasoned athletes alike. And, considering that your natural collagen stores start to deplete with age, it can be even MORE beneficial for you the older you get!
Get the most out of your collagen supplement with Frog Fuel
Collagen is so much more than just a beauty supplement. And you can even find specially formulated collagen protein for athletes, like Frog Fuel. Our collagen protein for athletes has been fortified with tryptophan, BCAAs, citrulline malate, and other helpful extras to help you reach peak performance.
That makes our collagen supplement a complete protein.
And, because our formula is nano-hydrolyzed collagen (which means it has gone through the process of hydrolysis more than once), it is extra bioavailable and easy to digest. In fact, our product has been proven to be fully absorbable in just 15 minutes or less.
That means you can really make use of all the reasons why athletes take collagen, unlike some collagen supplements where the majority of your supplement isn’t even digested and goes to waste.
What’s more, our collagen for athletes comes in convenient single-serve liquid form. This means you don’t need to mix it with anything to ingest it, and it’s easy to take on the go to the gym. You can even keep a pouch or two in your pocket during endurance runs, or in your bag to toss back on the sidelines during a game.
There are so many reasons why athletes take collagen, and with the right supplement, you can make use of the numerous and powerful benefits for your sport.