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The collagen potential for sport performance benefits

Athletic competitions, especially professional sports, are becoming increasingly competitive, resulting in high incidence of repetitive use and traumatic injuries. Even in recreational sports, musculoskeletal injuries are common, often due to improper warm-up or technique, or overtraining. Injury avoidance and successful recovery from acute and chronic training are major factors in continued optimal performance. I say this not only as a researcher, but as a lifelong athlete and past Hawaii Ironman World Championship Triathlon competitor. Chronic overuse can also result in acute and permanent injury or disability. In the United States alone, 33 million musculoskeletal injuries per year have been reported, 50% involving tendon and ligament injuries. Furthermore, individuals who sustain injuries of the knee are four times more likely to develop a chronic condition of knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Why collagen in sports nutrition?

Collagen is comprised of amino acids that are the building blocks for the connective tissue that is present in every major tissue in the body. Collagen acts as a ‘glue’ by connecting and keeping cells and tissues together. As we age, our collagen levels drop, resulting in decreases in skin.

Collagen and inflammation

Collagen supplementation has potential benefits in offsetting inflammation, and one of the main reasons is likely the presence of glycine, one of collagen’s major structural units. Glycine improves biomechanical properties of the Achilles tendon following inflammation, which is one of the typical injuries occurring in sports involving the lower body. There is emerging evidence that glycine might also be beneficial in individuals suffering from OA. There is likely a dose-dependency and duration of intake of collagen peptide that is most optimal for this, and other, effects of collagen supplementation.

Collagen impact on bone and joint health

Many clinical studies suggest orally-administered collagen peptides may have beneficial effects on bone and joint health by increasing bone mineral density (BMD) and physical strength of the bones as well as alleviating pain, maintaining mobility and minimising disability of the joints. In bones, osteogenesis is stimulated by small collagen peptides while bone resorption is reduced, leading to increased BMD and bone strength. In joints, collagen peptides can protect and rebuild cartilage and ligaments, resulting in improved mobility as well as reduced stiffness and pain that may result from tissue damage and swelling of the joints.

Collagen, muscle performance, and injury prevention

According to an in-vitro study, specific collagen-derived peptides might help to maintain muscle tissue by inducing cell differentiation and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. These findings imply that the specific amino acids present in collagen peptides could have a beneficial effect on muscle recovery from exercise. In recent years, collagen in combination with vitamin C has gained significant attention in scientific literature for the potential role of this combination in injury prevention and muscle protection.

Specific collagen supplementation regimens offer a unique value proposition in sports nutrition products. Collagen supplementation might not only play a role in treatment of injury and OA but may also play a role in prevention of injury, therefore supporting bone and joint health of a young and active population and helping them stay active throughout their lifetime.

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