We have been getting lots of questions recently around the role of collagen supplementation and it’s role in assisting performance particularly in the rehab setting.
Collagen may not assist performance directly; however, may assist in recovery from tendon or ligament injury or surgery, potentially decreasing recovery time. Collagen supplementation is only likely to be of any assistance if an athlete is ticking all their other nutrition boxes (fuelling adequately, good variety of foods, not overdoing the booze etc), and obviously doing the rehab work!! Like everything it’s not a magic fix, it’s an adjunct to the basics.
The AIS have got some great resources in this space and the information below is drawn directly from it – see attached links at the bottom for the full articles.
What is collagen and why do we need it?
- Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, forming part of skin, bone, ligaments and tendons. It provides structure and support to allow these tissues to be strong, durable and pliable. Collagen is produced by the body, but as the body ages, production declines. Supplementation ensures collagen specific amino acids are available for collagen synthesis, and has recently been shown to shorten return to play time in connective tissue injuries involving tendon and ligaments. There is also some preliminary evidence for the use of collagen supplementation in injury prevention.
Benefits of collagen supplementation
- Pain management for inflammatory conditions such as tendonitis (in conjunction with specific rehab exercises)
- Reduce activity-related joint pain
- Treatment/prevention of degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis
- Increase bone strength in order to reduce fracture risk
- Support collagen production during periods of increased turnover, particularly when the body is unable to keep up with demand and/orwhen total protein intake is sub-optimal, e.g. high training stimulus
- Support the repair of various tissues, including bone, skin and ligaments/ tendons during injury rehabilitation to assist return to play
How and when to use collagen supplements:
- Powdered collagen supplements can be mixed easily with water, juice or added to smoothies. They are heat stable up to 300°C, so they can be added to tea, coffee, soups, stews and other recipes, including baked goods.
- Tendons and ligaments have a poor blood supply, but exercise can ‘switch on’ their ability to uptake the necessary amino acids for recovery and repair. Amino acid concentration peaks in the bloodstream 40 – 60 minutes after collagen consumption, therefore supplements should be consumed 40 – 60 minutes prior to exercise or rehabilitation sessions to enhance the delivery of these amino acids to the targeted areas.
- Vit. C is an important cofactor in collagen synthesis and some collagen supplements contain added Vit. C. It is unclear whether there is any additional benefit beyond the recommended dietary intake of Vit. C, which can be attained relatively easily through the diet
Here is the link to the AIS page:
There’s still lots of research to be done, but used in the right circumstances there is potential benefit to collagen supplementation, and minimal risk (no supplement is ever no risk!). There are HASTA certified options available.
And as with any supplement use you should check with your Sports Dietitian if it is suitable for you to use
Michelle Ryan is an accredited Sports Dietitian based in Ballarat – if you would like to book in to see her: