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Collagen For Athletes

Author:Britt Maughan R.D.
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Collagen Smoothie

Collagen is a structural protein found within the body that acts as a building block for your muscles, skin, joins, teeth, intestinal lining and all other connective tissues. Collagen production in the body starts to decline as we age, which affects the elasticity of our skin and the integrity of our joints and cartilage. Athletes place additional stress on joints and muscles – and their performance and recovery can be greatly affected by the integrity of these connective tissues. Low levels of collagen can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, body aches, and overall joint pain.

There are three main types of collagen typically used in supplements. Type I Collagen is the most prevalent type found in the body and is beneficial for hair, skin and nails. It plays a major role in the composition of tendons, bones, skin, and organs. UC-II Collagen is a standardized source of undenatured type II collagen. Type II collagen is the main component of articular cartilage. UC-II is not absorbed into the body, but binds to the surface of a specific part of the lower intestine where it triggers an immune response which stops the body from attacking and breaking down healthy cartilage. It has been shown to support flexibility and mobility and aid in joint comfort during strenuous exercise. Type III Collagen is found in reticular fibers (found in connective tissue). This network supports soft tissues that are found in the liver, bone marrow, and the lymphatic system. 

Collagen Benefits
Supports skin health
Supports joint health
Supports healthy cartilage
Increased tendon & bone strength
Increased athletic performance

Collagen in the diet
Your body makes collagen by combining amino acids from protein-rich foods, such as chicken, beef, fish, beans, eggs, and dairy products. Other great dietary sources include bone broth, slow cooked cuts of meat (like pulled pork or short ribs), skin-on and bone-in poultry, bacon, sausage or ground meat – these all provide an important amino acid – glycine – which is one of the amino acids found in collagen. However, as we age, our bodies may no longer absorb the nutrients as well or synthesize them as efficiently.

Collagen Supplementation 
Collagen supplementation is a great way to ensure you are digesting and absorbing the right amino acids to support collagen production in the body. This will help restore, rebuild, and strengthen the tendons, ligaments, joints, and cartilage (as well as the skin, hair, nails and other connective tissues). By increasing collagen production in the body, you lower your risk for injury – which is a great advantage for athletes that place additional stress on muscles and joints.  

To get the benefits of collagen, use about 10-15g per day. It is important to note that research shows that consuming collagen along with small quantities of vitamin C (around 50mg) can help double collagen production. This is why you’ll find products that pair collagen with vitamin C. You can also add hydrolyzed collagen (aka collagen peptides – which typically have no flavor) into smoothies, soups, or sauces that contain fruits/veggies high in vitamin C for the same effect. 

How we like to use collagen

Coffee: The morning cuppa Joe is a great way to add collagen to your day. If you’re using a tasteless powder, like Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, it dissolves easily and is tasteless. This is a great option for people who enjoy “bullet proof coffee” and are already adding MCT oil or butter to their coffee. 

Smoothies: Whether it’s pre-workout, post-workout, used as a meal replacement – smoothies are a great way to pack in a ton of nutrients. Simply add collagen powder to your smoothie, along with your protein powder and some fruit (this will increase the collagen production with vitamin C). 

Oatmeal: If you love a warm comforting bowl of oatmeal (or overnight oats), simply add collagen powder along with some berries and nuts for a solid breakfast, pre-workout meal or recovery meal. 

Drink Mix: Supplements, such as Klean Athlete Collagen+C come in a tasty drink mix that simply requires water - it provides all the collagen you need as well as vitamin C to aid in collagen production. This can be enjoyed any time of day. 

Bottom Line
Athletes can benefit from a diet high in amino acids that support collagen production in the body. Along with diet, daily supplementation can help increase collagen production and its benefits. Collagen plays a major role in the strength and integrity of joints, tendons, and ligaments, which can lower the risk for injury, increase mobility, and help increase performance and recovery. 

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