Great news: If you’re already using collagen peptides for your hair, skin, and nails, you’re likely getting a bunch of other whole-body benefits.
Clearly we humans are meant to consume a good amount of collagen. Our ancestors ate nose-to-tail, consuming skin and connective tissue, and boiling down bones to make broth. Gelatin and collagen would have been abundant in the human diet. They provide amino acids needed for a dizzying array of metabolic functions. The amino acids also serve as blocks for collagen in the body.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, providing structure and support for the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. Crucially, we need glycine from collagen to balance the lifespan-shortening effects of methionine in meat.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5350494/‘>2
Human studies show that just 3 grams of glycine taken before bed improves sleep quality and daytime alertness for individuals with chronic sleep issues,https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22293292/‘>4 and sleep restriction.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21414089‘>6 Glycine also facilitates the drop in core body temperature that promotes a healthy sleep cycle.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397399/‘>8
Sleep experts generally recommend taking 3 to 5 grams of glycine before bedtime. You can buy glycine supplements, but collagen is about one-third glycine. A heaping scoop of collagen peptides will net you those 3 grams of glycine, plus other important amino acids.
Collagen Benefits Your Muscles, Tendons, and Bones
When talking about body composition, we usually mean the amount of body fat and muscle mass an individual carries. What about the other stuff—the bones and connective tissue that give our body structure and allow us to move around? In fact, the entire musculoskeletal system benefits from the amino acids in collagen.
Collagen to Build Strength
Lots of people use whey or soy protein supplements to enhance the effects of resistance training and build muscle. Collagen, on the other hand, has been largely overlooked because it’s not a complete protein. In particular, it doesn’t contain the levels of BCAAs found in whey protein.
I think collagen deserves a second look, though. For one thing, the high amount of glycine plus alanine in collagen provide building blocks for creatine. Creatine boosts energy production in muscle cells, and it’s probably the most widely used supplement for increasing muscle mass.
Also, in a series of studies, elderly men with sarcopenia,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566878/‘>10 and premenopausal womenhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31091754/‘>12
What does this mean? Collagen ups the effectiveness of resistance training. More research is needed to understand precisely how—whether it increases muscle synthesis, tendon integrity, both, and/or other. In any case, though, adding a couple scoops of collagen to your post-workout routine seems a worthy experiment.
Collagen for Your Connective Tissues and Joints
Speaking of tendons, there’s evidence that collagen supplementation helps strengthen and maintain connective tissue. Connective tissue is made up of collagen, so it’s not really a big surprise. I first become enamored with collagen after rehabbing a serious Achilles tendon injury. I’m convinced that my recovery was accelerated thanks to loading up on collagen peptides.
Studies back up my experience:
- Animal studies using ratshttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16161767/‘>14 show that feeding the animals glycine and collagen peptides, respectively, strengthens their Achilles tendons.
- In humans, taking 15 grams of gelatin plus 50 mg of vitamin C before working out improves tendons’ performance by increasing collagen deposition and remodeling.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5950747/‘>16
- Male and female college athletes who supplemented with 10 grams of collagen hydrolysate for 24 weeks reported significantly less joint pain across various activities. The effects were particularly strong among participants with pre-existing knee arthralgia (pain).https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29701488/‘>18
- In another study, adults over 50 with joint pain took a modest dose—1.2 g/day—of collagen for 6 months and reported less pain in the shoulder, arm, hand, and lumbar spine. There were no differences for knee or hip pain, though.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21251991/‘>20
Collagen Builds Strong Bones
More than 90 percent of the organic matrix of bone is collagen, mostly type I.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871752/‘>22
It should come as no surprise, then, that collagen supplementation seems to improve bone health. This has been demonstrated repeatedly with rats.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15490264/‘>24 In humans, adding 5 grams of collagen peptides per day for 12 months increased bone mineral density in postmenopausal women at risk of osteoporosis.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26334651/‘>26
Collagen for Heart Health
Many animal studies suggest that supplementing with collagen can improve cardiovascular health. Glycine, specifically, may be cardioprotective thanks to its known anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.
- In rats, administering glycine reduces blood triglycerides and blood pressure.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16444815/‘>28
- Collagen tripeptides reduce the size of atherosclerotic plaques and improve cholesterol markers in rabbits with hypercholesterolemia.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20170381/‘>30
- In mice, it lowers total cholesterol, triglycerides, and pro-inflammatory cytokines. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26722126/‘>32
- One study showed that healthy adults who took 16 grams of collagen daily for six months lowered their LDL-C/HDL-C ratio. They also had significantly fewer toxic advanced glycation end-products, a marker of atherosclerosis risk, in their bloodstreams at the end of the study.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19202283/‘>34 A follow-up found similar effects using a smaller dose of 2.9 grams per day.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29447076‘>36
Collagen for Diabetes?
It might sound like a stretch at first, but individuals with low glycine are at greater risk for developing diabetes,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29094215‘>38 while high glycine is associated with normal blood sugar control.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855430/‘>40 A handful of studies further show that glycine can reduce certain diabetic complications in rats and humans.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27852613/‘>42
I’m interested in your experience. Did you start incorporating bone broth or collagen peptides in your routine and notice any unexpected benefits? What’s your favorite way to get collagen in your diet?
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