Collagen is a dietary supplement focused on health and performance. Indeed, the actions of collagen on our body are numerous. Despite this, very few bodybuilders supplement themselves with collagen or even know of its existence.
Even though the use of collagen supplements and other collagen products is on the rise, it is still relatively unknown to the general public.
This article explains everything you need to know about collagen, its benefits, its use but also its supplementation.
What is collagen and why is it important?
Collagen is a type of protein. It is the most abundant structural protein in animals. A structural protein is a protein that makes up the structure or framework of your cells and tissues.
There are 28 known types of collagen, with type I collagen making up 90% of the collagen in the human body.
Collagen is mainly composed of the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. These amino acids form three strands, which make up the characteristic triple helix structure of collagen.
Collagen is present in connective tissue, skin, tendons, bones and cartilage. It provides structural support to tissues and plays an important role in the following cellular processes:
- tissue repair
- The immune response
- Cellular communication
- Cell migration, a process necessary for the maintenance of tissues
Connective tissue cells called fibroblasts produce and maintain collagen. As we age, collagen breaks down, fibroblast function deteriorates, and collagen production slows.
These changes, along with the loss of another structural protein called elastin, lead to signs of aging such as sagging skin and the appearance of wrinkles.
Use of collagen
Your body naturally produces collagen, and you can get it through food sources such as chicken and fish skin, as well as collagen supplements.
Collagen-based oral products and face creams are popular for treating signs of aging such as wrinkles, loss of skin moisture, and joint pain.
You can buy collagen in powder, capsule, and liquid form.
You can take it as a supplement or add it to drinks - hot or cold - and foods such as oatmeal, yogurt or even protein shakes.
Healthcare professionals also use collagen products in the medical field, including to treat wounds, burns, and diabetic ulcers.
Also, cosmetic companies use collagen in products like moisturizers and serums because of its hydrating properties.
The best food sources of collagen
Collagen is present in all animals, and it is concentrated in certain parts of the animal, such as skin, tendons, ligaments and joints.
Here are some examples of collagen-rich foods:
- Animal skin and ligaments, such as chicken skin and pork knuckle
- Certain types of seafood
- fish skin
- Products made from animal parts such as bones and ligaments, including bone broth.
Since your body naturally produces collagen from amino acids, you can support collagen production by making sure to eat adequate amounts of protein from foods such as poultry, fish, beans and eggs.
In addition to amino acids, your body needs other dietary components to produce and maintain collagen.
For example, vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of collagen. A low or insufficient level of vitamin C can therefore lead to a decrease in the production of collagen.
Therefore, consuming plenty of vitamin C-rich foods can contribute to healthy collagen production. For example, try citrus fruits, peppers, green vegetables and red fruits.
Additionally, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also help improve skin health by reducing inflammation and protecting against collagen breakdown.
Are there benefits from taking collagen supplements?
Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may provide some benefits.
Potential skin benefits
One of the most popular uses for collagen supplements is to support skin health. Studies suggest that taking collagen supplements can improve certain aspects of skin health and appearance.
An analysis of 19 studies involving 1,125 participants (95% women) between the ages of 20 and 70 found that taking hydrolyzed collagen improved skin hydration and elasticity and reduced wrinkles compared to a placebo .
Hydrolyzed collagen is a type of collagen commonly used in supplements that is created by a process called hydrolysis. This process breaks down the protein into smaller pieces, making it easier for the body to absorb.
A number of studies have shown that taking collagen supplements can improve skin hydration and elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
However, keep in mind that many of these studies were funded by companies that manufacture collagen products, which may have influenced the study results.
The doses of collagen that have been shown to be effective in improving skin health in research studies vary, although most studies have used 2.5 to 15 grams per day for 8 weeks or more.
Potential bone benefits
In addition to improving certain aspects of skin health and appearance, collagen supplements may offer a few other benefits.
One study looked at the effects of taking collagen supplements in 102 post-menopausal women who had reduced bone mineral density (BMD).
Those who took 5 grams of collagen peptides daily for a year saw their BMD increase significantly in the spine and femur (thigh bone) compared to participants who consumed a placebo.
A follow-up study in 31 of these women found that taking 5 grams of collagen daily for 4 years was associated with a gradual increase in BMD.
The researchers found that the participants' BMD increased from 5.79 to 8.16 percent at the spine and 1.23 to 4.21 percent at the femur during the follow-up period.
These results suggest that taking collagen supplements long-term may help increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal people, who are at higher risk of developing osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Additionally, one article concluded that taking collagen supplements by mouth reduced subjects' symptoms related to osteoarthritis, including stiffness.
Collagen supplements also have other health benefits, such as improved body composition in some populations when combined with resistance training (weight training).
It is important to note that studies have observed these beneficial effects of taking collagen primarily in older women with low bone mineral density.
Therefore, collagen supplements may not have the same effects in other types of subjects, such as men, younger people, or those without low bone mineral density.
Collagen Supplements Vs. proteins
It's important to note that you don't necessarily need to eat collagen or take collagen supplements to support your body's collagen levels or bone health.
In fact, you can help your body make collagen and maintain healthy collagen levels and bone tissue simply by including enough high-quality protein, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin C, and zinc in your diet. .
However, the consumption of quality protein is highly recommended. Collagen supplementation can be interesting especially for practitioners whose protein intake is not optimal.
A balanced diet with a little more protein is especially helpful for maintaining muscle tissue and bones as you age. With this in mind, experts recommend consuming more than 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
To achieve this, combine this high-protein diet with physical activity, especially resistance training and weight-bearing exercises.