Updated: Jan 28
Collagen is essentially a protein superglue which connects, holds, and strengthens the human body. Consequently, there is no protein within humans that can be found in such abundance. It is comprised of four amino acids: glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.
Why Is It Important?
The body synthesises collagen for functions which are critical for human health including protection of the arterial wall (1) and wound healing. Only 3g of glycine is made by the body every day (7g below the daily requirements) so in order to ensure at least 7g is obtained from ones diet, a minimum of 20g dietary collagen must be consumed.
How To Maximise Intake & Optimise Health
In order to produce and synthesise collagen, lysine and vitamin C must be present alongside glycine and proline. To put it simply, a healthy, balanced diet including animal protein, vegetables and seasonal fruit will contribute to collagen synthesis. For the best results, consuming collagen with a food source high in vitamin C (2), between 1.5 and 3 hours away from a balanced meal containing animal protein (amino acids), can prevent malabsorption as the digestive system would otherwise prioritise the amino acids due to the important role they play in restoring and building the body. The best low carb high vitamin c options are: several forkfuls of raw sauerkraut; a green juice or smoothie with no fruit, a large salad with mixed leaves (spinach, chard, rocket etc.), tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers and limited or no animal protein; broccoli; brussels sprouts; cauliflower; tea with kefir, coconut milk and/or lemon, a vitamin c supplement. Other options include pomegranate, strawberries and an orange.
Collagen peptides aka collagen hydrolysate is the most efficient way of consuming collagen. Collagen peptide supplements contain 7.5g collagen per serving and are more digestible than correctly prepared bone broth and collagenous foods and collagen proteins (which are roughly the equivalent of a low dose of a collagen supplement). As a result, it makes perfect sense, especially in warmer months and busier periods, to invest in a bovine collagen supplement such as Paleo Pure Collagen (sourced from grass-fed animals of course).
Connective tissues have a poor supply of blood. This can result in limited physical performance and injury unless collagen is available for use. Consuming collagen 45-60 mins prior to certain exercises such as skipping, where the achilles' are made to work extremely hard, and muscle ups, which put huge forces through the wrists, elbows and shoulders, can enable tendons, ligaments, joint tissues, cartilage and bones to support the body during intense activity.
Collagen peptide doses should vary from person to person as many influential factors dictate optimal intake. Ones goals, body type and lifestyle should be taken into consideration before supplementing. The following guidelines can be followed:
Basic health maintenance = 10g collagen
Safe range for the majority = 10-20g
Improving sleep quality = 10-15g
Injury recovery = 20-30g
Athletic lifestyle = +5-10g
Other Important Points
My personal preference for a non-training day is to consume approximately 20g collagen peptides with my early morning tea and raw sauerkraut then wait at least a couple of hours before including animal protein with my meals. For a training day I occasionally supplement twice; I have my usual early morning tea, sauerkraut and collagen combination, then eat once or twice before training that afternoon. If I decide to eat one meal before training I will probably have the same collagen combination 1.5 hours after the meal and 45-60 mins pre-workout (sometimes I eat twice and skip the pre-workout collagen). I do not have sleep problems, injuries or chronic stress so I do not feel the need to consume collagen 60 mins before bed to promote sleep (1 large cup of bone broth or collagen supplement 30-60 mins before sleep can result in a higher quality of sleep, a healthy duration, and promote energy levels following a bad nights sleep), or at any other time for injury recovery or general health.
Collagen consumption results in efficient skeletal muscle retention which means one can safely lower muscle meat intake and still function well physiologically as well as become stronger, leaner and/or bigger.
Large intakes of muscle meat (the lean, skinless, boneless parts of the animal) lead to high levels of methionine which can raise cholesterol and triglycerides. Gelatin from collagen contains glycine which protects against the effects of methionine.
The ageing process tends to make most things work less efficiently on a physiological level. This incudes collagen production which slows as we age, therefore, it is a good idea to consume between 10 and 20g daily. Older men have experienced greater anabolic responses to resistance training, and those who were losing muscle mass benefited from an improvement in their body composition, fat free mass and strength after consumption (3).
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Women will be especially pleased and motivated to know that in only 3 months, skin dryness and wrinkles can be reduced by 76% and 13% respectively when supplementing daily. Eye wrinkles in particular were reduced by 20% after 2 months and the results lasted for longer than a month after they stopped supplementing (6). Furthermore, skin elasticity can improve by 40% after 3 months as well as a 43% reduction in joint pain and 39% improvement in joint mobility (7). Additionally, cellulite and skin waviness decreased with doses lower than a teaspoon daily for 6 months (8).
For skin protection when in hot and sunny climates, gelatin and collagen prevent malondialdehyde formation (degrades skin) by increasing the activity of skin protecting antioxidants (9).
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.