Collagen Supplementation – The New Supplement For Football?
The structure and function of musculoskeletal tissues, such as tendon, ligaments, cartilage, and bone, are highly dependent on their collagen content.
Collagen is the main structural protein found in these connective tissues with a job to provide strength and stability.
Although correct training is able to increase collagen synthesis to aid bone and joint strength, such consistent stresses from training and matches will inevitably place these tissues at a high risk for injury.
Obviously some injuries are just down to bad luck, especially in a contact sport like football, however it is the responsibility of the athlete to try and put themselves in the best position to avoid injury.
This is especially important when injuries have such major personal, competitive, and financial costs in football.
Preventing and treating musculoskeletal injuries still remains one of the most complex issues to fix, and there are still very few scientific advances in this area.
However, one nutritional approach which has recently started to be implemented into major football teams is collagen supplementation.
This idea stems from a foundation of research within the last 10 years that shows nutritional insufficiencies significantly reduce the collagen content of musculoskeletal tissue and may leave it unable to withstand the mechanical demands of otherwise tolerable activity.
What Does the Research Say?
Collagen, just like muscle proteins, gets broken down during intense exercise bouts.
Under normal circumstances, collagen within musculoskeletal tissues can be naturally replenished after exercise from certain amino acids that are sourced from dietary protein (or protein stores in the body).
But even better, new evidence has indicated that directly consuming collagen in its natural form may be able to increase collagen synthesis post-exercise to a larger extent.
It is still unknown as to why musculoskeletal collagen synthesis is greater in response to collagen or gelatin (a food derivative of collagen) when compared to individual amino acids, but the important part is that it is!
Long-term research is lacking, but it appears there is a good chance that supplementing with collagen could therefore improve the overall structure, strength, and function of joint and bone tissue.
One study from 2017 even found that athletes had 100% more collagen synthesis post-exercise when they consumed gelatin 1-hour pre-exercise, compared to a placebo.
Other findings on athletes have indicated that daily collagen supplementation results in an increase in collagen content within the knee and significantly decreases knee pain in those suffering with knee injuries.
Limited research has even noted reduced markers of muscle damage, muscle soreness, and inflammation when collagen is supplemented in high doses before strenuous exercise – but these findings are yet to be replicated.
And although it will likely take a few years for the research to make its way online, sport scientists within football clubs are already beginning to note the reduced prevalence of minor injuries since collagen supplementation has been introduced to their teams.
How to Best Supplement it?
The benefits of collagen supplementation are becoming obvious, but the most “optimal” method to supplement with it are still being experimented with.
2 different football teams are likely taking it at different times, dosages, and forms, and there is no hard evidence to know which is best.
Based on the information available to us now, it appears that consuming collagen within the hour pre-exercise is probably the most ideal opportunity to get the most reward.
This way by the time you finish with your workout the collagen will be present in the bloodstream and available to support musculoskeletal recovery in the post-exercise period.
Most teams tend to use collagen peptides in tablet form, or if preferred, create gelatin “shots” which partly replicate jelly sweets (it might be worth finding some good gelatin recipes).
Either way, it is best to aim for ~10 grams of gelatin from each serving. This can be increased to 15 grams if you are someone a footballer that frequently suffers with aches and pains from exercise.
- Clifford T, et al. 2019. The effects of collagen peptides on muscle damage, inflammation and bone turnover following exercise: a randomized, controlled trial. Amino Acids.
- Shaw G, et al. 2017. Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Kjaer M, et al. 2004. Role of extracellular matrix in adaptation of tendon and skeletal muscle to mechanical loading. Physiological Reviews.
- Kjaer M, et al. 2009. From mechanical loading to collagen synthesis, structural changes and function in human tendon. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.
- Clark KL, et al. 2008. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion.
- Liu X. 2018. Dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine.