3 Tips for Supplementing with Collagen

Keep reading to learn our top 3 tips for supplementing with collagen!

  1. Take your collagen supplement pre-workout! 

Supplementing with collagen in the form of collagen peptide powder or gelatin before exercise has been shown to improve rates of collagen synthesis [2]. 

In this 2016 randomized, double-blinded, crossover-design study, 8 healthy male volunteers were given either 5g of vitamin C-enriched gelatin, 15g of vitamin C-enriched gelatin, or a placebo drink. One hour after consuming their drinks, the participants then jumped rope as their activity. The researchers collected blood samples from the volunteers before drinking, after drinking, and several time intervals after their activity [2].

Researchers found that supplementing with increased amounts of gelatin showed increased amounts of collagen synthesis via several blood biomarkers [2]. 

  1. You MAY still be able to add collagen to your morning cup of coffee!  Don’t ditch it completely yet, read the data below first and then make your own decision.

Although this 2014 study concluded that caffeine had an adverse effect on collagen synthesis, we think it’s important to point out that this study was done on human skin cells in a petri dish [3]. Just as with every research study, make sure you really take the time to examine what the researchers investigated! 

First, this study was conducted on human skin fibroblasts, again, in a petri dish [3]– Not connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, bone, teeth, and cartilage [1]. For this reason, this study was not a randomized control study.

Second, researchers tested the effect of caffeine on human skin fibroblasts by incubating the skin cells in petri dishes with varying amounts of caffeine [3]. It is important to note that the way in which a molecule is metabolized in a petri dish can greatly differ from the way your body and all of its physiological processes will metabolize that same molecule.

For instance, there was no digestive system or liver involved in the processing of this caffeine prior to reaching the human skin fibroblasts. For this reason, we would have to ask the question: How would these results have changed if we were looking at living humans processing caffeine and collagen through their digestive system?

Third, this study only treated the skin cells with caffeine, NOT a combination of both caffeine and collagen [3]. Research (like this study) has shown in the past that very high doses of solely caffeine (not combined with collagen) can have an adverse impact on wound healing [6].  

Fourth, researchers varied the amounts of caffeine used, including 1mM, 2 mM, and 5mM amounts of caffeine. If we convert this unit of millimoles (mM) into milligrams (mg) of caffeine, we see that these amounts equate to roughly ~194mg (1mM) of caffeine, ~388mg (2mM) of caffeine, and ~970mg (5mM) of caffeine. (This is a VERY large dose of caffeine!)

A typical 8oz cup of coffee contains ~95mg of caffeine, thus the amount of caffeine the researchers tested would be respectively ~2 cups of coffee (1 mM), ~4 cups of coffee (2 mM), and ~10 cups of coffee (5 mM)! 

Therefore, from this study alone, we do not have the evidence to definitively say that supplementing your cup of coffee with collagen disrupts collagen synthesis in ligaments, tendons, bone, teeth, or cartilage. 

  1. Don’t forget to add vitamin C when supplementing with collagen! 

Why? Vitamin C plays an important role during the process of collagen synthesis– It actually helps to form bonds between different strands of collagen fiber [4]. When you are deficient in this vitamin, your collagen fibers can form in abnormal manners leading to weaker fibrous tissue with poor adhesion [5].  

For this reason, we recommend supplementing with 30mg of vitamin C in addition to your 10-15g of collagen before activity in the 30-60 min pre activity. 

What collagen supplement do we recommend?

We love Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder for collagen that you can add to any drink. If you are looking for collagen that already includes vitamin C, check out Klean Athlete Klean Collagen+C supplement!

Want to learn more?

Check out our Nutrition for Soft Tissue Injury Mini-Course for more information about collagen, vitamin C, and all of the micronutrients you can take advantage of to heal and recover faster!


References:

  1. Fink HH, Mikesky AE. Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2021.
  2. Shaw, G., Lee-Barthel, A., Ross, M. L., Wang, B., & Baar, K. (2017). Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. The American journal of clinical nutrition105(1), 136–143. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.138594
  3. Donejko, M., Przylipiak, A., Rysiak, E., Głuszuk, K., & Surażyński, A. (2014). Influence of caffeine and hyaluronic acid on collagen biosynthesis in human skin fibroblasts. Drug design, development and therapy8, 1923–1928. https://doi.org/10.2147/DDDT.S69791
  4. McInnis, Katie, PHD, RD, LD. Sports Nutrition for the Injured Athlete. 2020 SCAN Sports Nutrition Webinar.
  5. Lin E, Kotani JG, Lowry SF. Nutritional modulation of immunity and the inflammatory response. Nutrition. 1998;14(6):545-50
  6. Ojeh, N., Stojadinovic, O., Pastar, I., Sawaya, A., Yin, N., & Tomic-Canic, M. (2016). The effects of caffeine on wound healing. International wound journal13(5), 605–613. https://doi.org/10.1111/iwj.12327
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