What is collagen?
Odds are you’ve heard about collagen at some point, especially if you are an active trainee.
This is one of the supplements that is most often prescribed to people battling joint pains, which is exactly why we are going to discuss this in detail.
If you know a tiny bit of physiology, you would know that collagen is pretty much the main building block of every connective tissue in the body.
Now, there is a vast variety of different connective tissues in the body, which is why there are also many types of collagen – 15 to be precise.
Since we’re talking mostly about bone & joint health in this article, we’d like to mention that not all 15 types of collagen will be discussed in detail on here.
Instead, we’ll mainly talk about Type 1 & 2 collagen, which are involved in the structures of the skin & cartilages respectively.
What are cartilages?
Our joints are the hinges for the limbs and other parts of the body, which allow them to be mobile in space.
Of course, no one, including mother nature, would want that bone-on-bone sound effect, which is exactly why we have cartilages, that grant smooth, pain-free movement.
Think of it this way – The cartilages of your joints are basically the shock absorbers of the skeleton.
They are placed around the heads/ends of the bones and are quite a fascinating tissue, as they are elastic, but at the same time pretty tough.
For the most part, cartilages are nearly 80% water, with a mix of structural molecules, which shape up the cartilage.
It is namely the collagen that makes up those structural molecules, which is why it is considered to be one of the main things that shapes up the cartilage and makes it functional.
Osteoarthritis is an unpleasant condition that is linked to prominent degenerative processes within the cartilage.
Ultimately, this leads to stiffness, joint pain and difficulty with movement.
Now, we don’t want to lie to you, which is exactly why, we’re going to mention that the current data we have, shows pretty uncertain results for us to make bold claims.
Some researches for example show improvements in the symptoms of osteoarthritis, but then again, the human mind plays a big role in such researches, simply because a mind that believes it is being healed, heals on its own.
This is exactly why we can’t tell for sure if collagen supplementation is the thing that led to improvements.
Besides degeneration of the skeleton, we observe a prominent loss of lean muscle mass as we age.
This is in fact a disease, often referred to as “Sarcopenia”, which leads to that natural loss of muscle mass.
Needless to say, less muscle mass means a less functional body, which then again, means that the quality of life will be significantly worsened.
There are researches that show positive effects for men, supplementing with collagen peptides, while also doing resistance training.
What this specific research suggests is that the control group that used the non-placebo medication, actually showed an improvement in body fat loss, muscle mass and strength gains.
Now, even though this research sheds some light and hope for those who have joint problems, it is still not a 100% certain.
Because with every research, there are THOUSANDS of factors that account to the end result, including but not limited to:
- Individual chemical exchange in the body
- Eating habits
- Sleeping habits
- Non-exercise & exercise activities
- Skin health
Each and every body has its weakness – Some people lose hair easily, others lose muscle and bone mass.
For some people, that weakness is skin & nail health.
Medical trials and a specific research, show that when supplemented with orally, collagen improves skin health in women, while also increasing the levels of hemoglobin in the skin.
Another research also showed a substantial skin health improvement, with regular collagen peptide supplementation.
These peptides mainly improve the hydration of the skin.
Benefits for trainees
Now, you don’t really need to have severe joint pains to supplement with collagen.
For trainees and active athletes, collagen is a good preventative measure for injuries.
Collagen supplements might turn out to be one of the best aids for trainees and athletes who have joint pains, not due to an injury but due to excessively intense bouts of physical activity.
Types of collagen supplements
As we mentioned in the beginning, each connective tissue requires a different type of collagen, which is why the market offers a variety of choices.
We can mainly find type 1 collagen, which has a sole purpose of improving skin health, but we can also find type 2 collagen, which, as we learned, is important for joint health.
Furthermore, we can find type 2 collagen in two forms – Hydrolized & undenatured type 2 collagen.
The first one, also known as collagen hydrolysate is derived from animal bones and skin, which are processed as much as needed for the manufacturer to be able to ultimately offer PURE collagen.
The second one is a product that is mainly made of chicken bones.
What’s the difference?
Well, the main difference between the two is the protein profile of the collagen.
As you can tell by the name, the protein we have in the “undenaturated” collagen is in its pure, natural form, hence the name – Un – De – Naturated.
And this is not true for the second type – The hydrolized collagen, simply because it is broken down to smaller peptides artificially, via the hydrolysis process.
Most proteins we get in orally, go through the same hydrolization process, while being digested in the stomach, however, collagen is an exception to that rule
Use & side effects
The recommended daily intakes depend on the type of collagen we use, as well as some individual factors.
Hydrolized collagen for example has a standard recommendation of about 10 grams daily.
Undenaturated collagen on the flipside is recommended to be taken at about 40 mg per day, which is far less than the first type.
Both types of collagen can be consumed either before, during or after a meal, as there won’t be any substantial difference.
Collagen supplements can be combined with other, synergistic products, which also aid joint health.
Those are namely glucosamine & chondroitin.
When it comes to safe supplements, collagen is probably on the top of the list, as it has basically zero side effects and disadvantages.
Rarely, we observe intolerances to this supplement, which have no other side effects besides stomach-aches, which quickly go away, once the body adapts.
There are many supplements and products out there that are somehow 50/50, even though there have been multiple researches and trials done with them.
That is to say that the data we have about collagen as of now, is somewhat unclear, as many of the trials that have been ran, were out of context and didn’t use the proper methods for testing.
Given what we just said, we can’t tell you for sure that a certain amount of collagen will a 100% be the solution to your problems.
However, the promising results of the cited papers, as well as the harmlessness of this product, makes it perfect for you to try and see how it affects YOU!
Ultimately, the supplement might be just a symbol for your healing. What I imply here is the placebo effect.
If you TRULY believe that collagen will help you, the supplement will be just a symbol that expresses a possibility for healing.
Once you take it with that belief, your own pharmacist, the autonomous nervous system, will start taking care and will repair the damage done to your joints.