We've all felt some type of joint pain—anything from regular old knee pain and inflamed tendons to osteoarthritis.
Our bodies break down as we age, with our bones and cartilage starting to deteriorate around the age of 40 to 50. Athletes wear down their cartilage even faster, having more issues down the line.
While you may have heard about people using collagen for its potential anti-aging effects, you probably didn’t know how many benefits it has for our joints.
Collagen has shown some promise in slowing down the deterioration process in our cartilage and bones, speeding up the rehab for certain injuries, and helping increase bone density.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most common protein in our body. It’s the main component of our connective tissue, and it’s found in cartilage, bones, tendons, skin, liver, and internal organs.
We can get it from various animal sources, but most of us aren't eating enough of these foods. Animal source food containing a lot of collagen includes bone broth, bones, ligaments, skin, and jellyfish. As you can see, the chances of you consuming enough animal skin and ligaments are pretty low.
This is where collagen supplementation comes into play.
Collagen supplements exist in three different types. The first two are processed, so the protein in the collagen breaks down into smaller pieces. They are called gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen, with the latter being the most studied type. The third type isn't broken down and is called undenatured collagen. This type of collagen might be the most effective for our joints, but more on that later.
The Benefits of Collagen
Although collagen has positive effects on skin hydration and elasticity, we won’t be focusing on that today. Instead, let’s talk about the numerous benefits it has on bone and connective tissue.
Recent studies from 2018 by Patrick Dressler et al., and 2019, by Stephan F.E. Praet et al., showed that collagen helped with Achilles tendinopathy and chronic ankle instability. We still aren't sure how exactly collagen helps with that, but it might be growing our connective tissue and increasing tendon stiffness.
The studies mentioned above decreased the swelling and pain while making the recovery process faster.
With cartilage deterioration being a significant factor in osteoarthritis, it's no wonder that collagen showed promise in slowing down the disease. Collagen supplementation makes our cartilage stronger over time, easing our joint pain.
There have been a few documented cases where collagen cured all symptoms of osteoarthritis for some people.
Another thing that happens as a part of the aging process is the rapid decrease in bone density. This is a massive problem because it makes our bones weaker and leads to osteoporosis. Weaker bones are more prone to breaking. That's one of the reasons why older people break their bones easily.
Collagen powders were shown to slow down the decrease in bone mass. Some believe that it might even increase our bone mass, which is a big deal.
Although more studies are needed, collagen may improve our heart health by reducing the stiffness of our arteries and increasing the HDL levels in our blood.
With all of that being said, it’s important to know that not all people get the same effect when taking collagen supplements. Some people experience significant benefits, but some don't respond to it at all. The good news is that the majority of people can benefit from collagen.
How To Take It?
Most research on collagen supplementation used hydrolyzed collagen, but undenatured collagen type-2 might even be better for joints. Although more studies need to be done about its exact effects, you might want to try it instead of the hydrolyzed one. It may help you if you haven't experienced any significant benefits while taking hydrolyzed collagen.
While rehabbing from an injury, we should take around 10-15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen twice a day.
It's critical to consume collagen and some vitamin C since it's crucial for collagen synthesis. The best source of vitamin C would be fresh fruit and vegetables that contain high amounts of it. This is because vitamin C supplements might not be as effective.
One hour after one of the two daily doses of collagen, you should do a quick 10-minute workout, targeting your injured joint or muscle with very lightweight. This will help pump the blood to the injured body part, making the supplementation more effective.
When it comes to bone health, 8-15 grams of collagen taken daily, along with high-intensity resistance training, is the best thing you can do.
People suffering from joint pain can take the same amount, 8-15 grams daily, along with vitamin C.