The role of collagen in the body

The role of collagen in the body

What is collagen? Where is it found in the body? Isn’t that a beauty product? These are some of the many questions we receive when people discover the U Perform range and today we are going to help answer these and to show you just how important collagen is for our ENTIRE body.

Active people, gym goers, athletes, fitness fanatics – you’re going to want to hear about this…

What is collagen?

So for many of you, when you first heard the term collagen, you assumed injection fillers, lips, Hollywood A-listers models, even TV presenters, using collagen as a filler for lines and wrinkles and to mask those signs of aging we would all like to avoid.

But this couldn't be further from the truth.

Quite simply collagen is the primary structural protein of the human body and it's actually the most abundant protein in the entire body. Effectively it's the glue or the scaffolding of the body and the skeleton.

So as you can see, it really does play a really important role for everybody, for fitness, wellbeing, beauty or even recovery from injury, which is what many of you are seeing the positive effects from.


What is the role of collagen in the human body?

The first thing to understand is that over 30% of the total protein found in the human body and the skeleton is actually collagen protein and effectively it will act as the building blocks, the scaffolding, or even the glue that hold us together.

Now if we want to take a slightly deeper dive and look at some of the specific areas of the body we will really start to understand the role and the impact of collagen throughout the whole body and why it is such an essential nutrient for everyone, but especially active people.

When we exercise we damage, we break down our body, muscles fibres, skin and joints; in a good way of course. But as part of that recovery and adaptation process, we need to fuel our body with the correct nutrients to facilitate repair and growth, so we can hit the next workout even harder.

Collagen is an important and essential part of this process but unfortunately as we age, our bodies lose the natural ability to produce enough collagen on its own! And we will overall lose around 1.5% of our body’s store of natural collagen EVERY SINGLE YEAR from as early as our 20s!

Once we learn where collagen is abundant, this statistic really becomes worrying!


Where can collagen be found in the body?

Let’s start with the connective tissues. And when we are talking about connective tissues we are talking about our muscles, our ligaments and our tendons. All 3 are crucial structural components that enable our skeleton and joints to move.

Muscles, tendons and ligaments are all very different and have different densities and thicknesses to the collagen fibres that they are made of.  But what we do understand is that between 40% and a massive 60% of the protein found in this connective tissue is actually collagen, specifically type 1 collagen. This is the immature collagen that the body uses to stimulate growth and repair a process by which collagen supplementation can enable to continue to happen effectively.

Connective tissues are incredibly important when it comes to the movement of our joints but they wouldn’t be very useful unless we had cartilage. And when we are talking about cartilage, we can see that 50% plus of the protein found in our cartilage is collagen. This time it’s type 2 collagen that is the most abundant.

All this cartilage is adding to the smoothness and the movement the joints that our muscles, ligaments and tendons are interacting with every second of every day. Whether it's a ball and socket joint, a hinge joint, or even just something that is in our vertebrae. So it's the cartilage we need to protect first and foremost. And 50% plus of that protein is actually collagen.

But hold on, the big numbers don’t stop there. Let's talk about bone density and joints because that's when collagen really becomes key. What we understand is that up to 80% of the organic structure of our bones is actually natural protein – collagen. And again, this is type 1 collagen.

Wait, there’s actually more! And this next one is a big one… Up to a massive 90% of the protein of the skin and the skin tissue is collagen and predominantly this is type 1 collagen again. Now you might be thinking ‘Why is this important for me as an athlete?’

Well, the interesting thing is pro-collagen one is the newly formed or immature collagen fibres that are actually created by the body on a daily basis. So these are the fibres that help renew our skin cells in the dermal and epidermal layers. But interestingly, this type 1 collagen also occurs in our connective tissue, our ligaments, tendons, and especially our muscles.

And it's that new formation of collagen fibres that helps our bodies repair not only from exercise when we've been breaking down muscle fibres but actually repairing our body from injury.


Why is collagen so important?

What we understand is that when we're young, we naturally produce this incredible pro collagen type 1 really, really fast and in plentiful quantities. But when we reach full maturity, reach adulthood, our body recognises that we've reached that status. It recognises that our bones are at their full length. Our muscles are at full length and full strength and at this point in time, the body's ability to naturally produce collagen simply slows down a little bit.

With the slowing down combined with continued wear and tear that we as athletes or people who would like to be physically active, maintain, we see an overall net loss of collagen available in the body to help us recover and repair.

And with a loss of 1.5% per year from as early as your 20s, by the time you hit 30 years old, you've had 10 years of collagen depletion resulting in a 15% loss in the structural glue; that structural protein collagen, within the human body.

Now this will only continue throughout the rest of our life. And for the women out there, unfortunately it's more severe for you. Women will actually age faster than men during the menopause and collagen depletion can actually go from 1.5% per year, up to an incredible 6% per year, every year for an average five year duration.

So for mature athletes, it's even more important that you take a collagen supplement during this period of time and post this period of time to maintain body structure, bone density, and actually the ability to push your bodies harder and harder.


Thanks for checking out the blog this week! Don't forget to tune in next week as we will taking a deeper dive into the collagen technology that we use across our premium sports nutrition range.

See you then!