Collagen is a major component of almost all the physical structures in the human body. From muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, skin, and even cartilage, your eyes, and your blood vessels too. Now, people have been using topical collagen creams and taking collagen beauty supplements to support and improve their skin health for years, but does it really help everything else? Can sports people get benefits too?
We’re going to answer those questions and more in today’s blog as well as sharing some of our athlete and customer stories too!
Let’s rewind a bit first…
The U Perform collagen story began at a time when really it was only whey protein that was top of people’s post-workout nutrition list. Fast forward almost 20 years later, and now collagen supplements are popping up left right and centre. But which one’s work? How can you tell?
The first thing we need to understand is…
What is collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein found in all mammals. It forms fibres that create muscles, tendons, ligaments as well as our skin and it also forms part of the structural matrix of bones. It is the scaffolding, the glue, that holds the body together and without it we wouldn’t be the same again.
Collagen proteins contains 18 amino acids, including 8 out of the 9 Essential amino acids. It is characterized by the predominance of glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and lysine which represent about 50% of the total amino acid content of the collagen protein.
By the way, when we say ‘Essential’ this is just a classification for the group of amino acids that the human body cannot synthesise on its own and therefore require an external source. This is usually a food source or a supplement for example.
Amino acids are the building blocks of the human body and are necessary to perform and maintain a whole host of body functions as well as providing the physical building blocks for the human body to repair and resynthesise muscle tissue as an adaptation response after exercise for example.
As we hit our early to mid-20s, our body’s own production of collagen starts to slow down with each year seeing a 1 – 1.5% net loss of available collagen to repair and maintain our connective tissue, skin, and joints. This loss of collagen is further accelerated by other external factors such as pollution, UVR exposure, poor diet, and exercise.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, U Perform collagen supplements are perfectly placed to not only top up collagen levels in the body, but with the right supplement and at the right daily dose we can kickstart the body’s own natural production again. That’s a win win in our book.
So here they are, the Top 6 Benefits of Collagen Supplements…
Benefit 1. Improves skin health & vitality
90% of the extracellular matrix (the physical layers of skin we can see and feel) of our skin is comprised of Type I collagen fibres. These are often referred to as pro-collagen I or immature collagen fibres as the turnover of these protein fibres is quite high; roughly every 30 days.
The skin is our first point of defence against the elements but that doesn’t mean that it is invincible. Sweat, chlorine (if you’re a swimmer), wind, cold, and yes, sunlight exposure all take their toll on our skin and this will become more and more visible as we get older. Hello fine lines and wrinkles, we see you!
Collagen supplements may work because they are stimulating your body to produce collagen on its own again. Add to that, collagen supplements may also promote the production of other important structural proteins that help structure your skin, like elastin and fibrillin.
VERISOL® Bioactive Collagen Peptides® are a unique formulation of collagen peptides that have been clinically proven to do all the above (and more) and with only 2.5g per day required. Results can also be seen and felt in as little as 28 days, but best results come after 56 days and beyond.
Benefit 2. Reduces activity related joint pain
Your joints are incredibly complex structures in the human body and come under a significant amount of stress and strain daily and especially during physical activity like weight training or sports. Collagen is an essential building block of the sponge-like tissue in your joints… cartilage.
The cartilage acts like a shock absorber so that impact forces are not transferred into other parts of the body and cause excessive strain, wear, and tear or worse, injury. But just like our skin, the cartilage in our joints is not invincible and needs the appropriate rest and nutrients to allow it to repair and maintain optimal function.
Taking part in certain sports can increase the risk of joint pain and injuries and even some people tend to be more predisposed to experiencing problems. Unlike skin, cartilage regenerates at a much slower rate on its own which is why collagen supplementation is the key to supercharging that recovery.
With a unique formulation of Type II optimised Bioactive Collagen Peptides®, FORTIGEL® is an innovative ingredient clinically proven to activate the growth of new cartilage and protect the integrity of existing cartilage by stimulating specific collagen producing cells in the cartilage tissue itself, helping to ease joint discomfort, and keep joints moving smoother for longer.
The effectiveness of FORTIGEL® has been scientifically proven in numerous studies and according to published research, the ingestion of FORTIGEL® collagen peptides stimulate a significant increase of cartilage tissue metabolism, against placebo.
Benefit 3. May prevent bone loss
As we have already mentioned, collagen is an essential building block of our bones. In fact, around 30 – 40% of the protein in bones is collagen and this is Type II collagen. Collagen provides the soft structural matrix (the scaffolding again) around which the mineralisation of bone occurs. This combination of collagen fibres and the mineralisation of calcium phosphate makes bones strong and also flexible so that they can tolerate movement and stress.
Fractures and stress responses are incredibly common in running, jumping and extreme sports as the risk of overuse and direct trauma is high. And just as collagen deteriorates with age, so does bone mass and bone density which only increases the risk. This can lead to serious conditions like osteoporosis which is characterised typically by low to very low bone density.
Alongside, calcium and vitamin D supplements, collagen has been shown to have a positive and restorative effect on joint and bone disorders such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
Benefit 4. Improves muscle strength and recovery
As the primary structural protein in the human body (over a third of total body protein), collagen plays a vital role in the maintenance and development of almost all the physical structures of the body, including skeletal muscle.
The latest innovation in collagen technology, BODYBALANCE® is a brand-new muscle specific Performance Peptide®. BODYBALANCE® has a multi-factorial effect on body composition and the maintenance and development of muscle mass.
Up to 10% of muscle is formed of collagen fibres and BODYBALANCE® collagen fibres give the muscle tissue the strength and rigidity needed to carry out its function whilst also maintaining the flexibility needed to do so without risk of injury whilst under load.
Supplementing with a high-quality recovery protein source such as U Perform’s Active Whey & Collagen post-workout, meets this need conveniently and cost-effectively. Alongside whey protein, collagen supplementation not only provides a high-quality source of Essential Amino Acids, but targeted Bioactive Collagen Peptides® have been proven to improve the recovery of muscle tissue, to increase their strength and make them more resistant to injury
Furthermore, several randomised, placebo controlled. double blinded studies have demonstrated the efficacy and potential of the daily intake of 15g of BODYBALANCE® in combination with resistance training showing increases in muscle size, strength, decrease in waist circumference and, improved muscle recovery times.
In terms of muscle protein synthesis, a more traditional source such as whey protein is more effective as it is more abundant in the important BCAA leucine which is critical for muscle protein synthesis. However, here at U Perform we have combined BODYBALANCE® Bioactive Collagen Peptides® with Whey Protein to give you the best of both worlds.
Benefit 5. May promote heart health
Now this one is new, and more research is needed to demonstrate the efficacy of collagen supplements for heart health. But researchers are theorising and testing to see if collagen really can help reduce the risk of certain heart conditions.
Collagen fibres provide the structure to our blood vessels including our arteries, maintaining flexibility and elasticity. Without sufficient collagen, the risk of developing conditions like atherosclerosis (a disease characterised by the narrowing of blood vessels) could potentially be increased.
Early studies have shown positive results and have shown a reduction in artery stiffness and also an increase in HDL cholesterol (the good kind); both of which may reduce the risk of developing certain heart conditions, but more research is needed.
Benefit 6. Hair, Nails, Ligaments, Tendons
As well as improving the appearance and condition of our skin, collagen has also been shown to positively support the health and quality of our hair and nails too. Our hair and nails aren’t made of collagen, instead a protein called keratin. However, collagen and keratin share an almost identical amino acid profile and so there are crossover benefits when taking collagen supplements.
In fact, improvement in your nails will actually be one of the first things you will visibly see when starting to take collagen supplements. On average, within the first 2 weeks to a month, most people will find their nails growing thicker, faster, and stronger than before.
Improvements in hair may take a little while longer to visibly see but studies show thicker and fuller hair after 3 months.
Collagen is a major component of our ligaments and tendons, the white tissue that enables motion alongside our muscles and joints. Ligaments and tendons are highly complex fibres and incredibly strong (and flexible) due to the high concentration of collagen; roughly 70% of the dry weight.
However, ligaments and tendons are just as susceptible to injuries as any other connective tissue in the human body. Ligament sprains are not uncommon in team sports such as football and tendon injuries are very common in endurance sports such as running and triathlon.
Now, all these sports are challenging in their own ways but what they all have in common is their ability to push the body to and beyond its limits resulting in injury to important connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
U Perform’s signature Active Collagen gels are a unique and science backed formulation of TENDOFORTE® Bioactive Collagen Peptides® and are becoming widely used for the prevention and treatment of ligament and tendon injuries.
For example, one study by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) examined the benefits of TENDOFORTE® over a period of 6 months. The participants were 20 runners with long-term symptoms of chronic Achilles tendinopathy, not responding to any traditional therapies, and being unable to train.
Within 3 months, 12 out of 20 participants were able to return to running after starting a therapy with a daily intake of 5g of TENDOFORTE®. What’s more, the benefits continued, and more runners returned to training in the following 3 months.
High performing tendons and ligaments combine strength and flexibility. The results from this study, and others like it show that U Perform TENDOFORTE® collagen fibres give them the right elasticity for optimal function and without compromising strength or performance. Which means you can get back to focusing on improving your bike and run splits without having to worry about injuries stopping you in your tracks.
How long does it take see and feel results?
Every body is different and so no one approach will fit all. However, when we look at the science, we can get a rough idea of how long it will take to see best results, and this differs from peptide to peptide as each one is targeted at a different area of the body.
For example, benefits to our skin and nails will happen considerably faster than those for ligaments, tendons, and muscles as these are much more complex tissues. But generally, and for best results across the board we suggest a daily supplementation program for at least 12 weeks.
The way we see it is that you need a different tool for a different job
Minimum 12 weeks – but quality over quantity – follow the science for optimal results and value for money (different tool for different job)
Is there a Vegan or Vegetarian alternative?
There are alternatives, yes. But no plant-based collagen supplement can truly replicate the structure and results of a Bovine collagen peptide supplement. And there is a very simple explanation for this… plants and mammals are built differently (very differently we might add) and so to get around this, vegan alternative collagen supplements will extract the amino acids that should build collagen (Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline, Lysine) from broken down plant-based material and provide just those as the supplement.
Now the human body is a scavenging champion and will utilise all resources in whatever way it needs in that moment. So, some of those collagen building amino acids may be used to build new collagen fibres, but the chances are they will be used elsewhere to support a whole host of important physiological processes.
The only way to guarantee that bioavailable micro-fractions of collagen will be absorbed by the body intact and put to work in the target tissues is to use hydrolysed collagen peptides from a bovine source. Specially formulated Bioactive Collagen Peptides® are derived through enzymatic hydrolysis from the hides and bones from cattle at differing molecular weights to target different tissues.
Bioactive Collagen Peptides®, like the ones we use here at U Perform, are also small enough to pass through the gut barrier and remain intact so that they can get to work providing collagen building cells the correct nutrients as well as stimulating new collagen production naturally as well.
So, whilst vegan alternatives may be useful for some, if you are serious about your sport and your recovery, then the only supplement you should be looking at are those from a bovine source. Also look for clinical studies and research evidence too so you can ensure you are getting maximum value for money and results from every serving.
The Bottom Line
There’s no question about it, collagen supplements are great and are we are seeing more and more evidence proving just how valuable they can be for a whole host of body benefits. Whether that’s in your skin, hair, nails, joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons; collagen is there to support you.
Do you want to know the best bit? With the research evidence growing, and the product technology evolving just as rapidly now is the best time to jump on board; see and feel the difference for yourself.
Finding quality collagen supplements can sometimes be quite a hard thing to do, but rest assured, with U Perform you are in good hands. Whether you are looking for the education and knowledge you need to support your training and active lifestyle or whether it is finding the collagen product that is right for you – we’re here to help!