Collagen is a complex protein, and not in an ''it has a lot of feelings' way. In an ''it has a lot of amino acids' way: 19, in fact, including hard-to-get-naturally conditional amino acids like arginine, glutamine, proline, and glycine. Collagen occurs naturally pretty much everywhere in the body. It's in our skin, muscles, blood vessels, digestive systems, and tendons. It's also hard at work helping our skin stay elastic, our joints stay un-creaky, our muscles grow lean, and our connective tissues stay stretchy and springy.
So, it follows that collagen is incredibly important for anyone leading an active lifestyle, both in terms of growing that muscle you're looking for (#gains) or for helping with your runner's knee. But, in a weird twist of fate, long-term strenuous exercise can actually lead to a degeneration of natural collagen production, as your body simply can't keep up with the collagen regeneration necessary for recovery. Add that to the fact that collagen production decreases naturally with age anyway, and it might be time to think about supplementing your collagen.
Let's take a closer look at how, exactly, collagen can help supplement your active lifestyle.
Collagen can help reduce joint pain
Squatting, lifting, and running are great for your heart but tough on your joints. Unfortunately, active living and joint pain often go hand in hand: exercise puts tremendous strain on your joints and inflames the surrounding connective tissues. That's where collagen comes in: Collagen has a smooth, gel-like structure that covers joints and helps them move with ease. So, more collagen means more smooth joint coverage and protection, and less creaking. Collagen is also a natural inflammation fighter that helps speed up the repair of damaged connective tissues, leading to less joint pain.
Collagen can help build lean muscle
This is where those amino acids come into play (or rather, to work). Glycine works to convert glucose into energy to feed muscle cells and form muscle tissue. Arginine helps the body make protein from other amino acids, aiding in muscle growth, preventing muscle tissue wasting, and even boosting metabolism. Glutamine does double duty to help prevent muscle catabolism (tearing down of muscles) and help promote muscle anabolism (muscle growth). It's a heck of a muscle-building triple threat.
On top of that, the glycine and arginine in collagen peptides promote the production of natural creatine in the body. Creatine is essential for muscle growth, and has been shown to help improve performance during short periods of exercise to boot.
Collagen can help reduce injury to connective tissues
While you're hard at work building that muscle mass, don't forget about your connective tissue. Just like muscles and joints, connective tissues like tendons and ligaments get strained and broken down by exercise. But, since they're made up of 75% collagen, a collagen supplement can help connective tissues rebuild after a vigorous workout. Plus, your connective tissues do not grow with your muscles, meaning every inch of muscle mass you gain leads to tighter connective tissues, which leads to pain and even injury. Collagen is essential in keeping connective tissues stretchy and supple, meaning they can expand to accommodate your new killer quads.