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Collagen and Exercise


Collagen has long been linked with beauty for improving the condition of skin, whilst reducing fine lines and wrinkles. However, we are now beginning to see collagen supplements used to enhance fitness and athletic performance. Collagen is, after all, the key component of structural support in our body; it comprises 90% of our connective tissue which includes our joints, ligaments, tendons, and fascia.

So, whether you are a professional sportsperson, a gifted amateur, or just like to keep fit, collagen supplements are perfect to help build and repair the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage that are stressed during exercise. Collagen supplementation is also the key to maintaining an active lifestyle as you age.


Collagen levels drop naturally as we age, and while it is true that eating a healthy diet and taking exercise can help us to mitigate (or at least not exacerbate) these falls, regular high-intensity exercise actually depletes our collagen supplies more quickly. 

You see collagen is the main component of muscle. But long periods of exercise put muscles under pressure. Oxidation, inflammatory reactions and muscle microlesions can occur in the muscles during high-intensity exercise and lead to collagen loss. For this reason, many athletes have been shown to have significantly lower collagen levels than non-athletes of the same age.

However, all is not lost. Taking a collagen supplement will help maintain and replenish collagen levels, and while we recommend most people do not start taking collagen before the age of 25, anyone involved in rigorous daily sport or training should begin taking collagen significantly earlier from the age of 18. 


So, will you really see a fitness improvement from increasing your collagen intake? YES!

In the body, there exists a chemical called Creatine which is essential for muscles to work effectively during exercise. Creatine is made from the amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine. Collagen contains both glycine and arginine. Taking a collagen supplement, therefore, helps muscles to function at their peak. [1] Furthermore, studies reveal there is a direct link between oral arginine (found in collagen) intake and increased athletic performance.[2]

After your workout is finished, your body enters repair mode. To repair, your body needs amino acids. Collagen contains 18 amino acids – eight of which are essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and must be consumed through dietary proteins.


Collagen is a major component of muscle; the main reason that muscle mass reduces as you age is down to the decrease in collagen. Research has shown that collagen supplementation can help reverse this trend in people diagnosed with sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). The study specifically looked at elderly males and found that when exercise was combined with a post-workout collagen supplementation there was greater increase in muscle mass than for a group undertaking the same exercise regime but receiving a placebo.[3] 

Although this study was based on elderly men the mechanism discovered can apply to all age groups. A high amino acid diet post-exercise enables the replacement of lost collagen, restoring muscle mass by increasing muscle anabolism. The high amino acid content of collagen makes it ideal for muscle repair and recovery.[4] Supplementing with collagen can help muscle repair, making it essential post-workout nutrition.


Injuries are not just painful, but they also slow you down in your fitness routine and activities. If you can prevent injury, you have more time to train and improve. There are many ways to reduce the risk of injury, and collagen supplementation should be added to that list.

Studies have shown that collagen supplementation actually increases the diameter of tendons in joints. One study in particular looked at athletes and their ankles. The athletes were given collagen supplements or a placebo for six months. Those with the supplement had significantly lower rates of ankle injuries.[5] Another study measured the effect of taking collagen on the structure of the Achilles tendon. It found a significant increase in collagen fibre diameter in the group taking the collagen supplement, suggesting improved strength of the tendon as a result of collagen supplementation.[6]


Collagen is an important component of cartilage, the tissue that cushions and support joints. As we get older this tissue wears down, and the process occurs more rapidly in athletes. As cartilage wears, we experience joint pain and even arthritis.

Clinical trials have also shown that supplementation with collagen may reduce activity and exercise-related joint pain. High impact activities and high-intensity sports exert stress on joints that can lead to pain and injury. Studies have shown that using collagen supplements can reduce joint pain and specific symptoms of osteoarthritis.

One study looked at a group of 147 athletes over the course of 24 weeks. All had pain in their joints related to athletic activities. Seventy-three of the athletes were given a collagen supplement, whilst the remainder received a placebo. The results showed that those taking the collagen experienced a greater reduction in joint pain, both at rest and when walking.[7]

If joint pain bothers you and limits how much you exercise, a solution like collagen supplements may be useful. Reducing joint pain can improve fitness by allowing for more mobility and simply being able to work out and train.


Recovery can be a roadblock to improving fitness and hitting athletic goals. Everyone needs recovery time, but it may be possible to reduce that rest period by using collagen.

The recovery of muscles damaged during workouts depends on regenerating muscle fibres and producing connective scar tissue. Both of these processes require collagen.

In a study measuring the rates of collagen production for three weeks after a muscle rupture, the collagen synthesis rate was heightened in muscle cells during this time. Type III collagen production reached a maximum during the first week of wound healing, this is linked to the development of flexibility/plasticity of the connective tissue. Type I collagen formation began later during the healing process and was linked to increasing the strength of the new muscle fibres and connective tissue.[8]


So we have established that collagen is vital for professional sportspeople and those who exercise regularly. But which collagen supplement should you choose?

There are a whole range of options out there, from powders, liquids capsules and pills. One of the main things to watch out for is the quality of the ingredients (for all collagen is NOT the same) and the delivery mechanism. At INGENIOUS we produce three excellent supplements the help replenish collagen in the body. You can read about each of them by clicking their names here: Ingenious Beauty, Ingenious Vegan and Ingenious Active

  1. Buford, T.W., Kreider, R.B., Stout, J.R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., and Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Creatine Supplementation and Exercise. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 4(6).
  2. Elam RP, Hardin DH, Sutton RA, Hagen L. Effects of arginine and ornithine on strength, lean body mass and urinary hydroxyproline in adult males. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1989;29(1):52-56.
  3. Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Baumstark, M.W., Gollhofer, A., and Konig, D. (2015). Collagen Peptide Supplementation in Combination with Resistance Training Improves Body Composition and Increases Muscle Strength in Elderly Sarcopenic Men: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Br. J. Nutr. 114(8), 1237-45.
  4. Tipton KD, Hamilton DL, Gallagher IJ. Assessing the Role of Muscle Protein Breakdown in Response to Nutrition and Exercise in Humans. Sports Med. 2018;48(Suppl 1):53-64. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0845-5
  5. Dressler, P., Gehring, D., Zdzeiblik, D., Oesser, S., Gollhofer, A., and Konig, D. (2018). Improvement of Functional Ankle Properties Following Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides in Athletes with Chronic Ankle Instability. J. Sports. Sci. Med. 17(2).
  6. Minaguchi J, Koyama Y, Meguri N, et al. Effects of ingestion of collagen peptide on collagen fibrils and glycosaminoglycans in Achilles tendon. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2005;51(3):169-174. doi:10.3177/jnsv.51.169.
  7. Clark, K.L., Sebastianelli,W., Flechsenhar, K.R., Aukermann, D.F., Meza, F., Millard, R.L., Deitch, J.R., Sherbondy, P.S., and Albert A. (2008). 24-Week Study on the Use of Collagen Hydrolysate as a Dietary Supplement in Athletes with Activity-Related Joint Pain. Curr. Med. Res. Opin. 24(5), 1485-96.
  8. Hurme T, Kalimo H, Sandberg M, Lehto M, Vuorio E. Localization of type I and III collagen and fibronectin production in injured gastrocnemius muscle. Laboratory Investigation; a Journal of Technical Methods and Pathology. 1991 Jan;64(1):76-84.

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