It is a unique protein, unlike any other, and that’s why collagen is important for you
In this post, I want to talk about why collagen is important for you. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and fundamental to our health. Correctly, collagen makes up a quarter of our proteins in the body. Depending on your body mass, your body contains 4.5 to 11 pounds of pure collagen!
Due to a seemingly one-sided marketing strategy, most of us usually associate collagen only with beauty treatments. The benefits of collagen, however, go far beyond the promise of “wrinkle freedom and eternal youth”.
Because collagen is important for your external as well as your inner beauty – namely for healthy joints, bones, skin and teeth, healthy intestinal flora and for building muscle.
My experiences with collagen
For more than three years now, I have put more emphasis on collagen in my daily diet. Decisive for this was a high susceptibility to injury due to my sports activities and a lower back pain, which greatly reduced since the frequent consumption of collagen.
Interestingly, the collagen-rich diet has brought other benefits: healthy skin, better gums and an increase in the lean muscle (of course, in conjunction with exercise training such as TABATA).
What is collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein that we need throughout our bodies. The word collagen contains the ancient Greek root word “kólla”, which means “glue”. At the same time, it describes the function of this protein compound: It is the substance that holds together the structures of your body.
It, also, is connective and supporting tissue and contained in bone, skin, teeth and gums, organs, tendons, cartilage, intestine and lymphoid tissue.
The purpose of collagen is to give structure to your cells and tissues, keeping them as firm and flexible as possible. Here’s a simple guide to improving your flexibility.
Without these structural proteins, your body would lose tension and firmness. A lack of collagen is reflected, for example, in the form of sagging skin, as well as tendons and ligaments susceptible to injury.
How is collagen structured?
Collagen molecules are formed from several polypeptide chains in which a collagen helix contains about 600 to 3000 amino acids, depending on the type of collagen. Complicated? I thought so too, at first.
Okay, let me try to explain it easier.
A collagen fiber, depending on the type, of several individual fibers that wrap around each other. These fibers can become extremely long and by wrapping they become incredibly stable and tear-resistant.
Thus, it can keep the passive structures in your body as stable and flexible as possible. It is very different from all other proteins.
It is still good to know that it mainly consists of the important amino acids glycine, hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, the latter two occurring only in collagen. Furthermore, except for L-tryptophan, it contains all essential amino acids, at least in smaller amounts.
Which collagen types exist?
I do not want to unnecessarily complicate it, but you should know that there are 28 different types of collagen in your body.
This is due to the fact that the types, depending on the function in the body, have a different structure, whereby there are fiber-forming, reticulate or transmembrane collagens.
Collagen type I, which is mainly found in skin and bones, is most common in humans.
Collagen type II is mainly present in cartilage and, therefore, particularly important for healthy joints.
In dietary supplements such as collagen hydrolyzate, or gelatin, we usually encounter different types, which is normally a mix. The major contributors in these supplements are types I, II and III.
Effects in the body
You already know the structure and important properties of collagen. It continues with the effects that it achieves in your body. The biggest advantage is that collagen is relevant to many areas of your body.
As I said, three years ago, I just wanted to reduce my vulnerability to injury – the impact on other body systems was an additional positive side effect.
The most important effects at a glance
Accelerates wound healing
Can lower blood pressure
Counteracts overweight and helps to lose weight
Can lower high blood sugar
Improves intestinal health
A great protein for building muscle
You may not be a bodybuilder, but you are certainly interested in developing more muscle, be it for a stable back, more strength, or looking more toned.
Zdzieblik et al., conducted a well-known study in 2015 and was able to demonstrate the impressive effects of collagen peptides on muscle growth.
In the study, men with muscle wastage underwent a 12-week strength training program supplemented with an additional 15 g of collagen peptides per day. The increase of 9.3 pounds of lean mass (mostly muscle) caused great amazement in nutritional science.
The reason for this is probably the amino acids contained. Glycine, for example, has a crucial influence on protein synthesis.
It activates the mTOR (muscle growth switch/phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase related) and prevents the expression of genes that promote proteolysis (muscle breakdown).
It takes care of your bone health
The structural protein is an important part of our skeleton (30% proportion) and, therefore, a fundamental pillar of bone health. Most of the time, bones contain type I collagen, which can increase bone density and, thus, maximize the compressive strength of the bone.
Without collagen, your bones would only be a piece of chalk. With the supportive protein, however, they are a flexible and living material!
These effects are particularly relevant for people who engage in risky and contact sports. For example, I like to ski in the winter, and that’s when I feel safer and more stable with a supplement of collagen.
Good for osteoporosis
It is, therefore, obvious that supplementation with collagenous proteins could lead to an improvement in osteoporosis. Studies prove this statement and show positive effects on osteoporosis, which are associated with enhanced joint health and less pain.
It also increases bone density in postmenopausal women, which is also beneficial for the prevention of osteoporosis.
In addition to collagen powder, vitamin K2, vitamin D and magnesium are great supplements for the prevention of osteoporosis.
Collagen and joints
Another effect of collagenous structures is the improvement of joint health, because they have a positive impact on our cartilage.
Studies show that the supplementation of about 10 to 15 grams leads to pain reduction, less inflammation and more joint stability. That’s why I started using collagen as an adjunct – so I can confirm these results.
It helps with osteoarthritis
The positive effect of collagen in the joints is also expressed in alleviating the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The protein enhances the function of chondrocytes (cartilage cells), which promote the formation of the extracellular matrix of cartilage tissue and increase the synthesis of proteins.
As described in the aforementioned study, collagen relieves pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis.
Collagen in case of injuries
Damage to our musculoskeletal system is always unpleasant, because it is associated with long recovery times. This unique protein helps, on the one hand, preventively, on the other hand, it is healing. The preventive effect is due to the construction of stable joints and bones.
If there is an injury, the need for collagenous proteins is naturally higher. In this case, you can benefit from additional intake because it supports wound healing and the formation of new, stable structures.
Excellent for skin health
The main argument for collagen: its effect on the health of the skin, which among other things is to slow down the aging of the skin. This is particularly helpful after exposure to UV rays, because these protein structures protect and regenerate the skin.
A positive impact of collagen on cellulite can only be suspected so far, because the study situation is unfortunately not yet very deep. However, there is one research that has shown positive effects on cellulite.
In a group of overweight women affected by moderate cellulite, significant improvements in skin appearance were seen after six months. Presumably, this effect improves in conjunction with the sport.
From a purely logical point of view, it would make sense that collagen helps with cellulite, because cellulite is mainly a structural weakness in the subcutaneous (= under the skin) fat and supporting tissues.
More collagen in conjunction with a diet rich in antioxidants (see Clean Eating, etc.) and sports could strengthen this tissue and counteract cellulite.
For the gut health
Collagen contained within food acts, due to its gelatinous consistency, as a form of paste in the intestine. This trait may be a starting point for solving the following problem: In our industrialized world, unhealthy diets are now rampant, with many people suffering from intestinal problems and the so-called leaky gut.
It could make a valuable contribution here. Many of our readers and clients testify that collagen can dramatically improve gut health and restore a “damaged” gut. A healthy diet with lots of fiber, fruits and vegetables is complementary.
What is your requirement?
Overall recommendations for the need for collagen are between 10 to 15 grams per day. However, this does not take your individual lifestyle into account.
If you train a lot or are currently suffering from an injury, then your need for it can be significantly higher. Since no side effects of this protein are known, you do not have to worry about higher demands.
Scientists have discovered how much glycine (which makes up a third of collagen) the human body needs every day – they came to 10 grams, which would equal 30 grams of collagen.
Glycine is mainly found in collagen and only in small amounts in other protein sources such as meat, eggs, fish or cheese. A recommendation of 30 grams of collagen a day (from supplements and from food) seems to be the most plausible and sustainable for your health.
Especially in the following scenarios, you could think about taking in 30 g or more per day:
Many sports activities
No muscle gain despite weight training
Lots of UV light or even sunburn
Diseases of the bones and joints
Leaky gut syndrome
Collagen is only present in very few foods that we have on our diet these days. Noteworthies are gummy bears (gelatin) and minced meat. However, hopefully, you consume these products infrequently. If so, then you do not get sufficient quantities to meet the requirement.
One way to meet the need, however, is the good old bone broth. Here, one boils the collagenous structures out of the bone, creating a very nutritious broth that also contains many minerals. For those who like, offal and tighter meat are also good collagen sources.
For vegetarians and vegans?
The numerous types of collagens are for the most part contained only in animal products. Vegetarians and vegans are, therefore, at risk of developing a deficiency because they cannot meet their needs with herbal products.
I know vegetarians who make an exception to collagen and treat themselves with a product made by responsible providers, and/r they resort to marine collagen.
My tip: Combine collagen with vitamin C
Keep in mind that this protein needs a lot of vitamin C, as a co-factor, for your body to work with. You can find plenty of vitamin C in fruits, berries and vegetables (especially green vegetables).
The Journal of Sports Medicine has shown that vitamin C improves collagen synthesis, accelerates bone healing, and reduces oxidative stress in the tissue.
All the benefits at a glance
Improvement of the intestinal barrier
Inhibits inflammation in the body
Glycine helps detoxify the liver
High saturation effect, with a low-calorie count
Faster recovery after intense sports
Helps prevent osteoarthritis and osteoporosis
I hope that now you can see why collagen is important to you. It is not a trend product, but an important component that humans have always needed and will require in the future. It is worth pointing out the importance of collagen, as we barely absorb it via the normal diet.
Collagen is incredibly important for cartilage, bones and skin. It is suitable for active people and athletes as well as for those who want to stay healthy. And yes, it can help with anti-aging.
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