Sagging, old, wrinkly skin. Awkward, slow, painful movements. Joint problems. Aging…
All these conditions are related to collagen. The anti-aging protein collagen is not just all about the skin, although from the ads you’ll see on TV and in magazines, it would seem like skin care is the be-all and end-all of collagen.
Collagen has been exploding on the cosmetic market for women in the last couple of years, but just recently it has been growing popular on the supplement market as well for men to age better and grow more muscle.
Truth is, collagen is an important component of tissues such as muscles and the joints. Even the gut is affected by the functions of collagen.
So what is collagen?
Collagen is a naturally-occurring protein that preserves the health and function of connective tissues such as the skin, muscles, joints, bones and ligaments.
Collagen is what makes these tissues elastic. Without this elasticity, tissues like muscles tear easily when stretched or damaged. Contraction and relaxation becomes inefficient because the tissues are unable to return to their original form. They are also unable to keep their tone, leading to sagging tissues. In the bones, lack of collagen increases the risk for fractures.
Collagen helps the muscles to contract and expand without tearing, strengthening them at their core and also helping them stay in shape. Collagen is the reason that your leg muscles do not sag and lose shape when you run, jog, or walk every day.
Aside from the muscles, collagen is also present in the ligaments and joints. The function is similar. It helps anchor the muscles well while still allowing movement.
Bones also contain collagen. This is one of the major reasons why your bones do not shatter when you jump, bump into things, or simply change your position.
Collagen is basically like the stretchy component of a rubber band that allows for stretchiness yet allows the band to return to its previous shape. You could view collagen as the glue that keeps your whole body together.
This means that collagen can also be found in the animal foods you eat such as in meat, often in the parts that are though to chew. In earlier times of the human evolution, we hunted and ate the whole animal, not throwing away any of their parts. In other words, collagen has always been a part of our diets and only until recent times have it been excluded. One thing that has grown increasingly popular lately among paleo dieters however is drinking bone broth, and bone broth actually contains collagen and many of its amino acids such as glycine.
What is the problem with your collagen?
Collagen fibers break down due to a number of factors. It weakens and degrades with disease, poor nutrition, improper use, too little exercise and improper care of the various tissues. Age is also a factor.
Aging, for example, naturally leads to a decrease in collagen in the body. By age 25, a person starts to lose collagen at 1.5% per year. The rate of collagen break down exceeds the rate of collagen formation by age 40, more than half of the body’s collagen contents would have been worn-out by age 60. This is the source of much of the visible signs of aging as well as the pains and fragility that comes with older age.
The body naturally replaces damaged or worn out collagen fibers, whether in the skin, muscles, joints, bones and ligaments. However, factors like disease, poor nutrition and aging slow down collagen repair and replenishment.
What can you do?
There are many ways to help the body restore its collagen levels.
Cells in the body are composed mostly of water. When water is too low, cells shrink. The natural structure becomes undone. To prevent this, you need to stay well hydrated at all times.
Drink lots of water every day. The recommendation is to drink at least 8 glasses or about 1.5 to 2 liters of water, on top of other liquids that you drink. If you live in a tropical climate, expect to drink a minimum of 3 liters of water per day.
Eating healthy, fresh foods rich in antioxidants is another important way to improve collagen production and function. Antioxidants also help promote normal cellular functions, including bosting collagen synthesis.
Antioxidants protect the cells from oxidation. Cells oxidize due to the presence of free radicals and toxins. Free radicals come from unhealthy foods such as deep fried or foods exposed to pesticides. Exposure to chemicals such as pollution also brings more free radicals in the body.
When the cells oxidize, the structure is destroyed. This breaks down proteins such as collagen. Again, less collagen in the skin, joints, bones and muscles means reduced elasticity. This also means increased risk for injuries. These tissues become less able to heal, repair and grow.
Now that you have an understanding why everybody is so crazy about antioxidants for staying young, let’s look at another way to help these issues. You can boost collagen reserves directly by consuming more of it in your diet, the easiest way being collagen supplements.
What are collagen supplements?
These are supplements that help replenish the collagen reservoirs within the tissue’s structures. There are a few different forms of collagen on the market such as solubilized collagen, hydrolyzed collagen, shark gelatin, CII or simply gelatin. CII supplements are derived from animal sources. This is not a vegan-friendly type of supplement so unfortunately if this is your preference, you are limited to taking the antioxidant route to increasing collagen synthesis.
Supplements containing collagen are available in 2 different forms. They can be taken in 1) hydrolyzed form or 2) undenatured type II collagen form.
Both of these forms are taken in different quantities because they function in different ways. However, their benefits are similar.
Hydrolyzed collagen promotes better skin health. It also helps improve joint health and function.
Undenatured collagen is typically taken as part of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. This type of collagen is especially effective in conditions involving autoimmune issues.
Supplementation is commonly done through gelatin or with collagen peptides. Gelatin is basically cooked collagen, which is popular in many foods. It comes in a powdered form before preparation and will turn into a gel when mixed with water.
Collagen peptides contain broken amino acids that make up the collagen protein. This broken-down form makes it easier for the body to absorb the amino acids, promoting faster results.
How to take collagen supplements
Daily supplementation with hydrolyzed collagen is about 10 grams powder. This form is effective but not to be taken in large doses like other protein supplements such as whey.
Hydrolyzed collagen supplements should not be taken for providing the majority of proteins for muscle gain. This supplement form is less effective than other proteins such as whey in promoting lean muscle building and has a poor amino acid profile compared to whey. It does however contain a lot more of the amino acid glycine which is more effective for improving sleep and for older people to build muscle and repair tissue damage.
Undenatured collagen is typically taken at 40 mg per day, once only. There is no specific time of day for taking undenatured collagen. It is advisable, though, to take it on an empty stomach, before eating breakfast.
Why take collagen supplements?
The skin can only produce a limited amount of collagen. The normal rate may not always be enough to replace collagen lost or damaged.
Daily activities expose the tissues to numerous factors that accelerate breakdown of collagen fibers. Examples include exposure to the damaging UV rays from the sun, exposure to environmental pollutants, poor hydration, drugs, diseases, unhealthy foods, smoking, and much more.
The body may not have the capacity to produce lots of collagen to balance the rate of collagen damage. Aging, nutrition, hydration and health affect how well the body can replace lost or damaged collagen.
Taking collagen supplements help to replenish collagen fibers. It augments the body’s own collagen production, keeping tissues healthier and stronger against damage.
What are the benefits of collagen supplements?
Consuming collagen regularly help the body in more ways than simply keeping skin younger-looking and wrinkle-free. Gelatin or cooked collagen has many uses. People use it to improve conditions such as osteoporosis. It helps in speeding up recovery from strenuous activities such as heavy training. It also helps in speeding up recovery from sports-related injuries. It helps strengthen the bones, fingernails and the joints. It also helps keep the hair healthy.
- Improved digestion
Collagen keeps the tissues together and has soothing effects on inflammation. Adequate amounts of collage can help soothe irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract. It also helps with the repair of the mucus lining of the entire length of the digestive tract. This aids in healing the gut and keeping it healthy.
Collagen also helps the digestive system break down proteins and fats, increasing the absorption of proteins from food. By increasing the production of hyaluronic acid, Collagen increases the rate by which the stomach and intestines break down food.
All of the above promote better digestion and improved gut health.
- Weight loss
Proteins are filling and help control appetite. They help keep cravings at bay.
According to studies, collagen peptides eaten at breakfast help a person feel less hungry for the rest of the day. It is also 40% more satisfying than other types of proteins such as from soy or whey.
The great thing is that collagen powders are tasteless and can easily be added into your morning coffee!
- Improved bone and joint health
Amino acids in collagen such as proline and glycine have many functions. Among their functions are tissue repair and joint pain relief. IN fact, taking collagen supplements for joint pain is just as effective as taking drugs such as ibuprofen or cortisone, but without the usual side effects.
Glycine, for instance, helps speed up healing. Joints heal themselves on a daily basis, not just whenever there is an injury. Joints wear and tear with each day because of all the work they do in keeping our bodies mobile.
- Improved athletic performance
With improved bone and joints health, as well as better skin elasticity, performance is improved. You get to train harder and longer with less strain on your body.
Collagen also helps in recovery from exercise. Collagen in the muscles helps speed up recovery, reducing healing time needed after training. Enabling and you to get back to the action again sooner!
Glycine in collagen also helps in improving lean muscle mass. Glycine helps maintain muscle mass, as well as restore it. During recovery periods, muscle mass declines as protein from within the muscles are released to heal the tissues after intense workouts that has done damage. By adding more collagen in the body, healing and recovery is faster but without having to break down natural collagen stores within the muscles. This greatly helps preserve muscle mass.
- Improved skin health
This is the most well-known benefit from collagen. The functions of collagen is most evident in the skin. It keeps the skin supple and youthful. It helps the skin cells regenerate and keep their elasticity.
More collagen in the skin structures means it will look firmer and younger. Moisture levels increase because the skin structures becomes more efficient at retaining water within them. All in all, collagen might just be the best supplement on the market to reduce skin aging.
What about glycine?
Collagen is made up of chains of amino acids. These include the amino acids hydroxyproline, proline, alanine and glycine. By supplementing with glycine, you are feeding the body with more of these amino acids to use in the production of its own collagen.
The recommended dosage for glycine is much lower compared to collagen. The lowest dose known to produce beneficial effects is between 1 gram and 3 grams. There are known instances when intake reached up to 45 grams without producing any noticeable side effects.
Benefits of taking glycine supplements include improving cognitive functions, improve fatigue, prolonging deep restorative sleep (also an anti-aging effect) and reduce symptoms of schizophrenia.
Health, not just skin health, improves when supplementing with collagen. The anti-aging protein can help you be healthier while looking younger. To get the optimum benefits, check that the supplements you are taking are made from high quality ingredients, preferably from grass-fed animals. For aging men, collagen supplements is a must!