Fitness from within

Collagen peptides offer added value to athletes

The food industry had already recognized the potential of collagen peptides in the 1970s. Since then, collagen peptides have been added to functional foods and supplements as a pure ingredient of greater nutritional value. Perfectly in sync with the modern age, where foods are expected to do a lot more than just satisfy hunger. 

Popular in bars and shakes

Sports nutrition is one of the main areas in which it has become common practice to add collagen peptides to products such as protein bars or shakes. However, these are also products that have to meet more stringent consumer demands: they have to taste good, not weigh the body down and have been tested for safety.

Collagen peptides are ideal for modern sports nutrition and are neutral in flavor, which means that they do not leave a bitter aftertaste that has to be masked in the final product, for example through sugar or artificial sweeteners, as is often the case with soy, whey or other protein hydrolysates. Collagen peptides have been scientifically tested, have no undesirable side effects and are not known to elicit allergic reactions*. The white powder is easy to dissolve in cold liquids. It emulsifies, foams, adds consistency, binds and improves the shelf life of products. 

Collagen peptides have shown to be absorbed and “processed” extremely well by the body. In cereal bars, for example, the protein replaces unwelcome carbohydrates and sticky sugars as a binding agent. The amino acids it contains further promote the impact of the sports activity. Collagen peptides increase the protein fraction, thus extending the period of satiation and making it easier to maintain a certain weight, facilitates muscle development in the body and have a regenerative and preventive effect on the joint cartilage. 

Proteins make the difference

Fifteen to 20 per cent of the human body is made up of a range of different proteins. However, in contrast to carbohydrates and fat, the body cannot store these and also cannot generate many of the proteins by itself. Collagen is one of the most important of these proteins. It makes up approximately 30 per cent of the total protein deposits in the human body and is primarily found in connective tissue such as bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin. The more protein a body expends through physical exertion, the greater its need for an external source, for example in the form of special dietary supplements such as protein shakes, energy bars or sports drinks. Studies** have shown that products fortified with collagen peptides can promote joint health and bone synthesis. 

There is strength in repose

Many recreational athletes train according to the motto “more is more”. Unfortunately, what they often forget in doing so is that the body also needs rest. In fact, engaging in sports without sufficient regeneration periods can even have a negative effect. After all, the body adapts to training stimuli during recovery phases, which means that muscles do not grow during exercise, but during periods of rest and regeneration. It is therefore not only essential to offer the body relaxation in the form of a massage or a trip to the sauna, but also to supply it with the proper nutrients after every workout.

Next to carbohydrates, athletes primarily need proteins to keep their organisms from breaking down instead of building up endogenous protein structures such as the muscles. Proteins like collagen peptides supply the body with the building blocks essential for the development of endogenous proteins, the formation of muscle tissue and the renewal of cells. Many athletes do not feel like eating immediately after completing a strenuous workout. In this case, beverages rich in protein are the ideal solution and supply the body with the necessary nutrients faster than solid foods. After all: beverages that contain such additives as collagen peptides in addition to electrolytes and carbohydrates help athletes recharge their batteries faster and make optimal use of rest periods.

 

Collagen peptides can be taken before and after exercising:

  • Studies** have shown that ingesting creatine while doing sports helps improve performance during short training intervals by helping athletes build up muscle mass. Creatine is a molecule that is made up of three amino acids: glycine, arginine and methionine. Collagen peptides, which are made up of 20 per cent glycine and 8 per cent arginine, can positively influence the development of creatine in the body. 
  • Several studies** have shown the beneficial effect of ingesting even small doses of dietary supplements containing arginine during a sports activity. A daily dose of 10 grams of collagen produces almost a gram of arginine per day and may thus promote athletic performance. 
  • And, as a special bonus, it is also said to have a positive effect on the physical appearance: it strengthens the connective tissue, skin, nails and hair. This is why collagen peptides are also available as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules or liquid ampoules.

Functional Foods for joint health

The life expectancy of humans all over the globe has markedly increased over the past decades. Although many of the so-called “golden agers” lead an active lifestyle, there are also many whose quality of life is impaired by physical complaints. In addition to joint and bone diseases, these include obesity and malnourishment. Collagen peptides can help prevent these disorders or alleviate their effects – for a mobile and active lifestyle in old age.

Dietary supplements containing active ingredients such as collagen peptides, which protect healthy cartilage from degeneration, are growing in importance because laboratory studies have shown that they can stimulate the synthesis of collagen and proteoglycan. Numerous clinical studies as well have substantiated the positive effect of this active ingredient on joint health. Experimental research has shown that following oral administration, collagen peptides are absorbed by the body through the intestinal walls and then primarily taken up by the joint cartilage, where they stimulate the generation of collagen in the cartilage cells. The cartilage substance is thus able to regenerate naturally, which counteracts the wear and tear on the joints. 

Taking collagen peptides is recommended to support joint health. Those afflicted benefit long-term in an improved joint mobility and increased resilience of the joints, which often leads to a reduction in the number of pain relievers that must be taken. Many products containing collagen peptides are available as ready-to-drink dietary supplements or powders.

Even formerly healthy and energetic people can experience a loss of mobility and strength after they reach the age of 60. These changes can be caused by excessive muscular degeneration that increases with advancing age and a loss of muscle strength. Many factors can lead to this condition, which is known as sarcopenia; the exact causes have yet to be conclusively established. In addition to other factors, lifestyle and nutrition play an important role: this far too rapid degeneration of muscle is exacerbated by insufficient exercise and a lack of energy, proteins and nutrients in the diet. 

To counteract this, older people should not only exercise regularly, but also make sure they are eating enough protein on a daily basis. As aging muscles respond with less sensitivity to the respective messenger substances, older people require more of the essential amino acids to stimulate muscle synthesis*. Thus, persons over 65 should ingest approximately 1.2 grams of protein for every kilo of body weight each day, in doses evenly distributed throughout the day. 

Another important factor is the type of protein. The essential amino acids, and especially leucine, are necessary to stimulate the synthesis of muscle proteins. These amino acids must be taken in through the diet, as the body cannot synthesize them by itself. Food and dietary supplements enriched with protein can improve the protein supply. One example is collagen, which is one of the most important building blocks of the body. Thanks both to the amino acids it contains as well as its wide range of administration forms, collagen peptides are especially ideal as a dietary supplement for older people. Some products offer the building block by itself, others mix it into a special vitamin cocktail that contains other nutrients.

*Prof Dr D. Volkert: Die Rolle der Ernährung zur Prävention von Sarkopenie und Frailty (The Role of Nutrition in the Prevention of Sarcopenia and Frailty), Schweizer Zeitschrift für Ernährungsmedizin (Swiss Magazine for Nutritional Medicine), 4/2009; Dr A. Immel-Sehr: Gewichtsverlust bei alten Menschen (Weight Loss in the Elderly), Pharmazeutische Zeitung online (Pharmaceutical Newspaper online), 23/2013, and others.

Osteoporosis (bone atrophy) and its precursor osteopenia are diseases that are especially common in women after menopause. The bones become more brittle and their microarchitecture changes. Two types of cells play an essential role in this: osteoblasts and osteoclasts. The former synthesise bones, the latter break them down. While bone formation predominates in younger years, bone resorption gradually takes over from about 40 years of age. Moreover, during menopause, bone metabolism may also change with a decline in the level of the female hormone estrogen, thereby accelerating the degenerative process.

A dietary supplement containing collagen peptides can help reduce the bone degradation process. Medical studies* have shown that a daily dose of at least 8 grams of collagen peptides, when taken over a period of at least three months, can improve bone metabolism.

*Guillerminet, F., Beaupied, H., Fabien-Soulé, V., Tomé, D., Benhamou, C-L., Blachier, F., Roux, C. and Blais, A. 2010. Collagen peptide improves bone metabolism and biomechanical parameters in ovariectomized mice: An in vitro and in vivo study. Bone, 46: 827–834.

* Collagen peptides have no allergy labelling except when fish derived or in Japan.

**Jiang J.X. et al., 2014, Collagen peptides improve knee osteoarthritis in elderly women: A 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech, 25:19-23

Dar, Q. et al., 2017. Daily oral consumption of hydrolyzed type 1 collagen is chondroprotective and anti-inflammatory in murine posttraumatic osteoarthritis. PLoS ONE 12(4):e0174705

Guillerminet, F. et al., 2012, Hydrolyzed collagen improves bone status and prevents bone loss in ovariectomized C3H/HeN mice. Osteoporosis International, 23(7):1909-1919