Should you take a collagen supplement?

A young, male soccer athletic stretching his hamstring on a soccer field with a black ISN shaker bottle next to him.

What is collagen? A recently popular nutritional supplement on the market today, collagen can be found embedded on the shelves of grocery and convenience stores. But what exactly is this supplement, and what are its effects on the body? In today’s blog post from Innovative Sports Nutrition, we are going to dive deeper into collagen and why it may just be a beneficial supplement for you.

What is collagen?

Collagen is a protein, one of the most abundant proteins found in your body, actually. This protein is found all throughout your body: in your bones, muscles, blood, and skin. It is produced by the body naturally. However as you age, the collagen naturally produced by your body starts to break down, and the production of it in your body starts to slowly decrease. Just like every other protein in the body, collagen is produced by the combination of amino acids, which, as a reminder, are the building blocks of all proteins. In order for your body to produce collagen, which plays a role in keeping your joints healthy and your skin stretchy, your body needs all of the following nutrients, minerals, and amino acids: proline, glycine, vitamin C, zinc, and copper. So, even though collagen production comes naturally to your body, there are other key elements your body needs to produce this collagen. That is why, as I always say, nutrient supplementation works best when paired with a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle. 

What are the effects of collagen?

Collagen, due to its fiber-like structure, is used in the body to generate connective tissue. Connective tissue is tissue that gives support, protection, and structure to other organs in the body. Connective tissue also helps in the storage of fat, the movement of nutrients, and the repairment of damaged tissue. Therefore, as you may imagine, this connective tissue is a key element needed for your bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and skin. It provides these tissues with the ability to stay stretchy and strong, so that they can withstand whatever trauma they may endure, whether that be from everyday walking or intense physical activity. 

Where is collagen found?

Animals and fish are huge providers of collagen due to their connective tissue. You can find collagen naturally in the meats or the fish you may consume. But not only that, there are plenty of plant-based foods that can provide you with collagen as well. Leafy greens such as spinach, kalem and other salad greens, being one of these plant foods. These greens can increase your levels of collagen in the body. Berries, citrus, and tropical fruits can also boost your collagen levels. Check out this article from Healthline to learn more about what different foods to eat if you are looking to add more collagen to your diet. 

Why do I need a collagen supplement?

As the years go by and our bodies grow older, the production of collagen in your body starts to slowly diminish. However, this is not the only reason collagen production may start decreasing rapidly within your body. Are you someone who receives too much sun exposure on a daily basis? Are you a smoker or excessive alcohol drinker? Are you someone who frequently suffers from lack of sleep and exercise? These are all environmental factors that affect collagen production in a negative way within your body. These types of exposures damage collagen fibers by reducing their thickness and strength, says an article from Harvard’s Nutrition Source produced by their School of Public Health, which can be found by clicking right here. This damage to collagen fibers causes wrinkles on your skin’s surface.  

What are the benefits of taking a collagen supplement?

Collagen supplementation has many benefits on one’s body. There is a reason it has become such a popular supplement on the market today. Collagen has been scientifically proven to improve the growth and health of one’s hair, skin, and nails. More easily said, collagen can be taken for its anti-aging properties. Who doesn’t want to preserve their “fountain of youth”? Due to the effectiveness of oral collagen supplements on the body’s ability to absorb these pills, powders, or foods containing high amounts of collagen, collagen supplementation has flown through the roof. Not only this, many collagen supplements also contain other key vitamins, minerals, or nutrients that add their own benefits to the human body. Vitamin C, biotin, zinc, amino acids, and protein are just some examples of these added ingredients. 

Collagen has also been scientifically proven to reduce joint pain and increase joint mobility, as I mentioned earlier in this article. Athletes, especially those who are or have been suffering from osteoarthritis, could potentially benefit from adding a collagen supplement to their diet. However, as I’ll say again, collagen supplementation for anyone will work the best when it is implemented into a diet that is already focused on receiving adequate amounts of sleep, exercise, and nutrition. 

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