For us humans, aging can be a pain. Literally.
You see, as we age, our bodies break down. For instance, our bones, connective tissues, and cartilage start out strong. But in time they grow weak - which leaves us prone to joint pain and injury.
And for athletes, the trouble comes before you get old.
In fact, many athletes struggle with pain and injuries for their whole life. Worse though, injuries may force them to miss out on playing time. That is, if their injuries don’t force them into an early retirement.
But with that said, athletes aren’t the only ones at risk. Truly, anyone who lifts weights could get injured while training. And sadly, it’s just a matter of time until you get hurt.
Now, what if I told you that we could stop this madness? That really, with the right supplements, you can speed up recovery from injury. And further, that you could avoid nagging joint pains for the rest of your life.
Well, with collagen powder, that’s possible. So today you’ll learn about all the benefits of collagen for joint health. And find out how you can use collagen to keep pain at bay for good.
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Collagen is the most common protein in the human body. And it’s usually found in our skin, bones, or joints.
But it’s not only found in humans. Since for example, when you eat pig skin, you get some collagen from that too.
Sadly though, there aren’t many collagen rich foods. And as such, most of us have to supplement with collagen.
So much of the time, collagen refers to a protein supplement. That is, hydrolyzed collagen powder, or collagen hydrolysate. Which is sold in pill form as well.
You see, when you take a collagen supplement, collagen synthesis goes up. Or in other words, when you eat collagen, your body makes more collagen. It’s that basic.
And this explains why collagen powder benefits your joints. As you’ll soon learn.
But first, let’s go over the issues with joint health as we age. And why collagen synthesis matters so much for our joints:
To start off, connective tissues help connect our muscles to our bones. And above all, they make our joints strong and flexible.
Plus, our cartilage, ligaments, bones, and tendons are largely made up of collagen in dry weight. Thus, most of the protein in our joints is collagen.
But when you age, these proteins tend to break down. And sadly, collagen synthesis goes down as well. Or in other words, our bodies make less and less collagen. All the while losing more.
So, our joints break down, and they never recover. Which can lead to many issues…
In brief, aging is bad for your joints. To illustrate, the cartilage around your joints can decay as you age. Which leads to arthritis and/or joint pain. But further, our bones and joints break down faster over time too. And this leaves us prone to injuries [2,3] (e.g. broken bones or torn tendons).
Luckily though, collagen supplements can boost collagen synthesis. That is, our bodies start to make more collagen again. And the broken-down proteins in our joints get replaced.
As such, collagen powder can restore our joint health - healing any age-related damage. Hence, collagen can help fight joint pain and injuries.
Now, let’s start out with collagen powder’s effects on injury risk:
To be blunt, without collagen powder, your injury risk goes up.
This is because collagen can both heal our ligaments and tendons. But further, it helps make them stronger as well. Which is just huge for athletes.
So let’s look at two studies where collagen powder helped out with recovery from injury:
First off, this study looked at 20 athletes with Achilles tendinopathy. That is, pain, stiffness, and swelling of the Achilles tendon.
So, to speed up recovery, all athletes took part in bi-daily calf training. But, the researchers had 10 of these subjects take collagen as well. At least, before the groups switched.
After 6 months, collagen users saw faster recovery. Since in fact, they had less ankle pain, as well as less swelling than the placebo group. But further, that got them back onto the field faster too.
Now, as if that wasn’t good enough, another study matched these findings. Here, the researchers studied 50 athletes with chronic ankle instability. That is, poor ankle function, due to past strains.
Again, these athletes were split up into 2 groups. Where just one group took collagen.
Then, six months later, collagen users saw better ankle function. But further, 9 months later, they were less likely to get hurt again. That is, their ankles got more stable over time. As compared to placebo, better yet.
So, all told, collagen powder benefits your joints. Since it can help speed up recovery from connective tissue injuries, for instance. And what’s more, it may lower your risk of getting re-injured too...
Well, since we don't have many studies, we can't say for sure. But, we have some rough ideas about how collagen works in our joints:
For one, collagen may help boost ankle stiffness. Which might explain why it makes your ankles more stable. Plus, collagen has shown to boost cartilage function and thickness. All while growing our connective tissues, no less.
So combined, these factors could explain why collagen can lower your injury risk. But no matter the reason, our take-home point is clear:
If you want to speed up recovery from injury, collagen powder can help...
And it may help more so than physical therapy does:
Lastly, on top of growing our bones, collagen powder seems to protect our cartilage. And so, it helps our joints maintain their size and function as we age.
What’s more, though: since collagen powder can preserve our cartilage, it seems to help us avoid joint pain too…
To be clear, cartilage function plays a major role in joint health. And so, cartilage decay is a key feature of osteoarthritis. Which means that when the cartilage on your bones breaks down, you get arthritis.
Sadly, with age, your risk of cartilage breakdown goes up. Hence why so many old people struggle with joint pain and/or arthritis.
But luckily, collagen makes our cartilage stronger in time. And as such, collagen powder can help ease your joint pain [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12]. If not help you avoid arthritis, at that.
Most of the studies on collagen for joints just look at knee pain. But note, collagen powder can help with shoulder, back, and hip pain as well [2,3]. Or in other words, it's been shown to treat pain in many of our joints.
As such, collagen powder seems to fight joint pain in general. That is, for any body part. But, at least in the knee, hip, shoulder, and back.
For one, collagen can help athletes get rid of joint pain [2,3]. But further, it helps in those with arthritis too [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9].
And really, collagen powder can help almost anyone with joint pain. If not physical function as well [2,3,4,5,6].
So no matter your issue, if you have joint pain, collagen seems to help.
But there's a catch:
The thing is, collagen won’t be able to help all of us with joint pain [2,3,4]. As each person responds differently to collagen powder. So it may or may not work for you.
Sadly, that means some of us won’t notice any benefits. But on the bright side, it means that collagen can help many others by quite a bit...
First off, collagen can help out a ton with joint pain.
For instance, some with arthritis see complete remission  after using collagen. That is, they start taking collagen, and their arthritis goes away.
But moreover, most people [2,3] have less pain after taking collagen. So if collagen doesn’t work wonders, it can at least help you feel a little bit better.
Luckily though, nobody’s ever seen more joint pain after taking collagen. So, at worst, trying collagen won’t hurt.
All told, collagen can help you a lot!...Or, it might not help you at all. We all respond differently to collagen. But most of us (~60-70%) feel less pain when we use collagen powder.
And likewise, every joint responds differently to collagen too. Even though collagen can help with joint pain all-around.
Thus, while collagen may help you with knee pain, it might not help with your back pain. So in the end, you would just have to try it and see for yourself.
But before we wrap this part up, there’s one last thing I should note:
The above studies all used hydrolyzed collagen powder. But in fact, there’s a different type of collagen that helps with joint pain... And that’s undenatured collagen type-2 [2,3,4,5,6,7,8].
Undenatured type-2 collagen might be even better than hydrolyzed collagen for joint pain. Which means that you're less likely to have joint pain when you use undenatured collagen type-2. As compared to a just collagen powder, that is.
So, if hydrolyzed collagen powder can’t help you with joint pain, you may still be in luck. Because then you can try undenatured collagen type-2. Which is a bit more likely to help with joint pain. (Although, it may not give you all the other benefits of collagen powder. Like skin care or fat loss.)
With all the above said, there’s one more reason you might want to take collagen for injuries:
You now know that collagen powder can help you recover from joint pain and injury. But what’s more, it might keep your bones from breaking as well...
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In fact, collagen powder has shown to help with bone growth. But further, lifting weights can make your bones grow as well. And so, especially if you lift, collagen should help make your bones stronger.
But first, let’s get into why you would want more bone mass, and how collagen supplements can help.
You see, as we age, we lose bone mass. Or in other words, our bones wither away. And sadly, this often leads to bone breaks and osteoporosis.
That is, over time, your bones get weaker. And of course, weak bones are more likely to break or get hurt.
But luckily, collagen has been shown to help slow bone breakdown . Hence, hydrolyzed collagen powder can help keep your bones strong as you age.
As such, collagen powder may help you avoid age-related bone breakdown. And so, it again lowers your risk of pain and injuries.
Now, what’s really cool is that collagen can help even if you don’t train . That is, collagen still slows bone breakdown if you don’t lift weights. At least, for those with osteopenia - who’ve already lost some bone mass.
Thus, collagen powder might help a lot for those with weak bones. But what’s more, it can do so even when they don't lift weights.
Maybe better though, collagen powder boosts bone mineral density (BMD) too. And so, collagen can help boost your bone strength. Since in essence, the lower your BMD, the more likely you are to break a bone .
Hence, collagen powder can help keep your bones intact as you age. That is, it makes your bones stronger, and less likely to break.
But, you might be thinking: What if I have healthy bones?
Believe it or not, collagen boosts BMD in both osteopenic [2,3] and “normal” old women. But note, you would need to take collagen for (3-12) months before your bones will benefit.
So, within a year, collagen powder can help keep your bones strong. Whether or not you have osteopenia. And even if you don't lift weights. But now, what about athletes?
Sadly, we have few studies on collagen for athletes. Or, to be clear, all 3 studies we have on athletes lasted just a few days each [2,3].
Worse though, these studies have very different findings. Such that only one of the 3 studies shows benefits with collagen for bone health.
All told, these studies used different methods to test collagen powder. And as such, it’s hard to tell what’s going on for sure.
Right now, we don’t know whether or not collagen can help athletes with bone health. But, we do know that collagen may help you gain bone mass in general. Especially if paired with lifting.
With that said, we’ve gone through all of the research on collagen in joints. So we’ll wrap this article up and explain how you should use collagen powder for joint health:
All told, collagen powder seems to help you with joint pain and injuries.
In fact, almost every single study shows that collagen powder benefits joint health. But better, collagen has never been shown to harm joint health - it has no effect at worst. And this makes sense:
You see, when we get old, our joints breaks down. All because we lose our collagen, and can't make enough to replace it.
So sadly, with age, our joints get weak and/or achy. Thus, we’re lucky if we can avoid a broken bone or torn tendon through our later years.
But with collagen powder, our bodies make more collagen. Or in other words, collagen synthesis goes up. Thus, collagen can help restore our joint health. As collagen synthesis makes our bones and connective tissues stronger.
Hence, collagen supplements change the game for joint care. Helping us:
So there you have it. Collagen can work wonders for your joints. And most people should have it in their joint care regimen. Especially undenatured collagen type-2. If not hydrolyzed collagen powder.
But before we go, I should note that the benefits won’t stop with joint health. In fact, collagen powder has shown to help with well-being [2,3], fat loss, skin health, and maybe even muscle growth.
Thus, if you want to learn about all the other ways that collagen can help you, then read our in-depth articles on collagen and body composition or skin care.
Now, we’ll wrap this article up with some practical advice. Since after all this time, you might want to know:
How should I use collagen for joint care?
To help your injuries heal faster, take 15-20 grams of collagen, twice per day. And take at least one of those servings before you train.
To be safe, have vitamin C with collagen, as is done in studies. But note, you need not buy a vitamin C supplement.
Rather, you could just eat a fruit or vegetable with collagen before you workout. As broccoli, peppers, and kiwis each contain vitamin C, for instance.
Then, roughly an hour later, you should briefly train the target muscle group(s).
For best results, this workout should take less than 10 minutes. And of course, you should focus on working the injured joint/body part.
For example, a baseball player might target their throwing arm. Or a powerlifter might work their “pushing” muscles with light bench press.
Also, you can run this workout with light weights and limited range of motion. Truly, all you need to do is get some blood flowing to the target area.
Then, consider training twice per day, with sessions spread 6 hours apart. Each time, lifting ~60 minutes after taking a collagen supplement. As doing this should help speed up your recovery.
And lastly, it’s good to eat a leucine-rich protein source with the collagen. For example, whey protein can boost tendon growth and strength. Hence, having whey with collagen might also help speed up recovery. Especially if you have a hard time eating enough protein.
So, in practice, here's what that might look like:
Bob injures his arm. The next morning, he takes 15-20 grams of collagen, with another protein source (e.g. whey protein), and maybe some vitamin C (e.g. a kiwi).
Then, ~1 hour later, he trains the wounded area for ~8 minutes. Using light weights.
Lastly, he waits ~6 hours, before he repeats the process. And when a movement hurts, Bob just uses a shorter range of motion. Which won’t hurt him as much.
And that's it!
To get rid of joint pain, you can more or less follow the above guidelines. Do that, and you’ll be just fine.
Plus on the bright side, most studies just give people 8-12 grams of collagen powder per day. Then, after 3 months, most will have less joint pain.
So a lower dose of collagen powder (8-12 grams/day) can still work well for joint pain. Even if you don't work out.
And remember, undenatured collagen type-2 may work better than collagen powder for joint pain.
That is, unless you want all the other benefits of collagen. Such as fat loss or skin care, for instance.
Now before we wrap up, one quick note:
Fish oil has been shown to help with joint pain too [1,2,3,4,5]. So consider taking ~3 grams of fish oil (combined EPA/DHA) once daily with collagen as well.
And there you have it! That's all you need to know about collagen in joints.
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