Collagen has a unique amino acid composition and a distinct role in human anatomy. For instance, collagen protein is a more concentrated source of glycine, proline, and the modified amino acid hydroxyproline, as compared to other dietary proteins, making it a potentially more effective choice when the clinical goal is related to collagen as a structural protein.
According to a study published last Thursday in Nutrients, researchers demonstrated the efficacy of specific collagen supplementation in improving body composition in active men. This double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial consisted of 57 active men over a twelve-week period. Each individual participated in weight training 3 times a week and supplemented with 15 grams of collagen peptides or a placebo. Assessments included strength testing, bioimpedance analysis (BIA) and muscle biopsies. Pre-training biopsies were taken, followed by a second one to analyze the acute effects of collagen peptide supplementation and training.
Results showed a significant increase in fat free mass compared to the placebo. In addition, body fat mass was unchanged in the collagen supplementation group compared to a significant increase in the placebo group.
One of the novelties of this study was the use of biopsies. Although the muscle fiber cross-sectional area was not significantly different between the groups, the increase in the fat free mass after the collagen supplementation was not only associated with hypertrophy of the contractile muscle cells but possibly an increase in connective tissue compared to the placebo group.
Many people often think of whey protein or branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for improving body composition and preserving lean tissue mass, as leucine is the most potent amino acid to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. While this is true, collagen peptides have been receiving more and more attention in this area. However, it is difficult to consume adequate amounts of collagen through diet alone, as its richest sources—animal skins, bone broth, and tendons— are not typically part of the modern Western diet.
The body is not only composed of complete proteins, but is 25% to 30% collagen. Collagen protein is renewed at comparable rates to other proteins in the body, such as in muscle. It is important to note that collagen also makes up a significant component of many tissues such as 65% to 80% in tendons, 70% in ligaments, and 50% in cartilage. This is significant because many musculoskeletal injuries are tendon tears, so it makes sense for anyone living an active lifestyle to obtain adequate collagen through supplementation.
Other areas where collagen supplementation may be of benefit include skin health, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, blood pressure, and insulin resistance. It important to use a quality collagen supplement backed by research, and is a low molecular weight to optimize absorption and efficacy.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS
Source: Kirmse M, Oertzen-Hagemann V, et al. Prolonged Collagen Peptide Supplementation and Resistance Exercise Training Affects Body Composition in Recreationally Active Men. Nutrients. 2019 May 23;11(5).