BCAAs & Collagen: A High-Performance Combination - Amandean

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March 10, 2021 8 min read

In this article:

  • What are BCAAs and why do we need them?
  • The role of collagen in our health
  • Why combine BCAAs and collagen?

We’re not always in the mood to hit that treadmill, or power through that last set of squats - and that’s okay! Peak performance and personal bests don’t happen everyday. We all have off days, and recovery is just as important (and sometimes even more important) as the activities themselves. If you gathered the strength to do your workout but you weren’t 100% into it - just remember that the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do, so don’t beat yourself up over it.

But what happens when you feel motivated to break out of your comfort zone and push your limits, but your body doesn’t seem to be up for it? If your streak of low-energy days continues and becomes more than just a phase, it might be a signal that your body is missing something it really needs. As always, it’s important to look at your nutrition as one of the main answers. Since the body requires consistent and high quality fuel in order to reach and maintain a certain level of performance, what we put into the tank really matters. If you’re looking to boost your energy, promote your performance, and protect your ligaments and joints from potential injury, you should consider the powerful combo of BCAAs & Collagen.

What are BCAAs & why do we need them?

BCAAs, short for branched-chain amino acids, are essential amino acids, which means that they cannot be synthesized in the human body. The three groups of BCAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, must be obtained through dietary sources. Because amino acids are the building blocks of protein, their role is an important one. [1]

BCAAs account for a substantial portion of the amino acids found in the body - 35-40% of the total amino acid amount actually. [2] The recognized role of these amino acids in fitness and bodybuilding is based on the fact that 14-18% of the muscular amino acid structure are precisely BCAAs. [2] Yet another significant difference between other amino acids and BCAAs is the fact that they’re mostly broken down in the muscle, not the liver, contributing to the overall energy production during physical activity. [2]

BCAA supplements represent an integral part of nutrition for athletes, including runners, triathletes, and cyclists. [13] Given that BCAAs play a vital role in endurance, muscle synthesis, recovery (both after a workout and after a sports injury), and regulation of soreness, it is no wonder professional athletes and recreational athletes alike, rely heavily on these supplements. Whether it’s in the gym cross-training, working on muscle gain, or out on the pavement, they’re an athlete’s BFF.[13]

But, do you really need a BCAA supplement if you’re not doing any endurance training? While your muscles may not be under so much pressure when swimming, spinning, pilates, and aerobics, the truth is that you can benefit from BCAAs in your diet. Regardless of the duration and the impact of the activity, your muscles could always use some “help” when it comes to recovery and protein synthesis, and you’ll certainly benefit from the energy boost and reduced fatigue!

One way to implement BCAA’s into nutrition is during workouts. If you’re experiencing fatigue when you exercise, try adding BCAAs to your water bottle as they have been shown to reduce both physical and mental fatigue. [2] A study conducted by A. B. Gualano and colleagues found that participants who consumed a BCAA supplement during exercise experienced less fatigue, and were able to endure a 17% longer workout than the placebo group. [3]

Another way you may benefit from BCAA supplementation is by adding them to your post-workout nutrition, especially if you’ve been going hard and need to optimize recovery time. BCAAs have been found to lower the levels of the muscle-damaging enzymes creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase, thus protecting muscles and promoting recovery. [2] What’s more, participants of certain studies have reported a significant decrease (up to 33%) in muscle soreness after taking a post-workout BCAAs supplement. [2]

When it comes to healthy weight loss, building lean muscle while reducing body fat is one of the primary goals. BCAA supplementation has been found to do just that: support the lean muscle-building process while simultaneously decreasing the body fat percentage. [1]

The role of collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, often referred to as the glue that holds the body together. [3] This hard, fibrous, structural protein accounts for one-third of the entire amount of protein in the human body, and consists of long fibrils of molecules. While there are ~16 different types of collagen, you’ll mostly come across type I, II, and III in supplement form, as they make up 80-90% of all collagen. [3] Type I collagen, mostly found in connective tissues, is gram-by-gram stronger than steel - which explains collagen’s irreplaceable structural role in the body. It’s literally the “glue” that holds us together! [3]

Collagen protein is undoubtedly the number one factor in skin health as we age, as it accounts for three-quarters of our dry skin weight, a study conducted by M. D. Shoulders and colleagues suggests. [4] Supplementing with collagen on a daily basis has been shown to improve numerous skin parameters, including hydration and elasticity. As a result, the skin is hydrated, the texture is less visible, and the depth of fine lines and wrinkles is decreased. [5]

By maintaining the integrity of cartilage, collagen is protecting the joints and decreasing the risk of numerous degenerative joint conditions, including osteoarthritis. What’s more, supplementing with a quality collagen product has been found to ease joint pain and inflammation, making mobility easier. [5] Collagen is also largely present in bone structure and health. Supplementing with collagen may help in inhibiting the breakdown of bones and promote bone mineral density. [5]

Collagen accounts for 1-10% of muscle mass and it is a vital factor in muscle functioning and growth. [5] In combination with resistance training, collagen supplementation has been shown to enhance both muscle strength and mass significantly. What’s more, a study conducted by D. Zdzieblik et al. suggests that collagen may even boost muscle mass in people with sarcopenia. [6]

Supplementing with collagen is not only a convenient, effortless way to stay on top of your protein intake, but also an ideal companion for weight loss nutrition. The extra protein you get by taking a daily collagen supplement can help to keep you feeling fuller, longer. This happens as a result of increasing the satiety hormone which then reduces those annoying hunger episodes. [7] What’s more, collagen plays a significant role in gut health, which is not only related to weight loss, but also mood, digestion, and sleep. The amino acids found in hydrolyzed collagen, such as glycine and proline, have been found to support the healing process of the intestinal mucosal walls, while also reducing inflammation that causes the damage in the first place. [8]

Why BCAAs and collagen together?

As we’ve already mentioned, both BCAAs and collagen peptides contain the necessary amino acids which act as building blocks in protein synthesis. As we age, this synthesis slows. What starts as a 30% whole-body protein turnover becomes 20% by the age of 70. [9] As a result of this change, we require more protein per body weight as we get older, and supplementation is the most straight-forward, effective way to boost protein levels. [9

Both BCAAs and collagen powder play an important role in muscle growth and overall muscle health. What’s more, by enhancing lean muscle mass, these supplements are promoting a healthy metabolismand aiding in fat loss. The more muscles you have - the more fat your body is able to burn efficiently, and consequently, your metabolic rate goes up! Therefore, if you’re looking to burn some excess body fat and lose weight in a sustainable way, this is the combination you might want to try.

BCAAs and collagen also make a great duo when it comes to pre-workout nutrition. As we’ve already discussed, BCAA supplements have been found to reduce both mental and physical fatigue, allowing you to push yourself harder during workouts. On the other hand, a collagen-infused pre-workout shake will leave you feeling satiated and energized, as opposed to a meal that could cause sleepiness, bloating, and low-energy.

On the flip side, why not try this supplement combo for post-workout recovery? Both supplements are crucial for the recovery of muscles and tendons, and especially useful if you’re suffering through sore muscles. BCAAs have been found to reduce post-workout inflammation and decrease soreness, while also stimulating protein synthesis and inhibiting muscle breakdown after strenuous exercise. [10] On the other hand, collagen too has been found to accelerate post-exercise muscle recovery, reduce soreness, and protect the muscles from exercise-induced damage. [11]

Sarcopenia is a condition that develops as a result of progressive loss of skeletal muscles, affecting both muscle mass and strength. It’s a condition that affects many middle-aged and older adults when muscles begin to atrophy. A study conducted by C. H. Ko and colleagues found that protein supplementation and BCAAs, in combination with low-intensity resistance training, can stimulate muscle synthesis and alleviate the symptoms of sarcopenia. [12]

Summary Points

  • Given that BCAAs play a vital role in endurance, muscle synthesis, recovery (both after a workout and after a sports injury), and regulation of soreness, it is no wonder professional athletes and recreational athletes alike, rely heavily on these supplements
  • BCAAs have been found to reduce fatigue, promote muscle recovery, and aid in reducing body fat while promoting muscle mass
  • Collagen accounts for 1-10% of muscle mass and it is a vital factor in muscle functioning and growth
  • BCAAs and collagen promote lean muscle building, protein synthesis, and are ideal for pre- and post-workout nutrition
Article References:
  1. BCAAs: Benefits of branched-chain amino acids. (2019, March 2). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from www.medicalnewstoday.com website: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324605
  2. Petre, A. (2016, November 25). BCAA Benefits: A Review of Branched-Chain Amino Acids. Retrieved from Healthline website: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bcaa
  3. Gualano, A. B., Bozza, T., Lopes De Campos, P., Roschel, H., Dos Santos Costa, A., Luiz Marquezi, M., Benatti, F., & Herbert Lancha Junior, A. (2011). Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 51(1), 82–88.
  4. Shoulders, M. D., & Raines, R. T. (2009). Collagen structure and stability. Annual review of biochemistry, 78, 929–958. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.biochem.77.032207.120833
  5. Elliott, B. (2018, April 6). Top 6 Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements. Retrieved from Healthline website: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen-benefits
  6. Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Baumstark, M. W., Gollhofer, A., & König, D. (2015). Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. The British journal of nutrition, 114(8), 1237–1245. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114515002810
  7. Can Collagen Really Help You Lose Weight? (n.d.). Retrieved from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/food-junkie/201803/can-collagen-really-help-you-lose-weight
  8. Gut Health & Collagen - A True Love Story | Sproos Enhanced Collagen Supplements. (2018, February 1). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from Sproos website: https://sprooslife.com/gut-health-collagen-love-story/
  9. Chernoff R. (2004). Protein and older adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(6 Suppl), 627S–630S. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719434
  10. When Should You Take BCAAs? (n.d.). Retrieved from Healthline website: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/when-to-take-bcaa#benefits
  11. Clifford, T., Ventress, M., Allerton, D.M. et al. The effects of collagen peptides on muscle damage, inflammation and bone turnover following exercise: a randomized, controlled trial. Amino Acids 51, 691–704 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-019-02706-5
  12. Ko, C. H., Wu, S. J., Wang, S. T., Chang, Y. F., Chang, C. S., Kuan, T. S., Chuang, H. Y., Chang, C. M., Chou, W., & Wu, C. H. (2020). Effects of enriched branched-chain amino acid supplementation on sarcopenia. Aging, 12(14), 15091–15103. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.103576 



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