In this article:
- Benefits of collagen for your metabolism
- Amino acids in collagen for muscle gain and a boosted metabolic rate
- Collagen to help optimize your nutrition
- Collagen for a healthy thyroid and a faster recovery from physical activity
In order to understand how collagen benefits your metabolism, we first need to understand its make up. Collagen is the body's main structural protein. Though there are 30 distinct collagen types, Type I collagen accounts for over 90% of the collagen in our bodies and is found in the body's connective tissues, blood vessels, bones, skin, tendons, and muscles. It is the most abundant protein in the body's extracellular matrix and accounts for almost half of the total protein in your body. A single collagen molecule, tropocollagen, is bound by proteoglycans and creates larger collagen fibrils. This is the most basic collagen structure which serves as the foundation for cartilage and connective tissues. Collagen contains 19 different amino acids including glycine.
Glycine and collagen go hand in hand; glycine plays a huge role in your body's collagen biosynthesis (or collagen production) and the creation of other proteins needed to keep your muscles and connective tissues strong. Glycine provides your muscles with energy which then enables you to exercise more and build more muscle mass. Because your muscles are more metabolically active than fat (even at rest), higher muscle mass also ushers in a higher metabolism and calorie-burning ability.
As you age, your body makes less and less collagen and thus, less glycine, and in turn, less biosynthesis of collagen and other vital proteins. Studies have shown that on average, our bodies do not have enough glycine to support our metabolic functions. In fact, this study also supports a recommendation for dietary supplements of collagen due to its richness in glycine and metabolic support. Collagen can influence the metabolism directly and in a variety of roundabout ways. Here are a few of the pronounced effects collagen has on boosting your metabolism.
As we mentioned before, collagen supplements can actually help to stimulate the production of more collagen through its amino acid, glycine. As you age, your body produces less and less collagen. Supplementing with collagen not only allows you to reap almost immediate benefits for your skin, muscles, and joints, it encourages future collagen formation so you have more reserves later on in life and can start taking advantage of the following metabolic benefits.
Simply put, your metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) that your body burns during the day. Research shows that for every pound of muscle that's gained, your body burns about an additional 4-7 calories per day, even while at rest.
Collagen can be a powerful sidekick in your workout routine as it helps you to build lean muscle mass and slowly increase your metabolism. This is because taking collagen may promote protein synthesis, for substances like glycine. Glycine, the amino acid found in collagen, not only helps to produce other proteins, but it also helps form muscle mass by converting glucose into energy and feeding muscle cells.
Arginine, another one of the amino acids that makes up collagen, helps to produce the protein creatine. Creatine is produced naturally in the body and provides your muscles with energy, but with insufficient levels of glycine, your muscle gain may be compromised. Last but not least, hydroxyproline, another protein component, has also been found to boost muscle cells and create larger muscle tissue! In short, when paired together, strength training and collagen supplements can lead to more lean muscle mass, thus a higher metabolic rate and more fat burning, and the cycle goes on.
All of the cross-linking benefits of collagen come into play and create synergies between each other to support your overall goals. Not only does collagen support your goals in the gym, but it can also be used to help satiate your hunger and leave you feeling fuller in between meals. Collagen peptides have been found to be 40% more satiating than other proteins and induce a 20% reduction of consumption at the next meal, meaning you also feel “full” faster. That's why collagen is a go-to supplement for intermittent fasters. Because collagen can easily be added to your favorite drinks and smoothies, this means you can stick to whatever nutrition plan you have! Collagen is especially powerful in combination with an increased intake of ascorbic acid, AKA vitamin C. Vitamin C supports the metabolism by acting as an enzyme cofactor, chemical reductant, and antioxidant. Vitamin C can protect you from conditions such as scurvy which prevents the formation of strong connective tissue. A collagen-rich diet helps to support a metabolism that works hard outside of the gym so you can work harder in it!
The thyroid gland plays a huge role in your metabolism and energy levels. This tiny gland regulates the metabolism by releasing hormones - an out-of-whack thyroid has huge implications on your metabolism and that's where collagen comes in! Many of the muscle-based, protein-rich meats we eat today like steak are loaded with amino acids tryptophan and cysteine which can have thyroid-suppressing and even toxic effects. By using a collagen supplement, it provides a protein-rich alternative for your diet that doesn't negatively affect the thyroid. Additionally, the glycine found in collagen actually helps to balance out the other amino acids tryptophan and cysteine, thus protecting your thyroid so it can work its metabolic magic! Thyroid conditions can also cause metabolic-hindrances like weight gain. By taking a collagen protein supplement, you're helping to build muscle mass while decreasing fat content, combating some of the harmful effects of thyroid disorders. Collagen can also be used to help manage other symptoms of thyroid conditions like dry skin and hair but at the same time restoring elastin to the skin!
Collagen's healing properties also do wonders for us post-workout. Collagen can help to reduce recovery time and heal connective tissue so that you can hit the gym again renewed and with more energy. Not only can collagen help our bodies to recover from the everyday wear that's placed on our bodies, but it can also drastically help the muscles to recover from injuries. Collagen deposition can even heal open wounds! Collagen fibrils work to guide fibroblasts along the connective tissue matrix and attract fibrogenic cells which help in wound healing. Collagen peptides also provide a direct source of amino acids needed for repairing muscles. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, collagen can also alleviate joint pain caused by everyday stress and injury.
Our metabolism can be a huge help or hindrance to our health goals. It's no secret that your diet holds a role equal to exercise in your overall fitness and health goals, but eating a diet that's rich in collagen protein can maximize how your metabolism works in your favor. Collagen contains powerful amino acids like glycine and arginine which have a direct effect over collagen synthesis to keep your muscles and connective tissues strong. Healthier muscles and connective tissue gives you the ability to increase muscle mass, which in turn improves your metabolic rate at which you burn calories. Not only that, these amino acids also account for a huge growth factor in the amount of proteins that can be created in the future. Collagen is also the thyroid's best friend. By keeping the thyroid healthy, you're setting yourself up for a healthier metabolism and even more lean muscle gains.
The collagen metabolism link is well documented and worth investing in. Like most things, when paired with diet and exercise, collagen can do wonders for your health and in return, it will help you to further your fitness goals. From hair growth to skin elasticity, thyroid protection, muscle mass gains, and improved recovery times, you have collagen fibers to thank for that.