Collagen Nutrition for Ultra-Runners and Ultra-Endurance Athletes

December 17, 2020

Collagen Nutrition for Ultra-Runners and Ultra-Endurance Athletes

In this article:

  • Collagen is necessary to support joints, muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, skin, and gut lining
  • Specific benefits of collagen for runners
  • How to prevent & overcome running injuries
  • How to strengthen the gut
  • Enhance energy levels & maintain healthy weight

Collagen for athletes of all kinds

When people think of protein powder, their minds typically go to husky weightlifters building muscle mass. Sure, collagen can help you do that; It is the most abundant protein in the human body after all. However, the reality is that collagen can do much more to increase your performance in whatever sport you compete in, and ultra-endurance sports are definitely included.

Collagen is a building block for all the connective tissues in the human body. It supports your muscles, joints, ligaments, blood vessels, bones, skin, and gut lining (and this isn't even an exhaustive list). As we age and grow into our sport, our rate of collagen synthesis is decreasing which could have a negative impact on our joint pain, injury recovery times, and overall performance.

Enter - collagen supplementation. 16 different types of collagen can be found throughout the body, but types I, II, and III are the big three when it comes to building lean muscle mass, improving joint pain, and restoring skin elasticity. When taken orally, collagen proteins break down into their amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These amino acids then help to stimulate further collagen production in the human body to restore our collagen levels and strengthen our connective tissues. Runners and athletes of all kinds place additional stress and strain on their joints, muscles, and connective tissues yet rely on them the most to excel in their sport.

The benefits of collagen for runners

Balancing your nutrition is just as crucial as strength training when it comes to running. Collagen supplements act as a powerful antioxidant to combat your body's natural degradation of collagen and support the health of all the moving pieces that go into a great run - the muscles, joints, tendons, bones, heart, and gut.

Prevent and Overcome Running Injuries

Most running injuries are the result of pushing yourself too far. Running long distances is in the very nature of endurance runners, so the risk of becoming injured is much higher. Collagen supplements, however, can help you avoid running injuries altogether by increasing your collagen levels and strengthening the parts of the body that are commonly injured as a result of overexertion. During the training period, collagen can be taken as a pre-workout supplement to boost your collagen synthesis post-workout. In fact, studies have shown that consuming 10-15g of collagen alongside vitamin c on a daily basis can double your collagen synthesis after a workout. This makes for a speedy recovery from common injuries like shin splints, ankle sprains, muscle pulls, stress fractures, and runner's knee.  

Poor joint health can become exacerbated by prolonged strain on the joints and knees, especially when running long distances. Luckily, collagen has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to manage joint pain and get you back on your feet again. It's recommended that you take a collagen supplement an hour before each workout to help boost your post-run muscle recovery.

Strengthen the gut

Research has shown that 60 to 96 percent of ultra-athletes experience bothersome gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, bloating, and stomach pain in workouts lasting four or more hours. This is because when we run, our blood flow is redirected away from the gut, to the muscles in our legs that are powering us through. This can cause problems with digestion and lead to the abovementioned symptoms. Just like athletes are encouraged to consume plenty of carbs during their training period, collagen may help to strengthen the gut and alleviate the symptoms of IBS to help you get through the race.

Enhanced energy levels

Glycine, one of the primary amino acids found in collagen, has been found to increase energy levels which can help you mentally and physically as you power through an endurance race.