Why Does ENHANCED RECOVERY™ Contain Collagen?

Dr. Bob Murray on the Role of Collagen in ENHANCED RECOVERY™ Omega-3 Sports Drink

Why would Enhanced Recovery™, an innovative sports nutrition product using a blend of omega-3 fatty acids, whey protein, and other ingredients, contain an old-school ingredient such as collagen?  After all, collagen has long been considered an inferior protein because its essential amino acid content is low in comparison to other food proteins.  Well, it turns out that existing and emerging research results are producing compelling evidence that there is an unappreciated and important upside to consuming collagen. Collagen proteins are the most abundant type of protein in the human body, comprising about 30% of the body’s total protein mass (Ricard-Blum 2011).  Not only are skin, tendons, ligaments, and bone rich in collagen proteins, an extensive framework of collagen proteins support the infrastructure surrounding individual muscle cells, the fascia that encases all muscles, and the entire extracellular matrix.  Collagen is not just a single type of protein but a complex family of protein types, all of which are distinguished by the presence of strong-yet-flexible triple-helix molecular structures.

The most abundant collagens in humans are fibrillar collagens that create the structure, shape, and mechanical properties of tissues throughout the body, with skin and ligaments being two notable examples (Ricard-Blum 2011).  Collagens are not simply inert structural molecules but have a wide range of interactions with adjacent cells.

As with all other proteins consumed in the diet, collagen is digested in the small intestine into individual amino acids as well as small collagen peptides of 2 to 8 amino acids. (Sato)  Those peptides can be absorbed intact and transported to cells throughout the body.  There is good evidence that collagen peptides are the bioactive fragments that promote an increase in collagen production (Shaw et al.), a decrease in joint pain (Clark et al. 2008; Praet et al. 2019; Zdzieblik et al. 2017), and an increase in bone mineral density. (Konig et al. 2018)  Of added interest are reports that collagen supplementation is associated with improvements in muscle mass and strength following resistance training.  Zdzieblik et al. (2015) reported that collagen supplementation (15 g/d for 12 weeks) improved fat-free mass and muscle strength and reduced fat mass in older men who participated in three sessions of resistance training each week compared to a matched group that consumed placebo.  Similar findings have been reported in female subjects ages 18-50 (Jendricke et al. 2019) and in young male subjects (mean age = 24 y). (Oertzen-Hagermann et al. 2019). It should be noted that the increase in fat-free mass associated with collagen feeding reported by Zdzieblik et al. (2015)—an average of +5.6 kg; 12 lb—is substantially greater than the gains reported by Jendricke et al. (2019) (+0.6 kg; 1.3 lb) and by Oertzen-Hagermann et al. (2019) (+1.9 kg; 4.2 lb). All three studies fed subjects 15 grams of collagen peptides each day and used 12-week programs of strength training, so the study of Zdzieblik et al. (2015) should be considered an outlier until additional information becomes available.

Research on the benefits of collagen intake for athletes is in its infancy, but existing research points to the strong possibility of promising future results with important practical benefits for athletes.  As just one example, the fact that collagen synthesis increases in parallel with muscle protein synthesis (Miller et al. 2005) speaks to the importance of collagen as part of the adaptive response to training, additional evidence of the unappreciated importance of collagen as a dietary component and one reason why Enhanced Recovery™ contains a blend of omega-3 fatty acids, whey proteins, and collagen (gelatin) peptides.

Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, et al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008;24(5):1485-1496.

Jendricke P, Centner C, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A, Konig D. Specific collagen peptides in combination with resistance training improve body composition and regional muscle strength in premenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):1-12.

Konig D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women – a randomized controlled study. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):1-11.

Miller BF, Olesen JL, Hansen M, et al. Coordinated collagen and muscle protein synthesis in human patella tendon and quadriceps muscle after exercise. J Physiol. 2005;567(Pt 3):1021-1033.

Oertzen-Hagemann V, Kirmse M, Eggers B, et al. Effects of 12 weeks of hypertrophy resistance exercise training combined with collagen peptide supplementation on the skeletal muscle proteome in recreationally active men. Nutrients. 2019;11(5).

Praet SFE, Purdam CR, Welvaert M, et al. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides combined with calf-strengthening exercises enhances function and reduces pain in achilles tendinopathy patients. Nutrients. 2019;11(1).

Ricard-Blum S. The collagen family. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2011;3(1):1-19.

Sato K. The presence of food-derived collagen peptides in human body-structure and biological activity. Food & Function. 2017;8(12):4325-4330.

Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Amer J Clin Nutr. 2017;105(1):136-143.

Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, Konig D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Brit J Nutr. 2015;114(8):1237-1245.

Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Gollhofer A, Konig D. Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017;42(6):588-595.