Insight Update

Can your marathon build-up benefit from a collagen boost?

Dr Eva Carneiro

Last year’s London Marathon is proof alone that endurance running has become increasingly popular with participants topping 42,900.

Preparation for this year’s marathon for most entrants will be well under way by now. However, for the serious athlete running at this level more regularly can be punishing to the body and increases the susceptibility to joint related injuries.

To continue competing at this level, fast recovery is vital, so supplements like collagen to help aid repair and speed recovery time seems to be on the increase. There is evidence to suggest that collagen production degradation in the body is a contributory factor in sports-related injury.

Dr Eva Carneiro, a consultant in Sports and Exercise Medicine with over 15 years’ experience of elite sport, best known for her work at Chelsea Football Club, said: “A decline in collagen production is observed from the mid-twenties. Clinically in elite sport we observe human athletes to perhaps become more susceptible to certain injuries or experience longer recovery/return to competition time after injury in their late twenties to early thirties.

“In endurance athletes’ optimal recovery is dependent on meeting their daily protein requirement which assists muscle growth and/or recovery from the structural damage (Friedman et al1989). The interest in collagen supplementation as part of a nutritional strategy of prevention and aiding repair is therefore increasing.”

Collagen is produced naturally in the body, is a protein and the main component of connective tissue, ligaments, muscle, blood, bones and the skin. For athletes, adopting a diet to support the body during training and post training is inevitable as part of their programme, however as Dr Carneiro explains: “Marathon runners may find sustaining a well-balanced diet challenging especially as their training loads are starting to push personal boundaries. Marathon runners are exposed to environmental conditions like rising temperatures which may inhibit appetite and the desire to eat (Allison et 2009).

“It would make sense for the marathon runner to optimise his nutrition with an easily ingested, tolerable form of collagen supplementation.”

There is also evidence to suggest that ingesting a protein supplement like collagen can help repair muscles and increase recovery after exercise, but there have also been various studies conducted to look at the further benefits of athletes, taking a collagen supplement.

However, Dr Carneiro said: “There is still limited data available in this field and there is a need for larger and longer clinical term studies particularly on the use of higher doses of collagen and its effect on degenerative joint condition, injury prevention and performance. However, there are no reported adverse effects of collagen supplementation particularly if ingested with food.”

A study conducted at Penn State University saw a significant improvement in activity-related joint pain among athletes that were supplementing with 10g of collagen daily. The study from the California at Davis suggests that collagen with a small amount of vitamin C might support the body’s natural ability to produce collagen, critical to the structure of many of the tissues essential to sports performance.

Certainly, when the body is being pushed to its limits like a marathon paying heed to the right fuel is paramount for the body to both cope and recover, so it would seem that the inclusion of a supplemental collagen boost in the marathon build-up would be highly beneficial and easily accepted by the body.

Dr Carneiro added: Our digestive system recognises collagen hydrolysate as containing the necessary composite building blocks that maintain the integrity of its tissues. If price considerations are tolerable, adding nutrients at a time of high physical stress and demand like marathon training would be advisable.”

Dr Eva Carnerio is an advisor to TRR Nutrition and works in conjunction with a leading sports nutritionist. TRR was originally developed based on her research for Andy Murray to support his journey back to top level tennis.

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