The question you need to answer is should runners take collagen? This has been a growing trend. And sometimes you’re not sure whether you should take supplements or not. Well, I’m Jesse Funk, and on today’s episode of Runner’s High, we’re going to tackle this question head on.
First, let’s try to figure out what the heck is collagen? Why is this a thing? Well, collagen is inside your body, it supports your skin, the elasticity of your skin, it supports your joints, it’s in your muscles, it’s in blood. In our particular case, we’re interested in whether we should take collagen because we want good joint health, we don’t want to pull muscles, tear tendons, have joint issues because we need our joints to run, right? We use our -- pretty much our entire body to move through space. And having any of them as a weak point can be a big issue.
Now, you’re here in this video probably because you’ve heard about collagen and you’re thinking, well, maybe that could help me, maybe I need it, maybe it can make me a better runner. And you’re not alone. If you take a look at this graph with all the Google Trends and you can see the amount of people, the trend of people searching for collagen supplements in the last five years has definitely been picking up. It is a trend all over the place. It’s all over Instagram. So, should you pick up something like this nice collagen supplement which belongs to my lovely wife and take it to make you a better runner?
Now what I want to think about joint health, actually trying to think back, who would I rely on to know about joint health? Who would I rely on to know whether this should be real or not? Here, you’re in this video, you’re asking me this question or you’re looking for answers from me and maybe in particular. But I’m not necessarily the best expert. I do do research for these videos and I came across what should have been a simple thing for me to think about. My guests back on episode 30 of the Smart Athlete Podcast is a show I do here on this channel. If you’d like to check those out, hit that subscribe button, stick around. But my guest Dr. Keith Barr, he is actually the most popular episode I’ve ever had on the Smart Athlete Podcast back in Episode 30. I will link to him at the end of this video so you can watch that if you want.
He is the go-to guy if you want to talk about athletic health and joints. Joints, tendons, that’s kind of his specialty and knowing what happens with them. Now, during this research, I saw a quote from him that really kind of hit it home why we should possibly take collagen or basically why collagen is important for us. And that is because if we are inactive, collagen is reduced inside our bodies. Meaning that our joints become weaker through inactivity.
This has been a particular problem for many of us through COVID and stay at home; people not been going to the gym, which is perfectly fine because gyms have not necessarily been the best place to be if you want to avoid getting COVID. And we’ve kind of given up on working out like normal, a lot of us.
So, there are people returning back to the sport, returning back to running, or maybe for some other reason. Maybe you’re watching this in the future, and we’ve dealt with COVID and it’s not a big deal anymore. That’s awesome. I’m glad to hear, I’m glad you’re still here. But in any case, if you’ve taken time off and you come back, your joints aren’t going to be as strong as they were before because of the loss of collagen. And if you come back to activity quickly, this leads you to the potential for injury. Meaning you can rupture a tendon or pull muscle much more easily because of these weakened joints.
Now, the upside is that as Dr. Barr says, activity, in our case running, actually increases the production of collagen in our bodies. Meaning, our bodies go, hey, you’re working that out, you’re stressing that thing. Let’s fix it. You know, let’s take care of it. That’s basically what our bodies do.
That’s how we get stronger. We tear things down, it rebuilds them, but you can’t come back too quickly. So, the author of this article that quotes Dr. Barr, actually comes to the conclusion, I’m not sure that it’s Dr. Bars conclusion, it’s unclear by the article that you should take collagen because of this. Well, taking collagen isn’t the only way to get collagen produced inside your body.
The thing to remember, and as I mentioned Dr. Barr’s quote or I paraphrased him to be more accurate is that our bodies produce collagen. There’s collagen synthesis, which is activated through activity. It happens anyway, but a larger amount he says three times as much happens because of activity. Collagen is made through the use of amino acids. Well, what are amino acids, they are the building blocks of proteins.
There are non-essential amino acids, which are things our bodies can produce through the synthesis of using other nutrients. And then they’re essential amino acids, which are things our body cannot produce and we have to get through our diets. Collagen itself contains basically all of these and so we need to get essential amino acids from our diet so that our body is able to produce collagen. If we consume collagen itself, we can digest, break down, then use and rebuild collagen, which feels nice, right? It feels thematically good to say I need collagen, I need good joints so I’ll consume collagen, so I can produce collagen. It’s very simplified, but it isn’t necessarily the only way we can go about it.
Another way is simply consuming whole proteins, protein sources that can produce or contain, not produce, contain all the essential amino acids that we need. And the easiest way to do this is through meat. Meat contains all the essential amino acids that we need. But not to worry. If you are a vegetarian, there are other sources of all of the essential amino acids like mushrooms, and eggs, those are two things you can go to. And I’m sure there are other things as well, but two major things you can go to that get all the essential amino acids that you need to produce many things in your body, including collagen.
Another contention that I might have with saying you don’t necessarily need to take supplements is that you can actually get collagen itself through eating food. But there’s only four sources of collagen itself. We can produce collagen in our body, again, by using those amino acids that we consume through taking food in like whole proteins. But you can get collagen itself by what is essentially mostly sources of bone. So, bone broth, organ meats.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t heat heart and liver and things like that very often or pretty much ever. Although I did have liver
But there are a load of other foods that supposedly support the production of collagen, which I won’t get into because we have such a long list of them. And there’s not enough conclusive evidence to say that these absolutely support these things, we do know for sure that activity increases that production of collagen, as Dr. Barr mentioned, but that there are a lot of supporting factors that go into it. So, you want to know, you stuck to this video, should you actually take collagen, again, like this nice supplement that my wife has? Should you take it to help your joint health? And I think the best definitive answer is, if you feel like it, that’s fine. Because what we know is that if you take it, it is not going to harm you from what we know, and it may help you.
It’s kind of like a B vitamin complex, where B vitamins, in a way, can be an insurance program for runners and endurance athletes. Both in the same way, if you’re deficient in B vitamins, then your endurance suffers, but they don’t necessarily help your endurance. Whereas with collagen, if you don’t get enough in your diet, it will probably hurt you or if you don’t get enough amino acids in your diet, it will probably hurt you.
So, having it as an insurance policy is probably not a bad way to go about it. That being said, you can most likely get enough of essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids in your diet to cover everything you need for the collagen production that your body’s going to use as an athlete. But you have to be careful about the amount of load that you put on your body so that your body has the time to respond and repair your joints accordingly.
So, do you take collagen? Are you going to take collagen after this video? Leave it in the comments below, I’d like to know. And if there’s any other supplements or other things you’d like to know about, do they have any efficacy? Are they real? Do they do what they say they’re going to do? Leave it in the comments below, I’ll do a video just for you in the future. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.