Nutrition for Injury Management: Collagen and Soft Tissue Injuries

At some point in their training career, most athletes will unfortunately suffer from a soft tissue injury. Sometimes, they can alter their training loads to accommodate this, however most often, an athlete is required to stop training and rest, in order to heal themselves from the injury. This may put them out of training or competition for weeks or in some cases, even months. Regardless of how serious the injury may be, it can be tedious for an athlete to have to take time off, and not be able to perform at 100%.

Unfortunately, there is no magic cure when it comes to healing an injury. Rest, seeing a physiotherapist and altering their training loads seemed to be the main way injuries were treated.

Recently however, there are some supplements that have been shown to speed up the process, and get you back to training quicker than otherwise anticipated.

Collagen is the main protein that makes up our tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage.  Supplementing with collagen can provide more of the building blocks to encourage damaged tissues to rebuild and resynthesise. A recent study had subjects’ jump rope for 6 minutes after an hour of ingesting a 15g of a gelatin supplement (note: collagen has the same amino acid profile compared to gelatin, however it’s easier to work with and is digested faster than gelatin).

Compared to a placebo, ingesting 15g of gelatin was found to have a 2-fold increase in the collagen synthesis within the blood of the subjects. More collagen within the blood leads to a faster resynthesise of tendons and soft tissue. It has also been shown to effectively reduce pain associated with injuries, prevent soft tissue injuries and help to improve the symptoms associated with common sports-related conditions such as osteoarthritis. This exciting and rapidly expanding area of research promises to improve performance and fasten the recover times of soft tissue injuries.

How to supplement with collagen? 

Mix 15g collagen (our choice is Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate, which is what we provide to our athletes at Precision Athletica) mixed in water and consumed 1 hour before training. Collagen must be consumed with at least 50mg vitamin C. Any chewable vitamin C tablet will contain far more than this or you could mix it in with a small amount (1/4 teaspoon) of a powdered form of vitamin C.

For tailored specific advice relevant to your own situation, please contact our performance dietitian Steph Hage.