Collagen is a protein found in many structures within the body such as the fascia, ligaments, tendons, nails, skin, hair and cartilages. It’s different from regular proteins, providing a completely different structural component to our health. Whereas regular proteins are used for muscle growth, maintenance, hormone synthesis and the like, collagen protein is important for keeping the structural parts of your body strong.
Why You Should Eat Collagen
To Get Enough Glycine
The human body requires a minimum of 16 grams of glycine for basic metabolic processes. We can synthesise about 3g endogenously and the typical omnivore diet will provide us with 2 – 3g of glycine leaving us with about a 10g glycine deficit for your average person. This can be made up by consuming collagen which is about one-third glycine, so to get 10g of glycine from collagen we’d need to consume around 30g collagen protein.
If You Eat Lots Of Meat…
If you eat lots of meat, you’re getting a lot of amino acids from the protein in meats. The metabolism of amino acids in muscle meat depletes the reserves of the amino acid glycine, further increasing glycine requirements. This means the more meat you eat, the more collagen you should consume.
If You’re A Serious Athlete…
I’m talking about amateurs and professionals here since there are many serious amateur athletes out there. If you’re a serious athlete then I reckon you could seriously benefit from consuming larger amounts of glycine since the connective tissues within your body are likely to undergo more stress than your typical person. More collagen means the structural components of your body can be reinforced reducing your risk of stress fractures and injuries related to connective tissue weaknesses.
You’re Made Of Collagen
25% to 35% of the protein in your body is collagen. Maybe this is surprising since collagen is not a protein we commonly hear about, but on the other hand when you consider that bone is 90% – 95% collagen it’s not so surprising. To maintain bone strength and density it helps to consume collagen.
Sources Of Collagen
Gelatin – this is a cooked form of collagen made by boiling the connective tissues of pigs or cows. The product is then released, extracted and dried. It’s easy to digest and absorb.
Bone broth – similarly to gelatin, bone broth is made by boiling down the connective tissues of animals. During boiling, amino acids are released from the bones into the broth which is why it sometimes gels.
Bones – you know when you eat off chicken bones and there are these hard white ‘caps’ at the end of each side of the bone? That’s cartilage. It’s full of collagen and if you like you can bite it off and crunch through it – that’s what I do!
Connective tissue – any connective tissue from animals will contain collagen so you can consume the skin of animals, pork rinds or any sort of structural tissue which comes from animals to increase the amount of collagen in your diet.
Supplements – if it’s easier and you’d prefer not to eat collagen straight from animals you can buy collagen supplements such as collagen peptides and collagen hydrolysate which will provide your body with collagen and glycine.
We Don’t Consume Enough Collagen
A long, long time ago (over a million years ago), we would eat the whole carcass of the animals we hunted. We wanted to get every last bit of energy and nutrients that we could get from the animal. Nowadays it’s not such an issue. People will avoid fatty cuts of meat, crunchy bits of meat and shiver at the thought of eating the organs of an animal (liver, heart, kidney and the like). Without realising it, by eating this way the majority of people are avoiding the main sources of collagen in animals.
About half the animal is muscle eat which many of us will gladly eat. The other half of the animal is undesirable to most and includes the tendons, skin, ligaments, bones, fascia and other collagen-rich parts of the animal. There’s so much glycine available there that we’re missing out on without realising it.
The Role Of Collagen In The Body
It supports and strengthens your connective tissues: fascia, bones, tendons, ligaments, hair, skin, cartilage and nails. One study found that supplementing with collagen hydrolysate improved skin elasticity in elderly women. If you want to reduce your wrinkles, consider taking collagen.
It balances out amino acids in muscle meat.
- People with low glycine levels who eat a lot of meat are more likely to have diabetes. Those who consumed higher amounts of glycine could consume larger amounts of muscle meat without any problems. One study found that after controlling for low-glycine status, the relationship between red meat intake and diabetes was no longer significant.
- Interestingly, in studies looking at worms and rodents, excessive intakes of methionine (the amino acid most abundant in muscle meat) reduced longevity. When glycine was added to the diet, longevity was restored.
It aids gut health and digestion. Collagen helps to regulate the secretion of gastric juices by ensuring enough acid is available for proper digestion whilst preventing an excess of gastric juices from being released. Glycine in collagen has been found to be effective at preventing the formation of stomach ulcers by preventing harmful gastric secretions in the stomach lining. Collagen synthesis is important for repairing and healing the intestinal wall.
Interesting Facts About Collagen
- The word collagen originates from the Greek word ‘kolla’ which means ‘glue’.
- There are three types of collagen in the human body: type I, type II and type III collagen.
- Gram for gram, type I collagen is stronger than steel!
- Collagen cannot be absorbed through the skin since it is such a large protein.
- If you’re injured then consuming collagen can help to speed up recovery by helping with the resynthesis of connective tissues.
If you’re lacking something in your diet, it’s probably collagen. I highly suggest you find yourself a source of collagen to try and consume on a regular basis!
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