10 Reasons to Eat More Collagen

For years, the bodybuilding, protein-gorging community has maligned collagen for its inessentiality and lack of input into the muscle-protein synthesis process. From their perspective, it sort of makes sense. Why bother with “low quality” protein like gelatin/collagen when you can pound the whey, eat the meat, and focus on other sources of the essential amino acids directly involved in building muscle? Except the research is showing that these “nonessential” proteins are actually pretty darn useful. A while back, I suffered an Achilles injury during of one of my Ultimate Frisbee matches. In my attempt to speed recovery time, I did some research and started supplementing with collagen. The results, in my personal n=1 experiment, were pretty dramatic. Once I added collagen to the mix, my healing kicked into overdrive. As I’ve dug deeper into this topic to uncover the many benefits dietary collagen can bestow upon us, I’m convinced collagen/gelatin is an essential part of the human diet. And yes, even—or especially—bodybuilders, power lifters, and other athletes concerned with performance, muscles, and optimizing swoleness can benefit from eating more collagen. But why? 1. We don’t make enough glycine to cover our body’s needs Most people view amino acids in one of two ways: either they’re essential, meaning our bodies can’t synthesize them, or they’re inessential, meaning our bodies can. In actuality, there’s a third category: amino acids can be conditionally essential. Glycine, the primary amino acid in collagen, is synthesized from the amino acid serine to the tune of 3 grams per day. That’s not nearly enough. The human body requires at least 10 grams per day for basic metabolic processes, so we’re looking at an average daily deficit of 7 grams that we need to make up for through diet. Even more in disease states that disrupt glycine synthesis, like rheumatoid arthritis. 2. We’re wasting half the animal otherwise The average cow is half muscle meat and half “other stuff.” Most people only eat the muscle meat and ignore the other stuff, which includes bones, connective tissue, cartilage, tendons, and other collagenous material. The other stuff ends up in pet food or used by other industries, but we could be eating it, getting healthier, and wasting less food in the process. 3. It balances out our meat intake The more meat we eat, the more glycine our bodies utilize. This has been shown in rodent studies. Rats on high methionine (the amino acid most prevalent in muscle meat) diets die earlier than rats on low methionine diets. Keeping the methionine high while adding glycine, though, abolishes the reduced longevity. In human terms, this would be like continuing to eat muscle meat while adding in collagen or gelatinous meats. If the same holds true in humans, it means low-animal protein diets aren’t necessary to live longer, healthy lives. It means all those atrophied calorie restriction folks are doing it wrong. They could be eating meat—deriving the “short-term” benefits like increased lean mass, better athletic performance, and lower fat mass—and living long, healthy lives. 4. It might explain … Continue reading 10 Reasons to Eat More Collagen