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The Surprising Supplement That Boosts Your Workout Recovery

January 24, 2023

When it comes to workout recovery, we know there are a lot of solutions out there to build and repair your muscles after a strenuous sweat sesh. Tart cherry juice is known to benefit muscle recovery by reducing inflammation. Protein powder — whether blended up into a shake or baked into a muffin — helps to build up that muscle by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. But there’s another surprising supplement that you may not have immediately considered when it comes to your exercise recovery regimen, and that’s collagen.

According to Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics who has worked with professional sports teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers, collagen isn’t just meant to give us plump-looking skin, or beneficial for growing strong hair, nails, and bones. Collagen is actually a protein that can benefit the body after experiencing strenuous exercise, aiding the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.

“Because collagen helps makeup ligaments and joints, it can be helpful in strengthening these connective tissues and keeping them healthy amidst activity,” Goodson states.

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Collagen supplements help to provide key components to keep those muscles, tendons, bones, and joints moving properly. Goodson also points out the ways that it benefits one’s flexibility, mobility, strength, and even speed.

A handful of early research backs up this claim. One randomized-control study published in 2008 by Current Medical Research and Opinion found collagen supplements beneficial for improving joint pain for athletes after a 24-week period. Another controlled trial in 2019 published in Amino Acids linked collagen peptides to increased exercise performance while reducing muscle soreness by 20%, concluding that collagen supplements may be valuable in reducing recovery time post-exercise.

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How to incorporate a collagen supplement into your diet

First, Goodson makes it clear that while collagen supplementation can benefit the body after a workout, it shouldn’t be the only source of protein post-exercise.

“It is important to note that while collagen is abundant in the amino acids arginine, proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline — which are necessary for ligament, tendon, and joint health — it is not high in branched-chain amino acids, which are essential amino acids necessary for rebuilding muscle,” she states.

Goodson points out that leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that should also be incorporated into your post-workout routine. It “acts like a ‘light switch’ to muscle protein synthesis and is essential for rebuilding and repairing muscle after exercise.” Leucine is an essential protein found in animal foods, and in terms of supplements, it is most prevalent in whey protein compared to other protein powders.

However, while a whey protein or a post-workout meal with animal protein will guarantee you are getting leucine after exercising, Goodson says collage is still a beneficial supplement to also toss into your smoothie — along with adding collagen-rich foods to your diet.

“As we age, we naturally produce less collagen, so consuming it in our diet and with supplements can help,” she says. “Eating collagen-rich foods like bone broth, berries, citrus fruits, cashews, and gelatin, can help provide your body with the collagen it needs.”

“You can also add hydrolyzed collagen, like Vital Proteins, to your eating regimen by mixing the powder in smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, energy bites, and more! The more hydrolyzed collagen is, the more soluble, digestible, and absorbable it is,” she continues.

So if your idea of post-workout bliss includes a delicious protein shake, toss in a collagen supplement as well to reduce recovery soreness and pain, build up those muscles, and keep your skin looking just as healthy even after your post-workout glow.

Read next: 9 Products That Will Actually Make You Excited to Workout

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