Collagen for Strong Tendons and Ligaments

collagen for stronger tendons and ligamentsCollagen (or gelatin) + a good source of vitamin C can make your tendons and ligaments stronger. This may help you return to play faster. Take this combination 60 minutes before activity. It takes 30 – 60 minutes for the amino acids in collagen (namely proline, glycine, lysine, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine, which are building blocks of collagen, the primary protein in ligaments, tendons and bone) to peak in your bloodstream. This way they will peak right when the pumping action of joints (from physical activity or physical therapy) delivers blood and therefore nutrients including these amino acids and vitamin C to your tissue. You need vitamin C to build collagen. A glass of juice or an orange delivers plenty of vitamin C. You don’t need a supplement. Large doses of vitamin C are not beneficial for muscle and can delay the process of building new proteins in muscle after resistance training.

Building Healthy Tendons

Training with fast, explosive movements builds stiffer tendons. Stiff tendons make athletes explosive (I think of it like a pogo stick; anyone else play on these when they were kids?). Tendons connect a soft tissue, muscle, to a hard tissue, bone. Therefore, tendons must be more pliable near the muscle and stiffer as they get closer to the bone. Stiffer tendons have more molecular crosslinks connecting collagen to fibrils. This ability to stretch near the muscle helps protect the muscle from injury by absorbing shock. Tendons that are too stiff are more likely to be injured (think of an old rubber band that is stiff, pull it too much and it may break).

If you have a tendon injury, your physical therapist or strength coach might have you do slow movements (eccentric movements – lengthening the muscle, like the downward phase of a biceps curl; isometric holds). These movements increase collagen content but decrease collagen crosslinking in the part of the tendon closest to the muscle making it more pliable and therefore less prone to injury. Take collagen / gelatin + a source of vitamin C beforehand to further benefit collagen production in tendons.

Building Healthy Ligaments

Ligaments connect bone to bone. They need to be stiff to resist injury. Collagen synthesis in ligaments (and bone) is maximized by intermittent bouts of up to 10 minutes of activity separated by 6 or more hours of rest. Your physical therapist or rehab specialist may have you performing < 10-minute bouts of activity targeting the injured tendon or ligament separated by 6 hours before another bout. Be sure to take collagen or gelatin + a source of vitamin C 30 minutes to 1 hour beforehand to improve collagen synthesis even more.

There are huge differences in a person’s response to collagen hydrolysate and gelatin. Expect more coming out soon from Keith Barr about this.

Heating destroys vitamin C so, jello won’t do the trick (unless you already have a sufficient amount of vitamin C in your body).

Vegan? Try soy but, you need a lot more to get higher doses of these amino acids (around 58 grams of soy protein has the same proline and glycine as 15 grams of gelatin).

Interesting tidbits: Lack of physical activity makes tendons stiff. An athlete with a boot on his leg may feel very explosive once that boot comes off. In women, when estrogen is high during the menstrual cycle there is decreased crosslinking of collagen in ligaments leading to decreased stiffness of ligaments and greater chance of ligament rupture (ACLs etc.).

Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105(1):136-143.
Sports Med 2017;47(Suppl 1):5-11.

The Truth About Soy

By: Sara Shipley, University of Central Oklahoma nutrition student

I have recently been working with a young woman who has decided to take up a vegetarian diet, for personal reasons. Interestingly, when we came to the topic of dairy, she waivered, but had decided to drink almond milk because she had heard so many controversial things about soy and soymilk. Before recommending anything- I wanted to get all my facts straight about the soy controversy.

Anywhere you look- from media sources, online reviews, diet books, to government publications, you are going to find countless claims about soy. Some are touting the natural benefits, while other sources warn of the harmful effects soy has in the diet. There are so many myths, it all seems impossible to ignore.

A handful of negative claims about soy:

  • It causes thyroid problems
  • It increases cancer risk and heart disease
  • It causes fertility problems
  • It affects male sperm quality
  • It increases estrogen levels
  • It is unsafe for pregnant women
  • It is an allergen
  • It interferes with mineral absorption

All of the claims are controversial, but what is the truth? Research studies are mixed however according to Virginia Messina, MPH, RD and Mark Messina, PhD,  “it is important to recognize some important facts about scientific research. It’s true that there have been studies showing negative effects associated with soy consumption. But it is a rare situation where every single study on a subject is in agreement. There are always a few that sit in direct contrast to the majority of the studies. So it is never a good idea to suggest broad conclusions or recommendations based on one or two studies. By picking and choosing individual studies carefully enough, you can prove just about anything you would like about nutrition. That’s why health experts look at all the research and pay attention to the totality of the evidence, not just to a few studies. Many of the studies that have concluded that soy is unhealthful have used animals as subjects. Drawing conclusions about human health from animal research can be very misleading.”

I couldn’t agree more with the phrase “by picking and choosing…you can prove just about anything you would like about nutrition.” That gives anyone free reign to make health claims based on research, regardless of the validity or legitimacy of a study. Registered dietitians are the experts in food and nutrition, so trust only those sources for the truth behind nutrition information.

For more than 11 years, the FDA has supported the health claim that soy can fight heart disease and contributes to decreased LDL cholesterol levels. The United Soybean Board consists of a team of nutrition experts that have cleared up the controversy about soy. Recent research refutes so many of the myths listed above and advises soy as a healthy, safe component to a balanced diet. Low in saturated fat, soy contributes to heart health, as noted with the FDA stamp of approval. Soy has been attributed to reducing the risk for breast cancer and preventing prostate cancer. There is no scientific evidence that soy lowers testosterone levels or increases estrogen levels in males. There is no scientific evidence that soy is harmful to pregnant women. Although all soy is NOT the same, soybeans are virtuous sources of protein, fiber, polyunsaturated fat and a list of minerals, including calcium. In fact, this plant protein is equivalent to animal protein sources as it contains all nine essential amino acids, which the body cannot produce and therefore, we must consume these in our diet. Soy foods are also a good source of dietary fiber, which have great benefits to your health (lower cholesterol, increase digestive health and lower risk of heart problems).

I wanted to be thorough in my quest for the truth about soy, without subjective information from soy companies. Each of the sources I found most reputable had highly qualified experts- dietitians and physicians who know the science behind soy. If you are interested further- check out any of these websites. (Jack Norris RD has a thorough article on soy, which substantiates the research, both good and bad.)

So, other than a source of protein for vegetarians, why would I recommend soy foods? This legume is chock full of nutrients every rounded diet- including the athlete needs: complete protein, fiber, polyunsaturated fats, and calcium. Not to mention- have you ever tried vanilla or chocolate soymilk? It tastes pretty darn good and adds much more creaminess to your bowl of cereal or cup of coffee than watery skim milk.

So, I advised soy milk to my vegetarian friend. The benefits to soy are unparalleled for her diet.

Do you ever drink soy milk or have you ever tried soy foods? What is your perception on soy and your health?


The Top 3 Reasons You Aren’t Losing Weight

I’ve probably blogged about this before. But, its a recurring theme that deserves its due space on the internet. There are 3 things that will prevent you from losing weight and they are all too common:

1)  You underestimate what you eat. Studies show most people underestimate what they eat or as I learned from my clients who are in Weight Watchers, these are called BLTs: Bites, Likes and Tastes. We are a society of standing up and eating in our kitchen, grabbing fast food and flying down the highway (or sitting in traffic depending on where you live) and eating while cooking. And, I’ve noticed time and time again that people disregard those BLTs. It’s an unspoken, underlying theme in America along the lines of “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas”: what you eat while standing, driving or reading facebook gossip doesn’t count. Do I always sit down to a meal and do nothing but eat? No, I certainly don’t, after all, that’s so….un-American. But, I am aware of my hunger and when I’m eating outside of hunger (like last night’s chocolate craving).

When I see food logs where people are eating the same amount every day and never indulging in anything that doesn’t come straight from the ground or from the butcher shop, yet they aren’t losing weight, I’m inclined to believe they need a reality check. I better see at least 1 beer, chocolate, fried something or food that comes out of a package or from a drive through window or we are going to have a reality check.

2) You don’t exercise like you think you do. This is a classic one and, I’m going to let you in on one big fat marketing lie, those numbers on the machines in the gym aren’t accurate. If it says you burned 300 calories after biking for 30 minutes, subtract about 100 and you may get a better estimate. And, never exercise to eat (i.e. just because you burned 300 calories that doesn’t give you a license to eat a 300 calorie sundae if your goal is weight loss). If you really want to get an idea of how hard you are working out, hire a trainer for a few sessions and compare what you do with what they have you do. Or, find a friend who regularly does interval workouts and join them. Another idea, strap on an accelerometer or pedometer (I like accelerometers better). I strapped one my foot and found out that I walk way less than the 10,000 recommended steps daily (on days I don’t run or do the stairmill). And, using one has made me more aware of the fact that I need to get walking more often.

Once you try these two things, and if you don’t lose weight, then we can look at step 3. But, first, you must keep a food journal of every single BLT every day for 1 – 2 weeks straight (or alternatively, follow exactly what I tell you to eat an the amounts I give you for 1 – 2 weeks). Next, change your workout routine, put on a pedometer or see a personal trainer. These 2 steps alone get the majority of people from “there’s something wrong with me, my metabolism is slow” to “holy smokes, this works!” Remember, if you are serious, keeping a food journal isn’t really that big a of a deal.

3) If you still aren’t losing weight, let’s look at your hormones. Fasting insulin (? PCOS in women), thyroid hormones (T3 and TSH), estrogen and testosterone for starters. If some of these are low, there are ways you can manipulate them with hormone replacement and diet.

I’m confident most people can lose weight if, and this is a huge if, they are diligent about what they are doing. There are of course cases where people have tried everything and if you are following a good diet and exercise program it’s time to delve into what’s going on physiologically in your body. Sometimes it’s a detective game and, the patient is the one who must do the detective work, find the right doctors, follow through and keep on top of their health.