A little know protocol that has revolutionised the preventative sports injury scene, and that speeds sports injury recovery, is making a huge impact on the performance and recovery of professional and elite athletes around the world.
Surprisingly though, the protocol, which was first discovered back in 2017, is a simple process available to anyone and everyone.
It all started years ago when, scientists developed a tissue-engineered model that mimics the developing tissue of human tendons and ligaments.
They discovered that if they boosted the amino acids that were found naturally in human collagen, like glycine and proline, into engineered ligaments, they could increase the strength of these ligaments especially in the presence of ascorbic acid or vitamin C.
They theorised that if they fed people foods that were enriched in these amino acids that they’d be able to improve the functionality of their tendons and ligaments. So, they searched for foods that were enriched in proline and glycine and other crucial amino acids that are needed for tendons, and they found the most obvious thing of all, that these amino acids are enriched in gelatins and hydrolysed collagen.
The effects of glycine were already somewhat known in this field of study however, It has been shown in specific studies that the Achilles tendon is more resistant to mechanical loading upon treatment with glycine. Glycine induces a rapid remodeling of tissue.
The stiffness of a connective tissue, like a tendon or ligament, is dependent on two main factors, the collagen content and the amount of crosslinks within the collagen. Crosslinks increase when athletes train at a high speed or with rapid changes in direction.
Crosslinks decrease when using strength exercise with slow movements. Increasing slow contractions are optimal for improving tendon health and incorporating slow contractions into a rehab program can decrease time away from sport (return to play).
It is now well known that hydrolysed collagen and gelatin are really beneficial as a way to improve connective tissue function, improve return to play or accelerate people’s return to play after an injury.
The trick though was getting these nutrients to injured or weak parts of the body like tendons, ligaments and cartilage which typically have poor blood flow.
A research team headed by Dr.Keith Baar PhD, Professor at the University of California, went a step further and undertook a randomized clinical trial on elite athletes who were recovering from injury, to test the results they had seen in the lab.
In the trial they compared a placebo with two other groups, one consuming 5 grams of gelatin and the other group 15 grams of gelatin. Amino acid enrichment was measured over the next three hours. They found that the amino acids and peptides peak within the blood at about an hour after the consumption of the supplement.
They then took a large amount of blood at the one-hour mark and put it into their engineered ligament model to see whether the blood from a person taken before they’ve ingested the gelatin or after they’ve ingested the gelatin, has any difference in the function of the ligaments.
They found that feeding the ligament media that contains the serum of the people after they’ve had the gelatin supplement, provided more collagen in a step-wise response. ie, at the 5 grams of gelatin ligaments produced more collagen than the placebo and at the 15g you get more collagen than you do at either the 5 or the placebo group.
They then tested the mechanical strength of the ligament and sure enough, the mechanics were improved. The ligament was stronger.
The research team then had the individuals jump-rope for six minutes. Baar explained that
“This time frame for exercise is important because the connective tissue cells in your bones, in your tendons, in your cartilage, respond very quickly to exercise and then they stop responding to exercise. We found previously that most of the tendon cells stop responding to exercise after about five or six minutes”.
After the participants jump-rope for six minutes, they take a six-hour rest. They then drink their supplements again, and then an hour later they jump-rope and they keep doing this three times a day for three days.
Researchers found that those people who jump-rope show a doubling in their collagen synthesis and most of this collagen is synthesized in the bone, from the impact of the jump-rope.
The results showed that the low dose of gelatin (5g) wasn’t enough to get a significant effect of the supplement, but when the gelatin content in the supplement was increased to 15 grams of gelatin, they found a further doubling of collagen synthesis.
These findings demonstrate that if we want to improve the collagen response to an exercise bout, we can easily do that by adding gelatin or hydrolysed collagen as a supplement, and this is really important.
Baar went on to say that;
“ So, if you've got an athlete who breaks a bone – a bone in the foot, a bone in the leg, bone in the back, what you can do is you can have them take the gelatin and then do five minutes of exercise— and this doesn’t need to be weighted exercise. You can be in an AlterG. (anti-gravity machine). You can be in something that's just going to allow a little bit of impact but enough impact to target those nutrients to where you want it to go. So if you have significant break in your lower leg or in your back, you can get into a supported AlterG or something that's going to allow you to take the weight off of it and only do, say, 5 to 10% of your body weight on that, five minutes—you can be walking, you can be jumping, it doesn’t matter—and then you repeat that every six hours because it takes about six hours for the cells to return their responsiveness, and then by having that gelatin load before the exercise what you're doing is you're targeting your nutrients just to those specific areas that need to recover and you can really decrease the time it takes you to recover from an injury”.
This new protocol is now being implemented into sports training regimes of elite athletes around the world to prevent injury, including professional American baseball players, and is already implemented with elite long-distance runners.
Baar goes on to say:
“What we do is we say, okay, these are athletes and baseball players who have these ACL and CCL ruptures where large numbers of young athletes are going to be getting surgery before they're done high school because they're overloading this ligament”.
“There are huge numbers of runners who get stress fractures or who get all of these other basically mechanical-fatigue related injuries. What we do in this situation is we just do exactly what we do for the rehab except we're not doing it as frequently”.
Professional sports coaches who have implemented the procedure know that if they have an athlete who’s going to be practicing in the afternoon, they feed them gelatin in the morning and an hour later, have them do an exercise bout that's going to load the area that they're most concerned with.
“So, if I have somebody who’s a pitcher and they're going to go to practice in the afternoon, in the morning I have them wake up, they take their gelatin. An hour later, they're going to do a series of exercises in a race path or in some sort of resistance so they can load the tendon or the ligament in this case, that we're trying to access. We're going to do a series of exercises, they could throw for three or four minutes as well, so that all you're doing is the activities that are going to be the things that are going to provide the mechanical damage, the fatigue-based damage, so that you load the exact ligaments that we're trying to target the nutrients to”.
Long-distance runners will do five to six minutes of jump rope an hour after consuming hydrolysed collagen, as many have a history of tibial stress fractures or hip stress fractures or Achilles problems or plantar fasciitis. All of those structures are going to be loaded by the jump rope.
They will receive just enough of a stimulus in that six minutes to have a response. The cells in these target areas respond to the stimulus. By taking the supplement an hour beforehand, they are timing their exercise to when the nutrients are at their peak.
Another crucial reason to incorporate the 6 minutes of exercise is, unlike muscle, it can be difficult for tendons, ligaments and cartilage to take up nutrients. With muscle, you can take a supplement and within an hour to two afterwards its circulating in the blood, and because muscle has a huge blood flow, it is easily taken up and remains in the blood for a long period of time. Bone and muscle have really good vascular systems so that they get good blood supply.
In tendons and in ligaments and in other structures like cartilage, the tissues are far more like a sponge than like a muscle in the sense of how they're perfused. So, a tendon is a virtually avascular tissue. It has almost no blood supply.
So, the way that it gets nutrients is just like a sponge. If you squeeze out a sponge and then you put it back into an environment where there's a liquid, it will expand again and will suck nutrients in from the environment. That's what happens in your cartilage, your ligaments and your tendons.
Every time that you impact the ground or load the tendon, a lot of water is squeezed out, and then as it recovers that water is sucked back into the matrix and with it comes any nutrient that's in the blood and in the extracellular fluid that you have at the moment.
So, if we want to get nutrients into our cartilage, into our tendon, into our ligament, we need to maximise the nutrients in the environment and have that part of the body active.
If you have an injury, particularly a bone injury as a lot of the bone injuries occur in places where you have poor blood supply you're going to want to be bathing that area with the nutrients when you're doing your impact, right?
The protocol also acts as a preventative measure against injury because it targets common ‘problem areas’ before they become injured. It can also help in recovery by using exercise activity as a way to target where we're sending our supplement.
Although we know that 15g is the dose for the average person, some larger athletes may need to scale their dose with body weight. However, there is no definitive evidence of this and scientists like Baar are still in the process of discovering more.
Collagenx provides the purist Hydrolysed Collagen and Gelatins in the world.