Collagen isn’t exactly a new, ground-breaking supplement. It is fairly established in the self-care market for improving a multitude of skin ailments. It even has slight traction in the sports supplement industry for helping to improve joint health.
However, for individuals currently using collagen to try and help their joints, they aren't likely using it in an optimal manner.
Tendons, ligaments, and cartilage are three primary components of what constitutes your joints, while collagen is the primary component of what constitutes tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
The unfortunate part of tendons, ligaments, and joints, though, is that they have a relatively poor blood supply. Therefore, taking a collagen supplement at any old time is much like pissing into the wind, or wearing Massenomics gear if you don’t want to be hit on - a fruitless endeavor.
The trick is that a collagen supplement needs to be ingested an hour before activity so that the aminos that comprise the collagen are able to reach peak circulating blood levels at the same time you are exercising. The reason this is significantly more effective is that exercise greatly increases blood flow to those components that make up your joints. Peak circulating blood levels of digested collagen, combined with increased blood flow to your joints, is a powerful combination for those tissues to absorb extra nutrients and promote enhanced recovery and remodeling mechanisms.
Not timing your collagen supplementation appropriately with exercise is going to drastically reduce the effectiveness.
Okay, so you have the timing down, but how much collagen should you be taking? Well, recent research shows that 15g is twice as effective as 5g:
Results: Supplementation with increasing amounts of gelatin increased circulating glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine, peaking 1 h after the supplement was given. Engineered ligaments treated for 6 d with serum from samples collected before or 1 h after subjects consumed a placebo or 5 or 15 g gelatin showed increased collagen content and improved mechanics. Subjects who took 15 g gelatin 1 h before exercise showed double the amino-terminal propeptide of collagen I in their blood, indicating increased collagen synthesis.
Now you have the timing and the dose. What about the brand? I recommend Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate:
It is mostly tasteless and mixes quite easily. This is the brand I have used in the past and had great results trying to heal a slight labrum tear in my shoulder. It is now a staple in my supplement toolbox not only for the injury benefits but also for the overall health benefits that can be derived from collagen.