This week, we examine the impact of collagen supplementation on an athletes ability to generate force and power.
Rate of force development (RFD) is highly correlated with sporting performances that require maximal power and speed. So, if your sport involves sprinting, jumping, lifting explosively and throwing, this should be an area of interest.
There’s many components to RFD; muscle fibre type, neuromuscular activation, motor unit recruitment and muscle-tendon stiffness.
When an athlete includes high velocity and ballistic movements into their training, collagen synthesis increases in the hours following. When this is repeated over weeks to months, tendon stiffness occurs.
From a nutrition perspective, collagen synthesis is also stimulated through collagen + vitamin C supplementation. In previous research, collagen supplementation can increase the collagen content and tensile strength of connective tissue.
Therefore, if increasing collagen synthesis improves tendon stiffness, can supplementation combined with targeted training further enhance RFD compared to training alone?
To answer this question, Lis et al (2021) investigated the effect of 20g collagen + 50mg vitamin C on RFD in team sport athletes. The 50 athletes were instructed to supplement 60 mins before their prescribed training (3x/week heavy strength + maximal power/RFD) and team training sessions.
Over the course of the three week testing period, each athlete was tested weekly to assess their isometric squat strength, counter movement jump and squat jumps.
When measuring RFD via isometric squat performance, performance declined in both groups by week 2 and continued to remain lower by week 3 in the placebo group only. Most likely, this was due to heightened neuromuscular fatigue and muscle damage.
However, supplementation was able to recover performance to baseline from week 2 to week 3… therefore, collagen potentially offered protection against training related fatigue and the recovery of RFD.
Supplementation also improved eccentric force capacity compared with placebo. The researchers suggest that this is likely through having better limb stiffness and…and therefore the athlete has greater ability to transmit force faster.
i.e. stiffer tendons are better able to store and return elastic energy to improve RFD.
Therefore, targeted RFD training and supplementation improves explosive neuromuscular performance in athletes over a short three week period. Based on these results, I would hypothesise that benefits would continue over a longer timeframe.
As with many studies, nutrition wasn’t controlled throughout the study. But that being said, improvements were seen irrespective of this. Either way, collagen supplementation appears to support RFD in addition to being used as a rehab/prehab intervention.