Gelatin and Vitamin C – A Pre-workout Amino Acid Cocktail to Promote Joint Repair While You Train!
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, spring has sprung, and it’s looking like you may be in the best shape of your life this coming summer! It’s great to be motivated—but be careful!
With sudden increases in activity, every year many fitness-oriented folks fall victim to sprains, strains, and musculoskeletal injuries that railroad progress. The best way to protect yourself from athletic injuries is to avoid overtraining and incorporate warm-ups, stretching, and cool-downs into your regular training days. Beyond that, it’s key to use a joint protection supplement to support joint health and provide prophylactic defense against joint wear and tear.
Many joint supplements are designed to promote collagen resynthesis/repair, as collagen is the major structural component of tendons (which provide the link between muscles and bones), ligaments (which provide stability to joints), and cartilage (which provides a smooth ‘bearing like” surface for joints to move through). Exercise in and of itself promotes collagen incorporation into joints, ligaments, and tendons, however the risks of musculoskeletal injury are still higher in those who exercise regularly.
Recently a team of scientists from the USA and Australia reported that consuming gelatin (a food derivative of collagen) and vitamin C pre-workout increases collagen synthesis better than exercise itself. In this registered clinical trial, 8 healthy athletic male participants consumed either 5 or 15 g of a gelatin enriched with vitamin C (48 mg) drink, 1-hour prior to intense intermittent skipping exercise (6-minutes).
They found that supplementation with a gelatin-vitamin C pre-workout drink increased blood serum levels of amino acids associated with collagen production (i.e., glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine). Subjects who took 15 g of vitamin-C enriched gelatin 1 h before exercise showed a 2-fold improvement in collagen synthesis over placebo. As well, when engineered human ligaments were treated (in vitro) with extracted blood serum from the same subjects, there was a 50% increase in ligament collagen content and improved ligament function.
ACTION POINT: The amino acids proline and glycine are abundant in gelatin and collagen supplements. For pre-workout joint protection, take in 15 g of collagen or gelatin and 50 mg of vitamin C, 1-hour prior to training. There are also many pre-formulated supplements that contain collagen and vitamin C in single dosing, just ensure that doses contain at least 15 g of collagen.
Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Nov 16. pii: ajcn138594. [Epub ahead of print]
Go to the Dark Side!
Nitric oxide (NO) boosting supplements improve muscle blood flow, glucose uptake, mitochondrial energy production, and contraction efficiency during exercise. Hence, why every major supplement company includes “NO boosters” in their pre-workout formulations. The most popular NO boosters tend to include sources of nitrates (like beetroot powder) or L-citrulline to pump up NO levels; however recent research illustrates that there may be a tastier option— DARK CHOCOLATE! The abundant bioactive flavanols, found within the cocoa that makes chocolate dark, promote increased NO bioavailability in the body.
In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, nine moderately-trained males underwent baseline testing: a cycling VO2max test immediately followed by cycling at 80% of max for 20-min, and then an “all out” sprint for a 2-min. Using a randomized crossover design, participants then consumed either 40 g of dark chocolate or white chocolate daily (for 2 weeks), and then performed 2 more identical cycling tests (2 weeks apart).
Overall, when participants consumed dark chocolate, they worked at 21% and 11% greater workloads (for a given level of oxygen consumption) compared to baseline and white chocolate conditions respectively. As well, dark chocolate consumption resulted in 17% and 13% greater distance covered during the “all out” sprint cycling time trial compared to baseline and white chocolate conditions respectively.
ACTION POINT: This study illustrates that daily dark chocolate consumption can improve exercise endurance and performance. To reap these delicious benefits, add a 1/4 cup of cocoa or cocao powder (70% cocoa or better) to your pre-workout protein shake. For the sake of calories, we suggest using pure organic cocoa or cocao powder over eating chocolate bars for NO boosting.
Patel RK, Brouner J, Spendiff O. Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Dec 15;12:47.