Updated: Jan 7, 2020
Several studies over the last few years have shown that athletes who struggle with Achilles tendon pain from Achilles tendinopathy or tendinitis may benefit from taking a mixed supplement of Vitamin C and Gelatine/Hydrolysed collagen.
Your Achilles tendon is mainly made of collagen. Collagen is made of very dense, strong fibres – think of the sinewy white bits in meat that is difficult to chew (sorry don’t know how else to describe it).
A strong tendon has densely packed collagen fibres that are stiff under strain. Collagen in turn is made up of specific amino acids that are linked together.
Vitamin C has been shown to increase collagen production and reduce oxidative stress. Our cells in our bodies are constantly dying off and being replaced by new ones. Oxidative stress can cause cells to die more frequently than normal. By reducing the oxidative stress, Vitamin C protects your collagen cells (that’s why it’s called an antioxidant).
When the body digests gelatine and hydrolysed collagen, it breaks them down into the specific amino acids that collagen is made of. There’s evidence that supplementing with these substances can increase healthy tendon growth. A recent study also found that injured athletes with Achilles tendinopathy recovered more quickly when they used a hydrolysed collagen supplement in combination with a carefully graded strength training programme vs. strength training alone.
How much do you need?
There really isn’t enough research out there yet to give you a definitive answer, but looking at the methods of the 2 most recent studies I would suggest that you:
Take the supplement between 30 to 60 minutes before you do Achilles loading exercise (e.g. running or your heel raises etc.). This gives it enough time to be absorbed into your blood stream, ready to be used.
Include 48 mg of Vitamin C.
If using gelatine, include 15g of gelatine in your mixture.
If using hydrolysed collagen, 2.5 g appears to be enough.
Don’t use both gelatine and hydrolysed collagen – choose one!
Remember, I’m not a dietitian and these recommendations may not be right for you.
What’s the difference between Gelatine and Hydrolysed Collagen?
They both contain the same amino acids but hydrolysed collagen can dissolve in both cold and hot water and appears to be easier to digest. This may explain why the study that used gelatine used 15g vs. the 2.5 g of hydrolysed collagen. Another difference is that gelatine gels when prepared but hydrolysed collagen does not.
Let me know if you have any questions. Struggling with an injury? Check out our online service for treating Achilles tendinitis/tendinopathy. Feel free to book a call if you would like to discuss anything further.
About the Author:
DePhillipo NN, Aman ZS, Kennedy MI, et al. Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine 2018;6(10):2325967118804544.
Maughan RJ, Burke LM, Dvorak J, et al. IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 2018;28(2):104-25.
Praet S, Purdam C, Welvaert M, et al. Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Combined with Calf-Strengthening Exercises Enhances Function and Reduces Pain in Achilles Tendinopathy Patients. Nutrients 2019;11(1):76.
Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, et al. Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2016;105(1):136-43.