Rising to the challenge

Rousselot's Caroline Brochard-Garnier comments on collagen peptides for athletic performance

In the competitive sporting world, achieving optimal performance is a balancing act. Whether building muscles, minimising the effects of exertion on joints or protecting the skin from the elements, athletes need to keep a number of factors in check to maintain and sustain performance levels. Diet and nutrition is a critical component and sports enthusiasts often rely on functional foods and beverages to deliver the proteins and other essential nutrients they require during and after exercise.

Powering innovation

Designed to meet the needs of athletes, the market for sports nutrition products is worth an estimated US$4.7 billion globally and further growth is expected.1 Energy bars and ready-to-drink sports beverages have moved from the niche to the mainstream, as consumers choose products marketed at sportsmen and sportswomen as part of a healthier lifestyle.

Manufacturers looking to appeal to more serious athletes are also innovating, with the launch of highly targeted products offering specific performance benefits.2 As the market expands, research is ongoing into ingredients that can support both professional and recreational athletes in achieving their goals. There have been a number of developments in bioactive proteins and multiple studies have been published on the benefits that collagen peptides, in particular, bring to sports performance and the recovery after exercise.

Collagen: the body’s building block

A primary connective tissue protein, collagen is a key protein found in the body and ensures the cohesion, elasticity and regeneration of skin, cartilage and bone. In addition to cartilage, tendons and ligaments are soft tissues made up of collagen and elastin. Ligaments connect bones to each other, and tendons connect muscles to bones.

They all play an important role in musculoskeletal mechanics by stabilising joints and muscles. Rousselot is a global leader in collagen peptides and its Peptan collagen peptides are a safe, natural, bioactive ingredient. Containing more than 97% protein, Peptan has a specific amino acid profile and a high bioavailability, meaning that the peptides are easily digested and available in the connective tissues via the blood a few hours after ingestion. Collagen peptides deliver numerous health and nutritional benefits to athletes both during and after exercise:

Muscle restoration after exercise: Protein is a vital part of the diet, particularly for athletes. The World Health Organisation recommends a mean intake of 0.8g/kg/day of good quality protein to ensure the nitrogen balance of the body, yet scientists estimate that athletes should eat between 1.4 and 2.0g/kg/day. This can increase to 2–3g/kg/day during a 6 month period if the sportsperson is looking to increase muscle mass. During and after long periods of exercise, protein loss can occur in the muscles as its structural integrity is compromised by oxidation, membrane microlesions and inflammatory reactions. A high protein diet just after exercise may enhance muscle anabolism, replacing lost proteins and helping to maintain and restore the protein content of the muscles while also reducing the recovery time.3

Aiding muscular contraction: Muscular function is dependent on the energy produced by the breakdown of a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in cells. Creatine is a molecule consisting of three amino acids — glycine, arginine and methionine — that can aid muscular contraction during periods of high intensity exercise and also helps to replace depleted ATP levels. Peptan, which consists of 20% glycine and 8% arginine, may support the synthesis of creatine in the body to improve performance during short bursts of exercise and help athletes to increase their body mass.4

Improving athletic performance: Oral arginine supplements may also have a beneficial effect on athletic performance, even at a low dose.5 A daily recommended dose of 10g of Peptan produces almost 1g of arginine per day and a recent study showed that 1g supplements of arginine and ornithine for 5 days per week for 5 weeks can increase strength.6 Studies suggest that arginine stimulates the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland, which may explain the performance gain.7

Reducing joint pain: Sports such as running and cycling often involve repetitive, high impact movements that can lead to damage to cartilage, tendons and ligaments and result in excess stress on joints. Research has shown that collagen peptides may help to prevent the degeneration of the joint matrix and a 2008 study involving 147 sports enthusiasts showed a statistically significant reduction in joint pain among the group that took collagen peptides.8

It is thought that collagen peptides have a preventive effect on the connective tissues, limiting discomfort and resulting in a reduced risk of joint-related injury by increasing the production of aggrecan and type II collagen. Aggrecan is important in the proper functioning of articular cartilage because it provides a hydrated gel structure that gives the cartilage load bearing properties.9

Protecting the skin: Exercise often exposes the skin to harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures or chlorine if swimming in pools. Collagen is the main component of the dermis and maintaining collagen levels is key to keeping skin hydrated and protected against the effects of the environment. Collagen peptides can support skin health through their regenerative effects, with several clinical studies showing collagen peptides moisturize the skin when taken orally on a day-to-day basis.10

The most effective collagen available

Whether competing professionally or recreationally, recovery of the muscles, joints and skin after exercise is vital if an athlete is to continue to perform at their best. Collagen peptides offer multiple benefits linked to connective tissue regeneration and research continues into the ways that the ingredients can enhance athletic performance. Suitable for use in sports bars, drinks and supplements, Rousselot’s Peptan is a key component in many protein blends targeted for sports nutrition. It is also cost-effective and easy to use and enables those manufacturing products to provide healthy nutritional solutions to both professional athletes and recreational sportspeople.


1. Agri-Food and Agriculture Canada (A&AC): www.ats.gc.ca/inter/5569-eng.htm.

2. Datamonitor, Exercise and Sports Nutrition: Consumer Trends and Product Opportunities (March 2011).

3. AFSSA: Protein intake: Dietary Intake, Quality, Requirements and Recommendations (2007).

4. D. Paddon-Jones, E. Børsheim and R. Wolfe, 'Potential Ergogenic Effects of Arginine and Creatine Supplementation,' The Journal of Nutrition 134(10), 28885–28945 (2004).

5. B. Campbell, P. Bounty and M. Roberts, 'The Ergogenic Potential of Arginine,' Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 1(2), 35–38 (2004).

6. R.P. Elam, 'Effect of Arginine and Ornithine on Strength, Lean Body Mass and Urinary Hydroxyproline in Adult Males,' Journal of Sports Nutrition 29, 52–56 (1989).

7. W.C. Hembree and G.T. Ross, 'Arginine Infusion and Growth-Hormone Secretion,' Lancet 1(7584), 52 (1969).

8. K.L. Clark, et al., 'A 24-Week Study on the Use of Collagen Hydrolysate as a Dietary Supplement in Athletes with Activity Related Joint Pain,' Current Medical Research and Opinion 24(5), 1485–1496 (2008).

9. C. Kiani, et al., 'Structure and Function of Aggrecan,' Cell Research 12(1),19–32 (2002).

10. Rousselot, Placebo Controlled Clinical Studies (France and Japan, 2008, 2012).