A tendon is a connective tissue that connects muscle and bones. For instance, the Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Most tendon injuries occur near the joint, such as Achilles tendon problems or tennis elbow. Tendon injuries can occur suddenly or result from tiny tears that happen to the tendon over time.
Collagen is the main protein that makes up connective tissue. Nutritional strategies that increase collagen synthesis could help strengthen the connective tissue and therefore, help with tendon injuries. A study showed that consuming 5 grams of gelatin and 500 mg of vitamin C 30-60 minutes before exercise promoted greater collagen production. Gelatin is derived from collagen and as a result, served as a readily available source of collagen in this study. Vitamin C was added because it is necessary for collagen production.
If you’re interested in using this strategy, unflavoured gelatin is available for purchase at the Bulk Barn. A vitamin C supplement can also be purchased. Another good source of collagen is bone broth. Bone broth is different than regular broth or stock because it is simmered for longer periods so that the bone is broken down to provide more collagen protein. However, I would recommend gelatin over bone broth since the amount of collagen in bone broth can differ depending on cooking methods, and it may not sit well if consumed just before exercise.
Finally, another important factor to consider is your genetics. The COL5A1 gene directs the production of collagen. Those with the risk variant for this gene, about 1 in 5 people, have an elevated risk of Achilles tendon injury because they make less collagen. I’ve had genetic DNA testing that reveals I carry the risk variant and so produce less collagen. Interestingly, I’ve also suffered from tendonitis in both my previous marathon build-ups that put a serious halt on my training. Because of my elevated risk, I will be adding gelatin and vitamin C prior to workouts, especially exercises with sudden surges like sprints or pylometrics. For more information on genetic DNA testing, please click here.