Why I Prioritize Collagen

Image of collaged powder with the word collagen

Here at The Ready State, mobility is the name of the game. We are here to help people move better. Period. What many people don’t know is our focus on health outside of mobility also serves this purpose. When you sleep well, eat well, work well, and recover well, this all makes it easier to move well. Sure, you’ve gotta do the work, but any and all of these things will help keep your body the antifragile machine it was born to be. 

This is why I love collagen protein. We all know the fitness industry is rife with powdered nutrition and cheat-code supplements. Some of them are great, many of them are not, and I try to rely on whole foods as much as possible. Whey protein, for example, gives many of the athletes we work with digestive issues and a host of non-performance enhancing side effects.  I generally don’t use supplements to satisfy basic needs, but instead to give my body something it needs that it is lacking or just hard to find. Sometimes I just can’t seem to eat the bone broth, organ meat, and offal that our expert friends recommend (and neither will my Teen daughters). 

Enter collagen powder.

Collagen Protein

Image of beef stew with lots of collagen

This is where collagen protein comes in. Collagen is a protein fiber that comprises much of our body’s joints, fascia, and skin. This stuff is intimately tied to our ability to move, and healthy collagen is paramount for functional fitness and overall health (your gut needs it massively).. Unlike whey protein, collagen is a real and very important piece of our physiology, and unless you’re eating like your grandma did I bet you aren’t getting much in your diet.  That sashimi chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli may not be all that we were taught it was…

Collagen protein comes from foods like skins, bone broth, tendon, and other meats that are not commonly consumed now but have been a staple for most cultures for a long time. Our body can support our tissues and joints without collagen in our diet of course, but I believe we’re far better off getting it directly. Hot dogs get scoffed at for being nothing but mystery meat but I think they may just be onto something. (Is the hotdog the next collagen-rich, tail to snout whole animal superfood?)

How It Helps

Collagen in our skin naturally breaks down as we age. Supporting our collagen is a big focus of the longevity community and for good reason.  Supplementing with collagen can reduce visible signs of aging, but it goes far beyond that. 

Radio-isotope studies have found that dietary proteins travel to and preferentially support the same proteins in our own bodies. In normal-speak, the parts of an animal you eat may directly repair the same parts in your own body. I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty damn cool. This means collagen protein can directly help your body repair its tissues and joints. This could explain some of the benefits. 

In this placebo-controlled study of 120 participants, collagen supplementation increased skin elasticity by 40%, improved joint pain by 43%, and improved joint mobility by 39%. It is not mentioned in the abstract how old these subjects are or if they were chosen based on other demographics, but these are still very impressive results. Here’s the thing, I believe the benefits of collagen could be amplified by combining them with daily movement practice and exercise.

Combined Benefits

Here’s what I mean: you could take collagen protein and not move or mobilize. Probably you’d still get benefits, at least to your skin, and maybe a reduction of joint pain, but you wouldn’t turn into Gumby. To the same end, you can hit some mobility work every day, improve how your body feels, and be well on the path to toy super-hero elasticity, but not be fully leveraging your hidden durability potential.

My theory is taking collagen with mobility and movement activates each other. I mean, after all, exercise signals our body to repair our muscles with the resources it has available. Animal studies show that stretching induces collagen synthesis. Knowing that collagen protein already supports our tissues and joints directly, how much more if we give it a signal that we are striving for better mobility?

Getting Collagen in Your Diet

Lots of foods contain collagen but most people don’t eat them. That said, you can find this stuff pretty easily. Many foreign markets are full of meats like this and are an awesome place to start. You’re looking for stuff that has skin, hoof, tendons, feet, bones, etc. Lots of this stuff is “stew meat,” and that’s a great way to prepare these foods. 

Some great collagen-rich foods:

  • Chicken skin
  • Pork rinds
  • Pork skin
  • Tendon
  • Oxtail
  • Chicken feet
  • Pig feet
  • Pig’s ears

You get the idea. 

Try eating as many broths, soups, stews, and skins as you can with things like tendons or bones in em’. Squeamish? No problem. Grab a good collagen powder. Then load the body with movement in the morning, mobility work, and big functional exercises in your workouts. Even just hitting the rope for a few minutes of double unders in the AM can upregulate your systems as well as getting some blood pumping. If you have areas of poor function or pain,  use our programs to work on them and try adding a scoop of collagen powder before your session. 

A lot of the supplements out there are expensive, but collagen doesn’t have to be. We love the people at Vital Proteins and their collagen peptides can found at Whole-Foods and Costco alike. Again, collagen is easy to find in a whole food diet. There are a ton of collagen-rich foods like bone broth and chicken wings out there…So there you have it. Gnaw on a bone. Eat some chicken skins. Focus daily on your ability to move freely, and maybe keep an eye out for the Ready State Hot Dog Company. 

— Kelly