What?

A favorite childhood dessert part of a sports nutrition routine? Yes. A new University of California at Davis study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that gelatin made with vitamin C might support the body’s natural ability to produce collagen, a protein that is critical to the structure of many of the tissues essential to sports performance. 

Why?

Collagen is an integral part of the body’s extracellular matrix  (ECM,) a mix of water, proteins, and carbohydrates that provide the scaffolding for our bones, muscles, and joints. The ECM supports the muscles and tendons to transmit force quickly, while also allowing the cartilage, ligaments, and bones to absorb energy and force. A robust and healthy ECM is vital for athletic performance, recovery, and minimizing injury. 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the ECM – and in the body – where it comprises one-third of the total protein and accounts for three-fourths of the dry weight of skin.

When examining various food sources, gelatin was found to have a similar amino acid profile to collagen – primarily because of its proline content. Vitamin C, an essential vitamin and a potent antioxidant, is less well known for its critical role in collagen formation.

How?

Keith Barr, PhD, and his research team at the Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory at UC Davis found the combination of gelatin and vitamin C promotes the body’s optimal ability to produce collagen.

The UC Davis research team recommended combining 15 grams of gelatin with 50 mg of vitamin C one hour before a short loading exercise and six hours apart from other training sessions to maximize its potential impact.

The loading exercise should be 5-10 minutes in length – enough to stimulate the tendons and ligaments – and be sport specific for best results. For example, an overhead throwing athlete would perform shoulder exercises, while an athlete in a jumping sport would focus on step ups or box jumps.

Recipe

Adapted from the UC Davis original recipe and makes eight servings:

Ingredients

  • 80 grams of gelatin (½ cup or 10 packets of most brands)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups other liquid (choice of juice/liquid for flavoring, or additional water and use a natural sweetener to taste)
  • 500 mg Vitamin C
    • ½ capsule of Thorne’s NSF Certified forSport® Ascorbic Acid
    • ¼ scoop of Thorne’s Buffered C Powder (for additional calcium, magnesium, and potassium)

Directions

  1.  Bring the two cups of other liquid to a boil 
  2.  Mix the gelatin and vitamin C into one cup of room temperature water
  3.  Add the boiling liquid to the gelatin/vitamin C mixture
  4.  Pour into a flat tray or a silicone ice cube tray in eight equal parts
  5.  Place in the refrigerator
  6.  If using a flat tray, divide into eight equal pieces

Options

  • Maximize this fun delivery system by experimenting with different liquids – such as vegetable or fruit juice – and by adding other nutrients. We’ve seen Thorne’s Catalyte® used as the “other liquid” to support hydration, while others have added other foundational supplements such as magnesium, iron, or vitamin D.
  • In a hurry? Athletes can mix 15 grams of gelatin powder into a vitamin C-containing liquid and consume the liquid without waiting for it to set.

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References

Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross M, et al. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105:136-143.

Shoulders M, Raines R. Collagen structure and stability. Ann Re Biochem 2009;78:929-958.