By Daniel Goebel
As athletes, we are always pushing ourselves to new limits, and putting our bodies in constant forms of exertion. The more we exert ourselves, the more our body is being tested. For major repetitive sports such as football, rugby, and long distance running, the body is repetitively exerting forces on the joints and incurring fatigue as the exertion grows. As this prolongs, musculoskeletal injuries arise. But what can be done to try and help prevent these injuries from occurring? What better way than to reduce injuries and prepare you better for prolonged and sustained exercise with a simple gelatin enriched with vitamin C? Researched conducted by Shaw et al. shows how repetitive stress exercises coupled with gelatin enriched with vitamin C prior to exercise helped build tendon and ligament strength, which thus promoted injury prevention and tissue repair.
Tendons and ligaments respond to exercise in much different ways than muscles do. For muscles, there is a large amount of blood flow that continuously circulates to the muscle, specifically following a high intensity workout. For tendons and ligaments, it’s a little different. Tendons are essentially avascular, with no blood flow coming to them. As Baar mentioned in his podcast on Sigma Nutrition with Danny Lennon, tendons are like a sponge. Nutrients in the blood flow don’t go directly towards tendons, but tendons need to receive nutrients in some way. When you squeeze all water out of a sponge and you put the sponge back into a liquid environment, the sponge expands and sucks all of the nutrients, or excess materials, from the environment. That’s essentially what happens in the cartilage of your ligaments and tendons. Every time you impact the ground or exert a load against a tendon, water is squeezed out. As the tendon recovers, that water is sucked back into the extracellular matrix and with it comes with any nutrient that’s in the blood at that moment. That’s where the nutrient intervention comes into place. In order for the blood and extracellular matrix to have the collagen and necessary nutrients in place for that tendon recovery phase, intervention needs to take place about an hour before the workout.
Collagen is a protein found in our bodies that is the most abundant fibers in our connective tissue. Collagen binds our cells together, to create the strongest form of connective tissue possible. As we increase our collagen by nutritional or exercise intervention, the connective tissue strength is improved. The role of vitamin C in the production of collagen is to interact with amino acids within collagen cells. It adds hydrogen and oxygen. Baar noted that 50 mg of vitamin C was all that needed to be given prior to exercise in order to promote the interaction between amino acids in collagen cells.
Selected Food Sources of Vitamin C
|Food||Milligrams (mg) per serving||Percent (%) DV*|
|Red pepper, sweet, raw, ½ cup||95||158|
|Orange juice, ¾ cup||93||155|
|Orange, 1 medium||70||117|
|Grapefruit juice, ¾ cup||70||117|
|Kiwifruit, 1 medium||64||107|
|Green pepper, sweet, raw, ½ cup||60||100|
|Broccoli, cooked, ½ cup||51||85|
|Strawberries, fresh, sliced, ½ cup||49||82|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked, ½ cup||48||80|
|Grapefruit, ½ medium||39||65|
Gelatin was shown to have an almost doubling effect on collagen synthesis when 15 g of gelatin, a natural byproduct derived from animal skin, bones and tendons, was used. Bone broth, an example of gelatin, creates gelatin when boiling bones. The collagen is getting broken down, when cooled it forms jello.
This is extremely helpful in recovering from injury, as when gelatin is intervened into the diet prior to a workout and then exercises are loaded to the area of the injury, the nutrients will be guided towards that area of the body. For baseball pitchers, they would ingest gelatin prior to exercise, then throw or do resistance band work to activate the ligament through this fatigue-based damage to then promote the uptake of nutrients. For long distance runners, jump roping for five minutes will activate the tibial stress fractures, hip stress fractures, Achilles problems or plantar fasciitis in order for the cells to get a response.
Adding vitamin-enriched gelatin is an easy and effective way to promote tendon and ligament health.
 Baar, Keith. “SSE #142 Training and Nutrition to prevent soft tissue injuries and accelerate return
to play” Gatorade Sports Science Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.
 “Vitamin C and Collagen.” A Moment of Science – Indiana Public Media. N.p., 27 Sept. 2003. Web.
 “Vitamin C.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web.
 Murphy, Pam. “Sources of Gelatin.” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 18 Nov. 2015. Web.
Daniel Goebel received his Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology from Westmont College. Daniel played baseball at Westmont. Daniel currently works at UCLA as a Performance Nutrition Intern assisting in distributing planned meals and recovery snacks, body composition evaluation as well as creating education material. Daniel is working towards his Register Dietitian license. Daniel is a member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association.