There's a better, more natural (and research-backed) way to optimize your recovery.
In this article, I cover:
1. nutrition principles and goals to optimize injury recovery
2. the top natural supplements for injury recovery
3. how to combine corrective exercise with supplement timing for faster recovery
Collagen structure is just as important (if not more) for long-term recovery outcomes than merely treating inflammation and pain.
I know, I know. Popping a few ibuprofen does the trick.
It shuts down inflammation and pain. Plus your doctor is likely a big fan of using OTC anti-inflammatories. And sometimes its the only way you can continue working out. Or get through the day pain-free.
Trust me, I've been there.
A few years ago, I might as well have loaded up a PEZ dispenser so I could pop them like candy.
They also improve mid-term outcomes (6-12 weeks), allowing athletes to return to resume training sooner.
But in the long term, a host of cascading negative side effects emerge, including:
Reduced overall health: increased heart attack risk, digestive system damage, kidney damage, and incidence of allergic reactions
Impaired injury healing: delayed healing time, increased cases of re-injury, reduced collagen mass in injured joints
This is why the researchers strongly recommended avoiding NSAIDs for injuries altogether. Here's a quote from the study:
🔬from Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for athletes: an update. Ziltener JL1, Leal S, Fournier PE.
"Sports medicine physicians often treat athletes in pain with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, there is lack of high-quality evidence to guide NSAID use. Their adverse effects have clinical relevance, and their possible negative consequences on the long-term healing process are slowly becoming more obvious.... We do not recommend their use for muscle injuries, bone fractures (also stress fractures) or chronic tendinopathy."
It's worth noting that the authors didn't base their recommendations on heart attacks or kidney disease. They focused on the healing process.
When you combine the aging process, elevated inflammation levels, and a bad NSAID habit... you get a perfect recipe for collagen deficiency.
The Four Horsemen of Collagen Deficiency
Collagen production and formation drops with age. You can't stop this process, but you can buffer it by focusing on connective tissue health and nutrition (more on that below).
2. Repetitive Use Injury Cycles
During injury recovery periods, a reduction in activity leads to a reduction in collagen. Which further increases injury risk. And so the cycle continues. (conversely, resistance-focused exercise increases the rate of collagen deposition).
3. NSAID usage
NSAID usage reduces collagen mass at injury sites, increasing injury rates later by up to 25%.
Chronic inflammation deteriorates collagen structures in joints. While the acute inflammation phase (3-7 days) after an injury is important for cell clean up and nutrient delivery, chronically elevated inflammation levels degrade collagen mass. Basically, if you have been dealing with sore joints for weeks, months or years — inflammation is taking a toll on your joints.
How to Leverage Collagen Synthesis for Injury-Proof Joints
At this point, I think we can agree that taking NSAIDs just isn't worth it.
Besides, there are natural supplements that outperform ibuprofen and other NSAIDs on pain relief scores.
Not only that, they actually increase collagen mass at injury sites instead of reducing it.
So you end up with more resilient, injury-proof joints.
The catch is that only specific forms of these supplements (in specific dosages) taken at specific times are proven to bolster the injury repair process.
We'll come back to this point later.
When it comes to injury recovery, time is definitely of the essence. But it's not just about recovery time. It’s about optimizing tissue formation for strength, flexibility, and joint resilience. This is where collagen synthesis comes into play.
Collagen synthesis describes the process in which your body builds and repairs connective tissue.
It's like muscle protein synthesis, but for your joints.
Just like protein supplies the building blocks for muscle repair, collagen supplies the building blocks for connective tissue repair (and no, just taking a collagen protein powder won't do the trick).
But rarely do you hear about how collagen metabolism relates to injury recovery.
For example, a 12 week study of runners suffering from chronic Achilles tendinosis showed that eccentric exercise (the lowering portion) under moderately heavy loads increased the collagen synthesis rate — improving recovery time and collagen formation strength.
There are three important notes to consider based on this research:
Eccentric exercise appears to kick start collagen metabolism and turnover, helping athletes who have not been able to overcome an injury finally start the journey to full recovery.
Increased collagen synthesis (formation) speeds up recovery time.
And most importantly, improved collagen metabolism leads to more mechanically optimized collagen formations — stronger tissue that is less prone to injury and irritation in the future.
This last point deserves repeating: most injuries resurface later in life.
Either as a full-blown tear, or nagging discomfort. This can be partially attributed to the quality (or lack thereof) of the collagen tissue formation.
This is why collagen synthesis is so vital to a speedy, optimal recovery.
So, if you only took away ONE concept from this article, it would be this:
Learning the art and science of tissue repair (via collagen synthesis) is the closest thing there is to a 'hack' for healing and repairing joint damage.
Keep reading to see exactly how you can boost collagen synthesis for shorter recovery times, stronger connective tissue formations, and injury-proof joints.
And which supplements outperform NSAIDs on pain relief scores while also helping you build strong, injury-proof connective tissue.
1. NSAIDs provide short-term relief from pain and inflammation, but hinder the healing process — leading to poor connective tissue formations.
2. Leading sports medicine researchers have publicly stated that NSAIDs should NOT be used for injury recovery (i.e. researchers without conflict of interest ties to pharmaceutical companies or associated medical organizations).
3. Most people will continue to use NSAIDs for injury repair and inflammation because they simply don't know better. Or because their doctors recommend them.
4. The "Four Horsemen of Collagen Deficiency" explain why its so tough to bounce back from injuries as we age. But, there's good news.
5. There are three specific supplement strategies we've found through our research and clinical practice that give you the most bang for your buck.
Author: Scott Hogan
I created SaltWrap to bring together the most practical ideas in therapeutic sports nutrition, corrective exercise, and functional fitness — with the goal of keeping you (and myself) strong, mobile and built to last.
I've worked as an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, Orthopedic Exercise Specialist, and nutritional supplement formulator.
But more importantly — I've spent most of my life battling injuries, joint pain, and just being plain beat up. So I know what it's like to struggle toward fitness goals.
SaltWrap is here to push you through injuries, setbacks and perceived physical limitations. To a place beyond what you think you're capable of. Sign up here to stay in the loop.
Learn more about my best-selling injury prevention and recovery book, Built from Broken.
All SaltWrap supplements are made in the U.S.A., in FDA registered GMP Certified facilities, and third-party tested for accuracy and potency. We use only science-backed ingredients in clinically supported doses, without artificial sweeteners, dyes, or fillers.
*These statements have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.