Achy tendons and joints are the bane of hard-training athletes. To a passionate rock climber, a tweaked finger tendon pulley and sore elbow can stall your training advances and maybe even ruin your climbing season. Sound familiar?
You may be excited to learn, then, that recent research has discovered ways that you can promote healthier and stronger connective tissues! You can delve deeper into the fascinating scientific details by reading the articles under the "Science" dropdown menu above—but here's the short version.
Traditionally, tendons and ligaments were viewed as inert structures that did not respond to day-to-day training and nutrition, except in response to injury. Over the last decade, however, researchers have discovered that connective tissues are in fact “smart tissues” that can sense and adapt to chronic mechanical loading. By utilizing recently discovered training and nutritional interventions, climbers can develop stronger, stiffer ligaments, tendons, and muscle matrix that will increase performance (higher rate of force development and increase muscle efficiency) and reduce injury risk (via increasing collagen synthesis in tendons and ECM). These findings are revolutionary for a hard-training climber (or other serious athlete) with the desire and discipline to employ these new technologies!
It's been shown that tendon and ligaments degrade slightly as a result of training and then regenerate to regain homeostasis and strengthen slightly during the recovery period (see Figure below). This is quite similar to the process by which contractile muscle fibers hypertrophy as a result of training—a critical difference between muscle and connective tissue, however, is the limited blood flow and nutrient supply available to tendons and ligaments.
Whereas well-perfused muscle recovers rather quickly (typically 24 - 48 hours), connective tissues can take 48 to 72 hours (or more) to recover from an intense workout or day of hard climbing. While submaximal climbing and training are possible during this recovery period, frequent back-to-back days of high load and/or high volume training will result in a homeostasis perturbation that may reveal as slight transient pain in your finger tendon pulleys, elbows, and shoulders. Chronic over-training (under-resting) may escalate the condition to the point of an acute tear (e.g. A2 pulley) or tendinosis.
This is a remarkable finding that may help explain why climbers (and elite strength/power athletes) so frequently succumb to tendinopathy...and seem to incur tendon and ligament injury at a higher rate than other athletes.
Due to the poor blood flow to connective tissues, their primary delivery system of nourishment is by way of synovial fluid diffusion during mechanical loading (see Figure below). Consider that tendons/ligaments are comprised mostly of collagen and water, and so during mechanical loading (and deloading) fluid is squeezed out of (and returns into) the connective tissue in a way somewhat analogous to the squeezing/releasing of sponge in a bucket of water. This fluid flow brings amino acids into the loaded tendons/ligaments; of course, this delivery of nourishment mostly ceases with the end of exercise.
Now consider that climbers (like other serious power athletes) tend to train and perform on an empty stomach. Significant meals are typically consumed post-workout—great for nourishing muscles, but less than ideal for nourishing tendons. Might a resultant undernourishment of connective tissues, combined with chronic intensive training/climbing, lead to a progressive degradation of the most strained tendons and ligaments...and the gradual development of pain and increased injury risk? It would seem so, especially considering the ubiquity of injured climbers.
The bottom line: You can best nourish connective tissues with a small, nutrient-rich feeding 30 to 60 minutes before training, whereas the optimal feeding time of muscle is during the post-workout period of elevated blood flow (which lasts several hours after exercise).
The collagen structure of tendons/ligaments is comprised of a repeating sequence of amino acids, where glycine makes up one of every three amino acids and proline or hydroxyproline comprise nearly another one-third of the amino acid chain. Consuming hydrolyzed collagen has been shown to spike serum glycine and proline concentrations within one hour—ideal for bathing tendons and ligaments with glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline during a workout, climbing, or rehabilitative session.
Interestingly, published studies by Greg Shaw and Keith Baar have shown that consuming vitamin C-enriched hydrolyzed collagen before tendon/ligament training approximately doubles collagen synthesis after exercise. Interestingly, the exact same protocol of consuming hydrolyzed collage but without vitamin C did not lead to an increase in collagen synthesis! This is not surprising, however, as vitamin C is an essential co-factor in collagen synthesis—thus, in a fasted pre-workout state, blood/tissue vitamin C levels are likely too low to support collagen synthesis. Therefore, consuming Grandma's "hair & skin support" hydrolyzed collagen won't be effective for feeding the highly-stress connective tissues of climbers.
Maximizing the synergy of these training and nutritional interventions demands proper timing of the right exercises and the right nutrients. To provide tendon cells with the necessary amino acids to strengthen structural and force transfer proteins, you must consume the vitamin C-enriched hydrolyzed collagen 30 to 60 minutes before training—Supercharged Collagen is the only product designed specifically for hard-training climbers and other tendon-straining power athletes! Supercharged Collagen is further enhanced with the anabolic-signaling amino acid l-leucine and, additionally, further fortified with l-tryptophan. This makes Supercharged Collagen the only collagen powder on the market that is both a complete protein source and vitamin-C enriched.
Supercharged Collagen has no peer when it comes to promoting collagen synthesis in connective tissues and strengthening muscle extracellular matrix. Consume 1 to 1.5 scoops, mixed into your favorite beverage, 30 to 60 minutes before training to optimally feed your connective tissues and promote post-workout collagen synthesis. Read more about the proven strategy for exercise-directed collagen synthesis and remodeling.
On rest days....consume 1 scoop mixed in tap water (or your morning juice, coffee, or Endure X) to promote rest-day collagen synthesis in your tendons, ligaments, and muscle matrix. Consider doing a brief, light tendon-loading session to target the collagen to the tissues you desire to strengthen.
Are you stuck at a plateau? Or, do you commonly have sore or "tweaked" fingers? Read more about the advanced finger training strategy uses by top climbers >>
Want a deep dive into the science of training for stronger tendons and fewer injuries? Listen to this series of research-based podcasts >>