Which Compounds Enhance Collagen Synthesis? A Quick Overview
Collagen is a protein that exists in connective tissue. That is tendons, ligaments and skin. From a performance enhancement perspective, we care about collagen because our joints bear an incredible amount of pressure over time, and keeping them healthy keeps us in the gym. From a non-performance enhancing perspective, collagen keeps skin looking younger, and less like an 80 year old man sitting on a Florida beach all day long who for God’s sake needs to put some clothes on. There’s maybe some evidence that it’s good for bones too, but that’s not a primary focus for me here.
Let's cover what decreases collagen first, and boy I wish I had known about this before my first blast of test. Testosterone does not stimulate collagen production in any way, and decreases mRNA. mRNA tells the body where the proteins go and in what order. When mRNA falls, collagen doesn’t go to where it is needed, and is dose dependent. Another study also shows that testosterone inhibits collagen synthesis through a separate action. That said, supraphysiological doses of test can still be beneficial and can improve wound healing, just not through collagen synthesis. Instead, greater tensile strength seems to result in the existing fibers from AAS use. But for the average user concerned about collagen, lower doses of test is going to be a must and/or supplementation.
One of the main principles is that increasing Growth Hormone directly increases collagen. MK677 increases GH which I cover here and while I have not covered HGH yet, it’s a pretty safe bet that Human Growth Hormone increases Growth Hormone. So to does some AAS, with Stanozolol increasing collagen production and mRNA, but is not commonly used for this benefit.
Deca (nandrolone) has long been ‘known’ to increase collagen synthesis and used for this purpose, with a ton of anecdotal evidence and some older science backing it up:
(1) 39 women allocated to treatment with either 50 mg nandrolone decanoate as an intramuscular depot or placebo injections every third week for 1 year, and (2) 40 women allocated to receive either 2 mg 17β-estradiol plus 1 mg norethisterone acetate daily or placebo tablets for 1 year. Serum PIIINP (collagen) was measured every 3 months during the study. Anabolic steroid therapy resulted in a more than 50% increase (P < .001) in serum PIIINP (collagen) at 3 months
However, this is cautioned by a study that is reminiscent of waterboarding for rats, where groups, one receiving deca and the others various controls, were ‘adapted to water’, where they were placed in water and had weights attached. Weights and ‘sets’ (the number of times they were subjected to training) was gradually increased. And you thought your routine was tough, just imagine being drowned, daily. Oh, and then euthanized at the end of the study. Anyway, their conclusion was that yes collagen was increased, but that was a bad thing and that this will contribute to cardiac hypertrophy due to arterial hypertension.
EQ (boldenone) also increases GH. In doing my research, there’s an article being cited again and again from 2005. It has no citations, and I can’t find any evidence to back up the claims and the numbers used of ~350% increase in collagen synthesis. But I see it time and again being passed off as fact on boards, including r/steroids. We can do better - this industry deserves a better class of criminal. In fact, it’s so widespread that if you search for equipoise or boldenone and collagen synthesis, it’s the ONLY thing that comes up. So with that blocking my aim of doing a legitimate write up, I turned to horses where EQ is mostly used. And yes, it increases collagen in a horses testicle. Good enough. Elevated protein is even used as a detection method in horse racing.
There’s some bro-science out there that Ostarine increases collagen as well, but I’ve spent at least an hour looking through Google Scholar and search, and I can’t find anything on this. There’s a lot of claims from sites selling this SARM, and they may be right, but I can’t prove it one way or another. For the moment, this is unclear / unproven. I’m not sure how a SARM would increase collagen, it doesn’t really make sense to me, but I hope my skepticism is shown to be in error – it would be great to have another PED that we can utilize in this space.
Other non-PED supplements exist and they do have merit. Firstly a caution: collagen supplements have been linked to lbm gains in some studies, but it seems like it’s mostly rubbish, and don’t trust any supplement company that tells you otherwise. If you ever want to see a scientist call another scientist out on their bullshit, read this article here:
‘In sum, the changes in body composition in these sarcopenic older men… are remarkable. We find little in the way of plausible mechanistic evidence to suggest that either leucine and arginine or arginine and glycine, to allow the synthesis of muscle creatine, could be responsible for such changes. The simultaneous substantial loss of fat mass in these subjects, of a magnitude on part with that seen in much longer weight loss trials, is similarly noteworthy and deserves more explanation than is given by the authors in their article’.
These miracle changes in body composition would be more from proper programming and supervision of workouts during the study. If you ever have seen old men working out, you’ll know what I mean when I say programming and supervision of exercise goes a long way to ensuring an effective workout takes place.
With that said, hydrolyzed collagen supplementation appears to be effective, increasing the collagen found in the skin, reduced typical signs of aging, and increased skin elasticity. This is still an emerging area, and I was unable to become completely satisfied that it is beneficial for joint health. There are many patents pending in this area, so I hope to see more science on this soon.