Sports Nutrition Experts since 1993

How to fight against stiffness and tendonitis?

  • collagen
  • Sports nutrition

It is common to have aches or even tendonitis after sports. Nutrimuscle helps you better understand your sensations and discusses with you the solutions to fight against muscle stiffness and tendonitis.

Body aches: deceptive sensations

Multiple counter-intuitive phenomena are generated during muscle aches, which gives rise to a lot of confusion and leads to erroneous conclusions.

A variable geometry perception

Muscle stiffness goes almost unnoticed when the muscle is not under tension. It is only when you contract it or when you press on it that it appears. The stronger the contraction, the more intense the pain and vice versa.

Likewise, the intensity of the aching sensations fluctuates throughout the day. The pain is usually worse in the middle of the night. We can clearly distinguish these same fluctuations in pain in the case of a cold: it is in the evening, when trying to sleep, that the discomfort of the sore throat manifests itself most painfully.

Pain fluctuations

Logically, for the same damage to muscle tissue or the same irritation to the respiratory walls, the intensity of the pain should be constant throughout the day, but it is not. These well-known fluctuations reveal the dual character of pain, in particular that due to muscle stiffness.

There are two causes for feeling stiffness:

  1. A local (or peripheral) element that directly affects the muscle or muscles being trained.
  2. A central element in the brain, which modulates the perception of pain sensations coming from the muscles. Research shows that there is a nervous facilitation of the sensation of pain emanating from the brain (1).

This lowering of the pain threshold does not manifest itself when the muscles are relaxed. It appears when we put them under tension. In addition, it is very specific, affecting only damaged muscles. It is at this central level that the pain modulation will take effect.

Modulation of the pain threshold

A very easy way to play with this second pain perception factor is to contract the stiff muscle. At first, it hurts a lot! Then as the muscle warms up, the pain subsides. It can even go so far as to fade completely. Unfortunately, just because the muscle is hot doesn't mean the stiffness has actually gone away. It is just masked, ready to reappear as soon as the muscle is sufficiently cooled.

This is a typical example of a modulation of the pain threshold allowed by the brain because, in certain dangerous situations, we absolutely have to use our muscles. It is a survival mechanism. If we had had to flee in the face of danger with muscles handicapped by the pain of aches, we would have been significantly less efficient.

An unexpected location

Contrary to what one might think, the feeling of stiffness arises only slightly from the contractile muscle fibers. The "curvature" is in fact, mainly localized on the fascia, the peripheral envelope of the muscles (2 - 3).

It is on this muscle sheath (fascia), much more than in the muscles themselves, that the most sensitive pain receptors are located (4).

The researchers determined it by injecting, in an extremely precise way, a substance that causes pain. In the days following an intense weight training session, the pain is increased tenfold when the substance is injected into the fascia while it remains similar when the product is injected into the muscle itself.

A painful fascia testifies to its damage by training. It must therefore be repaired so that the stiffness disappears. This has nothing to do with the regeneration and growth of the muscle itself.

There is no doubt, however, that the muscle fibers have been damaged as a result of training and need to be rebuilt and strengthened (5). However, it is not the contractile tissues that produce most of the pain when you have aches.

What are the consequences ?

From these medical discoveries arise several consequences:

  1. Extra care should be taken when the stiffness is located at the junction of the muscle and tendon rather than right in the center of the muscle, which means that your range of motion on the stretch portion of the exercises has probably been a bit excessive. The risk of tendonitis, or even tears, is increased if you continue with this type of training.
  2. A muscle may appear to continue to be stiff, but in fact have already recovered. We are just dealing with a sort of "echo" of the pain in the fascia, which tends to wear off less quickly than the muscle damage itself.
  3. Do not hesitate to retrain on a muscle whose peak of stiffness has just passed. It is simply necessary to avoid putting too much force on the fascia with wide movements that will stretch it too much or with too heavy weights. On the other hand, exercises in longer series with a continuous tension, therefore a lower amplitude especially in the stretching phase, will be perfectly suitable.

Indeed, it is disturbing that it is local muscle growth factors like NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) and COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) that also exacerbate the sensation of pain (6).

GDNF and the sensation of pain

We find the same logic of stimulation of progression with an increase in the local production of growth factors for the nervous system such as GDNF (glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor). Through a dual function, GDNF simultaneously exacerbates the feeling of local pain while allowing the strengthening of the nerve signal from which our muscle power emanates (6).

So while retraining on muscle soreness is painful, this strategy is also very effective in triggering the production of growth factors that are beneficial for strength gain and muscle gain.

  1. Massages on a foam roller or tennis ball can help regenerate the fascia.
  2. Collagen hydrolysates (Peptan®) will be better able to get rid of "fascial" aches than conventional proteins (whey, casein, egg, etc.). Indeed, research shows that "classic" proteins are not the most suitable for increasing muscle collagen regeneration, whether taken at rest or after strength training (7).

However, leucine does have some ability to promote collagen synthesis (8). On the other hand, oral intake of collagen hydrolysates has been shown to effectively stimulate the anabolism of collagen fibrils (9).

As such, Peptan® therefore has a dual role:

  1. Stimulate the anabolism of collagen in muscles, tendons and joints.
  2. Provide amino acids very specific to collagen such as hydroxyproline, which are absent from conventional proteins, BCAAs or from the diet, even though their needs are increased by regular sports practice (10-11).

We now understand why studies that sought to reduce muscle soreness or make it disappear more quickly by increasing the intake of conventional proteins have failed.

A historic turning point in the use of proteins by athletes

If aches are closely linked to damage to the collagen that makes up the fascia, this means that it makes sense to increase the intake of collagen hydrolysates in the event of aches. Indeed, the fascia is made up of connective tissue very rich in collagen.

Classical proteins, due to their amino acid composition, primarily target contractile tissues. They are much less effective in repairing damaged fascia collagen than collagen hydrolysates (which exactly target collagen regeneration).

Primary role of Peptan®

This does not mean that collagen hydrolysates must replace these proteins, because Peptan® targets the contractile elements of muscles much less well, hence the need for a dual source of protein (conventional + Peptan®).

This awareness of the essential role of Peptan® in the athlete marks a turning point in our understanding of sports nutrition, by emphasizing that the increase in collagen protein needs is much more important than what we have. thought until now; the more intense the training, the more vital the need for collagen is for the athlete (10-11).

Can we be immune to muscle soreness?

After certain training sessions that had been predicted to be very "stiff", the masochistic tendency of the athlete encourages him to be disappointed if he does not feel any muscle pain. But as we saw above, the central aspect of pain due to muscle aches allows the brain to play tricks on us. It is advisable to make sure of the veracity of its perceptions in order not to draw erroneous conclusions because of the supposed absence of aches. On the other hand, some people think they never experience muscle stiffness. What is it really ?

In order to check it effectively, there are two checking techniques. They consist in using:

  1. A strong local pressure obtained with a massage on a tennis ball or a foam roller, by exerting as much compression as possible.
  2. Electro-stimulation which amplifies the nerve signal for pain.

In theory, it would be ideal to repeat these tests in the middle of the night, around 30-40 and 60 hours after the workout that is believed to have caused muscle soreness. This is obviously not practical. However, we recommend that you test yourself in the morning, on cold muscles, rather than in the evening.

Often times, these tests will reveal a sore muscle even though it looked like it was unharmed. These tests make it possible to check:

  1. The veracity of our sensations.
  2. The accuracy of the conclusions we draw from it.
  3. The speed of recovery after a workout.

Importance of Peptan® for tendon recovery

Following strength training or sports, a deep restructuring of the collagen fibers that make up the tendons is triggered (12).

Without a supply of collagen proteins, this restructuring will be delayed or incomplete which can lead to injuries; slight transient pains at first risking to transform into tendonitis, which we cannot get rid of afterwards (13).

Tendinitis: insufficient recovery

And this, not to mention the regeneration of tendons which takes place permanently and which is intensified by physical activity (10-11).

Thus, a tendonitis is none other than an insufficient recovery of the tendons due to training too close together and / or a nutritional deficit which does not provide enough collagen protein precursors while the needs are increased in the athlete. 

Hydrolysis: the key to the effectiveness of Peptan®

Collagen is historically considered to be a poor quality protein source because its absorption is poor. However, due to the hydrolysis of amino acids, the absorption of collagen hydrolysates from Peptan® reaches approximately 95% (14).

This improvement through hydrolysis places Peptan® among the best proteins, not for nourishing the muscle itself, but all the cladding architecture that surrounds it, such as tendons, fascia, extracellular matrix ...

For a perfect anabolic synergy, Peptan® can be combined with BCAAs.

Fight against muscle stiffness and tendonitis: conclusion

Collagen proteins should be used as soon as we start a sports activity, just like “classic” proteins, because our needs are much greater than previously thought.

Don't wait until you are in pain before boosting your collagen supplementation.

Scientific references

(1) Gibson W. Delayed onset muscle soreness at tendon–bone junction and muscle tissue is associated with facilitated referred pain. Exp Brain Res. 2006 174, Issue 2 , pp 351-360

(2) Lau WY. Changes in electrical pain threshold of fascia and muscle after initial and secondary bouts of elbow flexor eccentric exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 May;115(5):959-68

(3) Gibson W. Increased pain from muscle fascia following eccentric exercise: animal and human fingings. Exp Brain Res 2009 194:299–308

(4) Malm C. Leukocytes, cytokines, growth factors and hormones in human skeletal muscle and blood after uphill or downhill running. J Physiol. 2004 May 1;556(Pt 3):983-1000.

(5) Yu JY. Evaluation of muscle damage using ultrasound imaging. J. Phys. Ther. Sci. 2015 27: 531–534.

(6) Murase S. Upregulated glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor through cyclooxygenase-2 activation in the muscle is required for mechanical hyperalgesia after exercise in rats. J Physiol 2013 591.12 pp 3035–3048.

(7) Holm L. Contraction intensity and feeding affect collagen and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates differently in human skeletal muscle. Am J Physiol 2010 Vol. 298 no. 2, E257-E269.

(8) Barbosa AW. A leucine-rich diet and exercise affect the biomechanical characteristics of the digital flexor tendon in rats after nutritional recovery. Amino Acids 2012: 42: 329–336.

(9) Minaguchi J. Effects of Ingestion of Collagen Peptide on Collagen Fibrils and Glycosaminoglycans in Achilles Tendon. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2005 51, 169-174

(10) Deus AP. MMP(-2) expression in skeletal muscle after strength training. Int J Sports Med. 2012 Feb;33(2):137-41.

(11) Reihmane D. Increase in IL-6, TNF-α, and MMP-9, but not sICAM-1, concentrations depends on exercise duration. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):851-8.

(12) Kubo K. Time course of changes in the human Achilles tendon properties and metabolism during training and detraining in vivo. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 112, Issue 7, pp 2679-2691

(13) Dideriksen K. Muscle and tendon connective tissue adaptation to unloading, exercise and NSAID. Connect Tissue Res. 2014 Apr;55(2):61-70.

(14) Oesser S. Oral administration of 14C labeled collagen hydrolysate leads to an accumulation of a radioactivity in cartilage of mice (C57/BL). J. Nutr. 1999 129, 1891-1895.

Written on 12/28/2021 by Nutrimuscle Conseil
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