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Nutrients for Joint Health

When participating in endurance sports, athletes have to deal with increased training loads and extreme loading onto the body. This will often add stress and pressure onto an athlete’s muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Endurance athletes may begin to experience day-to-day wear and tear and, without the correct nutrients for joint health, an increase in significant joint injuries.

Due to the increased risks of more serious joint injuries, athletes need to rely on the best joint care supplements. They should also focus on strategies to promote joint health, especially during times of intense training loads and competition.

Where do these joint injuries occur?

Oftentimes, runners will experience high levels of injury in their knees and ankle joints as a result of the impacts of landing (1,2). On the other hand, cycling is considered a low impact activity, although cyclists are still at risk of knee joint injuries too (3,4,5). Quadriceps dominance during hill climbs, riding at low cadences and pushing larger gears have all been linked to knee pain (3)

Depending on their range of motion, joints are either classed as fixed or mobile. Those common injury sites in endurance athletes are mobile joints and these comprise the bones at that site, cartilage, connective tissue and synovial fluid. Damage to any of these structures or inflammation of the joint capsule can result in issues.

What are the best joint supplements for athletes?


Over recent years the use of specific sport nutrition strategies tailored towards preventing and treating joint injuries  has received increased attention and one of the most popular strategies that has emerged recently is the use of collagen supplementation within an athletes or individuals prehab and rehab programme. 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in connective tissue and forms the mechanical backbone of intramuscular connective tissue, tendons and ligaments. Collagen supplementation in combination with a rehabilitation protocol, including exercise and supplemental collagen protein may help hastened return to play (13). Meanwhile, collagen specific peptides in conjunction with calf-strengthening exercises has been shown to increase functionality and reduce pain during tendinopathy (14). Therefore, supplementing with Collagen+ provides a unique combination and formulation of Undenatured Type II Collagen (UCII®) with Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Manganese, and Copper that all combine to support collagen production and formation within the body to promote healthy cartilage and improve joint health (15)


One of the main nutrients for joint health are glucosamine. Glucosamine is a popular joint sport supplement as it is found in high concentrations within joints and connective tissues in the body.

Supplementing with glucosamine has been shown to reduce the rate of collagen, joint tissue and bone tissue breakdown (6,7). Glucosamine has also shown benefits in injury rehabilitation, with supplementation facilitating a significant improvement in knee joint range of motion after an acute knee injury (8).

The innovative inclusion of curcumin and black pepper extract is of particular interest with the Science in Sport Glucosamine. Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric and displays anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

Combining curcumin with black pepper extract can also enhance the absorption and consequently increase bioavailability (9). Supplementation with curcumin has also been shown to inhibit collagenase (10), an enzyme that breaks the peptide bonds in collagen, which also helps to maintain joint health.

Omega 3 As A Nutrient For Joint Health

Other nutrients have also been shown to provide beneficial effects on joint health. 

In humans, omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to reduced pain and improved signs of clinical joint disease (11). Additionally, omega 3 leads to reduced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (molecules secreted from immune cells that promote inflammation) and cartilage-degrading enzymes by increasing omega 3 fatty acid and reducing arachidonic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid (12)

Finally, higher levels of omega 3 in the synovial fluid, the fluid around joint capsules, lubricates joints and is associated with reduced joint pain.

Take Home Messages About Joint Supplements In Sport:

  1. Endurance athletes are at an increased risk of wear and tear on the joints and more serious joint injuries.
  2. Glucosamine is one of the key nutrients to promote joint health and this may play both a prevention and rehabilitation role in joint care.
  3. Turmeric extract has been shown to display anti-inflammatory properties and its bioavailability is increased when ingested alongside black-pepper extract.
  4. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce joint inflammation and joint pain, decrease the production of cartilage-degrading enzymes, and provide lubrication within the joint capsule.


  1. Egermann, M., Brocai, D., Lill, C. A., & Schmitt, H. (2003). Analysis of injuries in long-distance triathletes. International journal of sports medicine24(04), 271-276.
  2. Tenforde, A. S., Yin, A., & Hunt, K. J. (2016). Foot and ankle injuries in runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics27(1), 121-137.
  3. Deakon, R. T. (2012). Chronic musculoskeletal conditions associated with the cycling segment of the triathlon; prevention and treatment with an emphasis on proper bicycle fitting. Sports medicine and arthroscopy review20(4), 200-205.
  4. Sanner, W. H., & O’Halloran, W. D. (2000). The biomechanics, etiology, and treatment of cycling injuries. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association90(7), 354-376.
  5. Bini, R., Hume, P. A., & Croft, J. L. (2011). Effects of bicycle saddle height on knee injury risk and cycling performance. Sports medicine41(6), 463-476.
  6. Yoshimura, M., Sakamoto, K., Yamamoto, T., Ishida, K., Yamaguchi, H., & Nagaoka, I. (2009). Evaluation of the effect of glucosamine administration on biomarkers for cartilage and bone metabolism in soccer players. International journal of molecular medicine24(4), 487-494.
  7. Momomura, R., Naito, K., Igarashi, M., Watari, T., Terakado, A., Oike, S., … & Kaneko, K. (2013). Evaluation of the effect of glucosamine administration on biomarkers of cartilage and bone metabolism in bicycle racers. Molecular medicine reports7(3), 742-746.
  8. Ostojic, S. M., Arsic, M., Prodanovic, S., Vukovic, J., & Zlatanovic, M. (2007). Glucosamine administration in athletes: effects on recovery of acute knee injury. Research in Sports Medicine15(2), 113-124.
  9. Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R., & Srinivas, P. S. S. R. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta medica64(04), 353-356.
  10. Jackson, J. K., Higo, T., Hunter, W. L., & Burt, H. M. (2006). The antioxidants curcumin and quercetin inhibit inflammatory processes associated with arthritis. Inflammation Research55(4), 168-175.
  11. Buddhachat, K., Siengdee, P., Chomdej, S., Soontornvipart, K., & Nganvongpanit, K. (2017). Effects of different omega-3 sources, fish oil, krill oil, and green-lipped mussel against cytokine-mediated canine cartilage degradation. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Animal53(5), 448-457.
  12. Rajaei, E., Mowla, K., Ghorbani, A., Bahadoram, S., Bahadoram, M., & Dargahi-Malamir, M. (2016). The effect of omega-3 fatty acids in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis receiving DMARDs therapy: double-blind randomized controlled trial. Global journal of health science8(7), 18.
Written By

Ben Samuels

Ben is a Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport