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How Collagen Helped My Joints As An Avid Hiker

Jake Kocinski is a member of Vital Proteins®' Healthcare Practitioner team. Here, he writes about how collagen helped support his joints following a strenuous thru-hiking experience. All views are his own.

As a 28-year-old registered dietitian and thru-hiker, I have benefited greatly from adding collagen to my diet over the three-and-a-half years. Collagen has significantly helped my bones, joints and tendons, which experienced a lot of stress four years ago. I learned the hard way what thru-hiking can do to the body.

For the uninitiated, thru-hiking means hiking a long-distance trail, end-to-end, within one hiking season. From April to August 2017, my two college roommates and I hiked around 1,800 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT stretches from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada across three states: California, Oregon and Washington.

From start to finish, thru-hikers place massive amounts of stress on their bodies, both physically and mentally. Over the 4-month hike with my college roommates, Jack Sullivan (Bubbles*) and Pat Fahey (Nark*), we averaged around 20 miles per day – all while carrying a 35- to 45-lb. backpack that contained our food and water, among other essentials.

Try to imagine how demanding the miles and the weight of the backpack are specifically on bones, joints and tendons. During those four months and for several months afterward, my body experienced an incredible amount of discomfort. This was due to probable stress fractures in both feet (which I foolishly ignored), nagging knees and ankles, as well as an incredibly stiff back. When not much changed after completing the trail, I thought I needed to just adapt as best as I could and live with the aftermath of what I had put my body through. Eventually, I started incorporating weekly hot yoga sessions and massages into my recovery routine to help my body through this discomfort and allow myself to rest and give the stress fractures time to heal.

Then, in February 2018, the real road comeback began when I started working at Vital Proteins®. I began taking collagen every single day to supplement my wellness routine and support my joint health and now intend to for the rest of my life.**

jake kocinski

Collagen & Hair Support 

After the thru-hike came to an end, I realized I had underestimated my nutrition requirements on the trail. I don’t think I was getting enough protein in my diet to make up for all that physical activity, which I’m sure is connected to the hair thinning and loss I experienced during that time period. Thankfully, my hair has grown back, and I attribute the majority of that to taking collagen. Daily supplementation of collagen combined with weekly yoga has made me feel like a new person.

Collagen for Hikers

Vital Proteins® Original Collagen Peptides ($27; shop now) is my favorite recommendation as a registered dietitian for all serious hikers, athletes and weekend warriors. Here are two reasons why our Collagen Peptides are the best to take on the trail:

Ease of Use

Our single-serving Collagen Peptides Stick Packs ($37; shop now) make for ultimate trail convenience and fit easily into any hiking pack.


Since our Original Collagen Peptides are unflavored and odorless, they can be easily added to any hot or cold beverage and meal. Looking for a flavor boost? We offer a line of flavored options that provide users with the same hair, skin, nails bones and joints health benefits.**

Ready to try collagen? Find the perfect Vital Proteins® product for your lifestyle here.

*Thru-hiking fact: when you’re on the trail, you get what’s known as a “trail name.” Mine was Stretch.

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