Collagen protein has been everywhere lately, but what is it? And is it really better than other forms of protein? Like any other supplement, it’s important to do some research before you start incorporating it into your diet.
Here’s what you need to know about collagen supplements.
What’s the difference between other types of protein and collagen protein?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, and it’s a key constituent of all connective tissue [source]. Collagen provides the infrastructure of the musculoskeletal system (considered the “glue” that holds the body together), and it’s the primary building block of skin, hair, nails, tendons, cartilage, bones, and joints.
Collagen protein supplements are mostly sourced from parts of animals that contain a lot of connective tissue. Most collagen protein powders contain bovine collagen, meaning they are derived from the cartilage, bones, and hides of cows.
Ideally, those cows were grass-fed and pasture-raised. Vital Proteins is my favorite brand for high-quality bovine collagen protein, and it is processed without chemicals. You can also buy products with collagen sourced from chicken, marine life [source], eggs, plants, and more [source].
There are many other types of protein powder supplements on the market—whey, casein, soy, pea, rice, hemp. Each one has its own unique benefits and drawbacks; they differ in terms of bioavailability and effects on muscle synthesis.
What I love about collagen protein is that it contains approximately 97% protein, and it’s supplied in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the human body.
It’s dairy-free (unlike whey and casein), fat-free, carb-free, and sugar-free. Since it’s unflavored, it mixes easily into virtually anything (even water!) and doesn’t contain any sketchy “other ingredients,” which can be a big issue with some protein powder supplements. Collagen protein is just simple and pure, making it my preferred protein powder supplement.
What are the health benefits of collagen?
There are many, but here are five ways collagen can boost your health:
Promotes beautiful skin
Collagen is one of the primary structural elements of skin. By providing your body with supplemental collagen protein, you’re giving it the building blocks (amino acids) it needs to produce enough of your own. Supplemental collagen has been shown to help improve skin elasticity [source] and hydration [source], reduce wrinkling [source], and may even protect from the aging effects of sunlight [source].
Heals the gut
Collagen helps form connective tissue and heals damaged cell walls. In the gut, it works to heal and seal the intestinal lining and restore the gut’s mucosal layer.
Keeps joints healthy
Collagen is a rich source of the amino acid glycine [source], which helps convert glucose into the energy that feeds muscle cells. Increasing lean muscle mass increases your metabolism!
Keeps you calm and helps you sleep
Glycine is also helpful in decreasing anxiety and promoting mental calmness. Studies show that taking 3 grams of glycine (found in a 20-gram serving of collagen) before bed improves the quality of sleep [source].
What are collagen peptides?
When looking for collagen protein, you may come across names like “collagen hydrolysate” and “collagen peptides,” which are the same thing. Collagen peptides are the smaller components of collagen protein. They contain the same amino acid profile as collagen protein but have a lighter molecular weight [source].
This allows the peptides to be highly bioavailable, digestible, and soluble in cold or hot liquids. They are also unflavored and easy to mix into smoothies, soups, or even water.
The other form of collagen protein you may come across is gelatin, which is the cooked form of collagen. It offers the same amino acids and has been shown to improve collagen synthesis [source], but its molecular weight is higher than that of collagen peptides, so it is not soluble in cold water.
It dissolves only in hot water and causes liquid to gel. You can use gelatin to thicken sauces and soups or to make gummies and puddings.
Who can benefit from collagen supplementation?
Anyone looking for a clean and pure protein powder with health, beauty, and anti-aging benefits can expect some benefits from taking collagen supplements. As we get older, collagen production begins to slow down, and cell structures start losing their strength.
What are the easiest ways to incorporate collagen peptides into my diet?
Bone broth is the original gelatin source. For chicken bone broth, the most collagen-rich bones to use are necks, feet, and backs, but you can also use a whole chicken if that’s easier. For beef or lamb bone broth, I recommend using marrow bones, knuckle bones, or oxtail.
You’ll know your broth is full of gelatin if it gels in the fridge. (Don’t worry, it will liquefy again once heated.)
If you can’t be bothered making it yourself, you can buy it at natural foods stores, or there are a handful of companies that ship frozen or shelf-stable broth to your door.
Roasts with lots of connective tissue will also produce meat and broth full of gelatin if you cook them low and slow, like in a slow cooker. Chuck roast and shanks are collagen-rich cuts that are perfect for this.
Try adding a scoop or two of collagen peptides to your daily drinks or meals. Here are some simple serving suggestions:
Smoothie – Add 10–20 grams (1–2 scoops) of collagen peptides to your liquid breakfast.
Butter coffee – Combine 1 cup of freshly brewed coffee + 1 tablespoon of grass-fed ghee or coconut oil + 1 scoop of collagen peptides + 1 teaspoon of cinnamon + 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract + a pinch of sea salt in a blender, and blend on high for 30–60 seconds until frothy. You can also stir collagen into a plain cup of coffee or tea.
Or just stir in pre-made collagen creamer.
Oatmeal – Add 10 grams (1 scoop) of collagen to your oatmeal, along with some healthy fat (like 1 tablespoon of nut butter) for a well-balanced breakfast.
Soups – Add a scoop to a pureed vegetable soup for a light and clean dinner.
Protein-packed side dish – Try this teriyaki cauli rice.
You can even stir into plain water pre- or post-workout for performance and tissue repair.
Do you take collagen supplements? What’s your favorite way to use them?
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified physician who has been practicing for more than 20 years. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.149