So, you bought a collagen supplement or bar with “protein” written on the label. This is great! It must mean you can skip picking up a whey or vegan protein powder, because collagen doubles up as a protein supplement — right?
First off — YES! It’s true that collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies! Collagen is plentiful in the structural parts of our bodies — like our bones, connective tissue, ligaments, tendons and our skin. It’s also gaining momentum as the supplement du jour.
Supplementing with collagen provides plenty of benefits to the body (we’ll get to those in a bit) — BUT collagen doesn’t behave in the same way in the body as a whey or multi-source vegan protein.
Protein Powders vs Collagen Supplements
Collagen — despite all of its amazing benefits — is not a source of dietary protein. Dietary protein is the kind of protein that you consume to balance your blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Complete protein sources contain all 9 essential amino acids that we need to get from our diet, to help us build muscle and fuel metabolic functions. A complete-protein supplement is a daily essential for many people to ensure they’re getting enough to support their health.
Collagen contains a different spectrum of amino acids than a traditional protein source like whey or multi-source vegan protein does. And collagen is lower in essential amino acids that we cannot make — especially tryptophan and leucine1,2, but is higher in glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, amino acids required by the body to properly build collagen, providing strength and structure to our body.
In other words, the benefits of collagen come from a unique spectrum of amino acid peptides that offers its own, unique benefits throughout the body:
Collagen provides anti-aging benefits and makes your skin look great. You may know that collagen production starts to decline in your 20s. But did you know that by age 60, you have half as much collagen as you did when you were 21? Good news — collagen supplementation has been shown to improve skin’s texture, moisture and elasticity3.
Collagen helps your joints feel great. Over 4.5 million people suffer from arthritis in Canada alone. Supplementing with collagen can help to boost cellular repair and even stimulate the growth of new joint cartilage4.
Collagen can help to support your active body. When you think physical activity, you’re probably thinking “muscles”! But your connective tissue is what supports your muscles — and these tissues make up the second largest “organ” in the body. Collagen supplementation bolsters your connective tissue, which supports your active muscles. And collagen can lessen recovery time from athletic injury5 through its direct anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support.
Collagen can help improve your bone mineral density. Collagen has been found to improve bone mineral density and reduce bone degradation in postmenopausal women6.
Collagen can improve cardiovascular function. Collagen peptides have been shown to reduce arterial stiffness, a marker of cardiovascular disease.
Collagen can improve everyday life! Recent human research has shown that collagen can improve overall wellness3. One recent study (that also showed skin and joint benefits) found that 83% of the subjects had more energy, and 70% reported that collagen improved their overall wellbeing!
But there are lots of different collagen products on the market. So, how do you choose?
When it comes to buying an effective collagen, there are 3 BIG questions to ask:
- Does it come from a clean, sustainable source? If it’s marine collagen, make sure that it comes from sustainably caught wild fish (not farmed). If it’s from a bovine source, make sure that it comes from grass-fed and pasture raised cows and contains no hormones or antibiotics. In both cases, look for a collagen that is consciously-sourced and harvested in a sustainable way that reduces waste.
- Is it in an effective dose? Most studies on collagen are in the 5-10 grams per serving range.
- Is it highly absorbable? Without being hydrolyzed (that is, being broken down into smaller units), collagen is not absorbable. Look for either hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides (they’re the same thing), which will be ready for your body to use!
- We start with sustainably-sourced grass-fed cow hides and wild-caught fish skins from sustainable industries, that would have otherwise been unused, for our careful collagen extraction process.
- And then we made sure we provided a therapeutic dose of easily absorbed collagen in each serving. Each serving of clean collagen gives you 10 grams of easily absorbed collagen peptides
- Finally, we wanted to make it simple for you to take clean collagen. So, we created two collagen source options: marine and bovine in both unflavoured and lightly flavoured options. Whether you choose to take collagen from a marine or bovine source (your personal choice — research has not identified one to be superior!) there’s a clean collagen for you.
So, when it comes to collagen supplements and protein powder — they’re not the same. Each plays their own unique role in supporting your health. But taking both in conjunction optimizes your health and gives your body nourishment, along with structural and healthy aging support!
Want to learn more about the many ways protein functions in our health and the role of different forms of protein—including how to choose the right protein supplement for YOU? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Protein!
1 Phillips SM. Current Concepts and Unresolved Questions in Dietary Protein Requirements and Supplements in Adults. Front Nutr. 2017 May 8;4:13
2 Castellanos VH, et al. Modular protein supplements and their application to long-term care. Nutr Clin Pract 2006;21:485–504
3 Czajka, et al. Daily oral supplementation with collagen peptides combined with vitamins other bioactive compounds improves skin elasticity and has a beneficial effect on joint and general wellbeing. Nutr Res 2018 In Press
4 Zdzieblik, et al. Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017 Jun;42(6):588-595
5 Lopez, et al. Evaluation of the Effects of BioCell Collagen, a Novel Cartilage Extract, on Connective Tissue Support and Functional Recovery From Exercise. Integr Med. 2015 Jun;14(3):30-8.
6 Konig, et al Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 16;10(1). pii: E97