I'm pretty out of the loop with most fads these days. I try to spend majority of my time offline so it takes a little bit for things to catch up to me. I recently heard about new companies that created protein powders out of collagen and started making millions...
What I've come to realize with most things is that you can get a study to tell you what you want to hear. So sit back and let me tell you what I've come to learn about collagen as a protein supplement. The main concern I'll be addressing here is should you supplement with collagen protein as opposed to whey protein. I know collagen has it's benefits for cosmetics and joint health. So does that justify choosing it over a whey protein powder? Lets find out!
What The Hell Is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein just like whey. It's made up of amino acids but is missing a few (whey has them all). Collagen is higher in glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine, all of which help our body's connective tissue, skin, hair, nails, and gut health. It makes up 70% of the protein in our skin and a large amount in our cartilage and joints. It also decreases as we age which is why your skin begins to wrinkle.
Supplementing vs. Diet?
When you eat collagen your body doesn't use it as it is. The collagen is broken down first and then the amino acids are reassembled into collagen and used where necessary. So by taking a supplement you would encourage the body to create more collagen if it needed it. Your body may already have enough amino acids that it needs to make collagen. To give you an idea here's the amino acids found in high amounts in collagen powders and here's some food sources that also have them:
Found in leading collagen protein supplement
- Glycine: 3,000 - 3,500mg
- Proline: 2,000 - 2,500mg
- Hydroxyproline: 2,000 - 2,500mg
- Arginine: 1,500 - 2,000mg
Foods High In Each:
- Chicken breast (basically any meat): 3,000mg
- 1 Cup Spinach: 1,500mg
- 8oz Beef: 3,000mg
- 1 Cup asparagus: 1,700mg
Hydroxyproline: (formed in the body by proline)
- 8oz ground beef: 600mg
- Turkey: 2,800mg
- 1 Cup spinach: 2,800mg
Will Supplementing Collagen Help My Skin?
Most collagen supplements are creams that are meant to fill in wrinkles and provide elasticity in the skin. It has been unclear whether orally taking collagen will have the same effect and to this date there are not many studies on it. One study I found in the US national library of medicine was done on mice. They gave aging mice a pill of collagen peptides or proline. After 8 weeks they noticed benefits in the laxity of skin from the collagen and proline group. They concluded that supplementation from collagen could benefit the health of skin, but to see the results may take a year or two. I have not found a study comparing a diet rich in these amino acids vs supplementation. So until I find that study I don't feel confident saying supplementation is necessary, but it doesn't appear to hurt you. Some claim that collagen supplementation will help relieve join pain. I have not found any conclusive studies on this issue either. One study on college athletes did conclude that over a 24 week period they saw a reduction in join pain. The study only had 97 people and the results were based on how they felt so it had it's limitations. It is not something to be overlooked though.
So Should I take Collagen Protein Instead Of Whey???
It depends on your goals. Most collagen protein powders are low in Leucine, the amino acid most known for its ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. So if your goal is to get so big you can't fit through doors I would not advise collagen protein. So to the average person looking to build muscle I would advise just sticking to whey. If you goal is to lose weight and be healthy I would advise you to not buy a collagen powder and get your nutrients through diet.
Even with supplementation you can't tell your body where to put things. So if you chose to take a collagen supplement it will be broken down into amino acids and it is entirely up to your body to decide where to put them. I have not seen any harm of taking a collagen protein supplement so I have no reason to advise against it. They are usually a lot more expensive than regular protein powders so be aware of that. There have been promising results in some studies on joint and skin health but not enough to fully convince me. If you are an athlete who has joint issues, or an older person with wrinkled skin I would say give it a shot and see if it can help you.