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Your Questions About Collagen Answered

You’re probably familiar with some benefits of collagen thanks to skincare product commercials. However, collagen is an immensely popular supplement with a wide range of benefits for supporting bone, muscle, skin health, and much more. You have good reason to be skeptical. No one wants to waste their hard-earned money on the latest snake oil. We put together your most pressing questions about collagen in this post so you can figure out for yourself if it’s the right choice to add to your supplement routine.  

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein responsible for giving almost every cell in your body its structure. Frankly, it’s the most abundant protein in the human body accounting for between 25-35% of all protein in mammals. Collagen is also the most important protein in connective tissues. That’s why it’s often called the “glue” that holds everything in your body together. Today, you can purchase collagen for consumption in powders or chewable supplements.  

What are Collagen Peptides?

Collagen peptides are isolated short-chain essential and non-essential amino acids that are easy for the body to process and use. These non-essential amino acids include glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. All of these amino acids help the body in various ways, giving collagen its ability to support skin, hair, muscle, bone, and connective tissue health.

Are Collagen Peptides Safe?

Collagen supplements are generally safe with only mild side effects and no drug interactions. Pregnant women shouldn’t take collagen supplements without speaking to their doctor because there isn’t enough research to prove its safety. (1) The biggest concern, however, is that as a supplement, collagen is not regulated by the FDA. This makes it important for you to only buy collagen supplements from highly reputable brands to avoid contamination or heavy metal exposure. Anyone with food allergies should be wary of their collagen sources as well.  

Is Collagen a Complete Protein?

No, collagen is not a complete protein. To qualify for complete protein status, a food must contain all nine essential amino acids – collagen contains eight. (2) The only essential amino acid missing from the collagen puzzle is tryptophan. Plus, unlike most complete proteins, the amino acids in collagen are not present in equal amounts so collagen isn’t ideal as your main source of muscle-building protein. Instead of relying on collagen as a protein source, combine it with other complete proteins from hemp or whey to get the most benefits.  

What is Hydrolyzed Collagen?

Hydrolyzed collagen is another way to say collagen peptides. If you buy collagen powder, it’s technically hydrolyzed collagen. “Hydrolyzed” simply refers to removing the hydrogen bond between molecules so the collagen peptides are readily available.

Is Collagen Good for Your Skin?

Collagen is extremely good for skin. With age and other environmental factors like smoking, our body slowly stops producing collagen itself. Supplementing your diet with collagen can support skin elasticity and may even reverse signs of aging. In one study, women between the ages of 35 and 55 who took a collagen supplement displayed improved skin elasticity within just four weeks. (2) In another study, collagen reduced the appearance of wrinkles in eight weeks. (3)  

Does Collagen Help Your Joints?

Yes. Cartilage and other soft tissues require collagen for flexibility and structure. That’s why as collagen production decreases with age, you start to notice an increase in joint pain. Studies on patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have shown that supplementing collagen can decrease the frequency and severity of joint pain. In the study with rheumatoid arthritis patients, four actually found their RA go into remission completely. (4)  

Is Collagen Good for Hair?

Collagen is good for hair on multiple levels. First, collagen supports both hair follicles and the scalp to reduce hair loss – remember, 70% of your skin is collagen. (5) Meanwhile, the antioxidants in collagen may prevent graying while the amino acids support keratin production—the main protein found in hair. Contrary to belief that collagen is a women’s supplement, men looking for a proactive way to fight hair loss can reap the benefits of collagen supplements.  

How Long Does It Take for Collagen to Work?

It depends what you’re taking collagen to support. If you’re taking collagen for muscle growth, positive changes will start to take place almost immediately with your workouts – although you may not notice the progress right away. In studies looking at collagen supplements for joint pain and skin elasticity, participants experienced noticeable improvements in about four to eight weeks of daily supplementation. Like any supplement, collagen isn’t an overnight miracle cure but sticking with a daily supplement routine will produce the best results.  

What is Bovine Collagen?

Bovine collagen comes from cows – ideally grass-fed cows. There are three different types of collagen: collagen I, II, and III. Each type of collagen supports different parts of the body. In bovine collagen made from hide, you’ll typically find types I and III which function in similar ways to support skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and gut health. If you buy a bovine collagen supplement made from cartilage, connective tissues, or bones, this supplement should also contain collagen type II which helps support joint health in particular.  

What is Marine Collagen?

Marine collagen contains type I collagen and is usually sourced from wild caught fish. This type of collagen is excellent for improving sustainability practices because it’s made from fish parts that typically end up in the garbage. The great thing about marine collagen is that it’s easy for the body to process and absorb. Unfortunately, anyone on a vegan or strict vegetarian diet cannot take collagen supplements because it’s always sourced from some type of animal product. However, unlike standard gelatin, bovine collagen and marine collagen do not contain any pork-derived products so they are suitable for anyone on a kosher or halal diet.  

Does Collagen Break a Fast?

Yes. Since collagen is a protein, it stops the autophagy process induced during fasting. During intermittent or long-term fasting, autophagy takes place to clear the cells of built-up toxins. Collagen or any other type of protein is a definite no while fasting.

Are Collagen Peptides Keto Friendly?

Generally, yes. Collagen is a protein, so it’s typically a good addition to your keto diet. However, too much protein can throw you out of ketosis so make sure to include plenty of healthy fats with your collagen supplements. At the same time, collagen contains several amino acids that aren’t found in many other foods so this makes it an excellent supplement for your keto diet when used in moderation.  

How Much Collagen Should I Take Daily?

It depends on your body weight and personal needs. In some cases, people see results after twelve weeks of just one gram per day. (6) Looking at most of the research though, it would appear that anywhere from 10g to 30g per day will deliver the most drastic results for skin elasticity, muscle growth, and joint health. This may be because the digestive system starts to break down collagen before it reaches places like the skin or joints. Consuming more collagen would help more collagen peptides reach important parts of the body. When in doubt, talk to a doctor or health practitioner before adding large amounts of collagen to your diet.  

What Foods are High in Collagen?

There’s truly only one edible food that contains collagen: bone broth. Theoretically, you could snack on a cow or fish connective tissue – but do you want to do that? On the other hand, you could consume foods that help boost your body’s own production of collagen. These foods are high in omega fatty acids and other antioxidants to support collagen production.
  • Wild salmon
  • Kiwis
  • Dark berries
  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Carrots
  • Dark green leafy veggies
  • Chlorella
  • Garlic
  • Pumpkin seeds

What is the Difference Between Collagen and Bone Broth?

Bone broth contains some collagen along with other substances like glutamine, so there’s no reason not to add bone broth to your diet. However, you’ll get much more bioavailable collagen through powder supplements. Much of the collagen in bone broth will likely become digested before it has a chance to reach your skin and other important body parts.  

What is the Best Time to Take Collagen?

There’s no finite evidence pinning down the perfect time of day to take your collagen. If you’re taking a capsule collagen supplement, it’s probably best to wait two or three hours after a meal to avoid an upset stomach. If you’re consuming collagen powder, take it whenever you’d typically take a protein shake.

Did We Miss Anything?

After reading this, you should have a better understanding of collagen. Now, you can decide if it’s worth adding to your routine. After all, not every supplement is the right choice for everyone. Everyone’s body and needs are different.
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