The Many Proposed Benefits of Collagen

Hey Angels and Alphas,

During this age of wellness and fitness trends, things such as coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and diets such as Keto and Paleo seem to be highly debated by fitness experts.

One of these more well-known trends seems to be collagen. Collagen is the primary structural protein of your body, and it’s a vital component in cartilage, connective tissues, bone and skin elasticity. Collagen breaks down as you age, promoting joint pain and wrinkles.

Enter the new trend: collagen that is available in protein powders, supplements, skincare products, food sources, and more. A lot of people seem to think that supplementing with collagen can boost health, beauty, and gym performance.

But before you start adding collagen to your daily routine, here is what you should know…

Are the benefits of collagen legit and backed by science?

Well, for starters, we should acknowledge that many collagen peptide supplements also contain amino acids that are necessary for optimal body functions. There is, however, some scientific research pointing to the fact that collagen supplementation improves skin aging, arthritic pain and stiffness, and even wound healing.

That being said, research on collagen supplements is still mainly preliminary. Studies are small and vary in conclusions, and most of the evidence is anecdotal (for example, people claiming their skin or hair looks better after taking it.) And the pain-relieving benefits of collagen stretch as far as subjective pain assessments. Collagen supplements are, as a whole, moderately effective in terms of supporting rehabilitation post-injury, improved elasticity of the skin, and decreasing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Is collagen a good source of healthy protein?

Collagen isn’t really considered high-quality protein. That’s because it’s not a complete protein – meaning it does not provide you with all nine essential amino acids.

Collagen is particularly low in one specific amino acid, methionine, as well as branched- chain amino acids such as isoleucine, leucine, and valine. This makes it a poor choice when it comes to building muscle. Collagen supplements do not displace protein supplements, let alone protein-rich meals.

Can collagen improve your performance in the gym?

There is some evidence that people who experience Achilles’ heel pain can benefit vastly from collagen (when combined with exercise.) People who take collagen supplements combined with exercise are more likely to readily experience increases in strength.

Some experts have concluded research that has shown multiple benefits present in collagen peptides, including (1) faster recovery after rigorous exercise and (2) increased muscle strength when combined with a strength training program.

What’s more, there’s a growing community of athletes turning to collagen peptides for the sake of injury prevention because one study showed collagen supplements augment collagen synthesis in many connective tissues across the body, such as ligaments.

However, the research that goes into proving these benefits is relatively new, and the effects are reported to be quite insignificant. Meaning that, even if there are any benefits, athletes shouldn’t really be expecting miracles from these collagen peptide supplements.

Does collagen really shine when it comes to skin health?

Given that it’s taken orally, collagen can indeed help the proper functioning of the skin and promote skin health. When collagen is consumed, it goes through your digestive system, where it is essentially broken down into component amino acids that then get sent to circulate throughout the body.

Taking collagen basically acts like sending a signal to your skin to rev up the production of collagen, as well as directly providing the building blocks to do so.

When a collagen supplement is ingested, it isn’t necessarily utilized later so it can contribute to the collagen you already have in your body. These collagen proteins are simply broken down to their constituent amino acids, and then they’re further reconstructed to fit the body’s needs. For this reason, the health of your hair and nails are likely not a priority.

What about collagen skin products?

Collagen is a large molecule! That’s exactly why it is so difficult for it to penetrate through the skin barrier, given that you’re applying it topically. If you’re interested in skin products that contain collagen, keep in mind that they might provide benefits in terms of skin protection and moisturizing, but it’s unlikely that the collagen itself is actually absorbed through the skin.

To conclude…

We can say that the body makes its own collagen by using a variety of materials – protein, vitamin C, copper, and zinc. If you’re not taking in these valuable nutrients from food alone, it’s likely that collagen supplements won’t do much for you.

Eating a balanced diet full of protein, fruits, and veggies will guarantee that your body has the necessary materials to create its own collagen (giving aging populations the ability to slow down age-related collagen loss.) Bone broth can also boost your collagen intake.

That being said, there are other ways to reduce the collagen breakdown inside your body – cutting back on inflammatory-inducing foods (such as sugar), as well as wearing sunscreen when you’re exercising in the outdoors.

If you are interested in collagen supplements, you should go for a collagen supplement that comes from a natural source – this means bovine/beef or fish collagen peptides. As a golden rule of thumb, the less ingredients you see on your supplement label, the better the supplement will likely function.

If you’re looking for a skincare product with collagen, experts and doctors both recommend that you choose one with retinol (also known as vitamin A.) Retinol is basically the most well-studied and proven ingredient you have access to that will stimulate your body’s production of collagen. This is because it binds to retinoid receptions in the skin, allowing them to skyrocket collagen-promoting activities.

Finally, you should look for a symbol on labels known as “USP.” USP is essentially a marker that ensures that supplements have been tested by third parties for their quality and absorption capabilities.

Overall, collagen supplements are new, not well studied, but provide many potential benefits for both young and older populations. There’s certainly no harm in trying them if you’re interested in promoting joint health, improving skin and hair health, and reducing age-related collagen breakdown.