You have likely seen an abundant supply of protein powders in stores and online.  They have been around for a long time and marketed to promote everything from healthier hair, skin, and nails, improved digestion, blood sugar regulation, better athletic performance, and weight loss, just to name a few.

Do you know what is actually in your protein powder?  And what about collagen?  What do you know about collagen?  What is it and is it safe?  Does it work?

COLLAGEN: THE LESSER KNOWN PROTEIN POWDER

There is an impressive variety of protein powders out there.  They have colorful labels, bold fonts, and are stacked row upon row in nutrition stores.  They come in a vast amount of animal-derived varieties including whey and casein proteins. Many offer a source for extra protein intake without added food, and while they do just that, many are filled with:

▪ Added sugars
▪ Chemicals
▪ Artificial additives

You can also forget about having your run-of-the-mill protein powder coming from animals from a clean, sustainable source. Sure, there are clean, pure protein powders available, but they often come with a sizeable price tag.

What about plant-based proteins such as pea, or hemp? It is true you can obtain a clean, affordable source of plant-based protein, but the biological value of such protein is often low, offering less protein and amino acids to be absorbed and used by the body.

Along Comes Collagen

Traditional diets utilized whole animal nutrition, using bones to make broth and other parts of the animal for collagen-rich meals. Today, with the boom of industrialized and processed foods, this healing super-food has slipped under the radar.

Unflavored collagen supplements are easy to incorporate into your diet. Collagen peptides can dissolve in cold water so it can easily be mixed into post workout shakes, morning smoothies, juice and even water, and collagen protein can be used in stews, soups, and custards. There are no added sugars or any artificial additives or chemicals. Collagen has a naturally long shelf life, doing away with the need of artificial preservatives keeping it a clean, pure product.

When looked at comparably, collagen supplements are a clean and affordable alternative to more mainstream protein powders.

BENEFITS OF COLLAGEN

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is a key constituent of all connective tissues. Collagen provides the infrastructure of the musculoskeletal system, essential for mobility. The intake of collagen ensures the cohesion, elasticity, and regeneration of skin, hair, tendon, cartilage, bones, and joints. Collagen is a protein made up of amino-acids including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. The composition of collagen is considered unique given its high hydroxyproline content. If you lack the amino acids that combine to form collagen, your body’s cells can’t produce enough of it.

Healthy Skin

A growing body of research is showing nutraceuticals can contribute to healthy skin [1]. While topical creams and cosmetic products can affect skin condition from outside, nutritional supplements taken orally can have an impact from within the skin. Vital Proteins Collagen, a natural essential protein, has clinically been shown to:

  • Promote younger looking skin
  • Improve skin moisture level
    • Improve skin smoothness by reducing the number of micro-relief furrows
    • Prevent the formation of deep wrinkles
    • Improve skin suppleness

Collagen peptides are a natural bioactive ingredient that improves epidermis moisture content and prevents skin aging. Several studies have demonstrated that collagen peptides are highly digestible. If native collagen is very resistant and regarded as indigestible, collagen peptides can be easily attacked by proteolytic enzymes. More than 90% of collagen peptides are digested and quickly absorbed after oral ingestion. [2], [3] As a food ingredient, oral ingestion of collagen peptides has been reported as safe [4]. In order to be active, collagen peptides must have an excellent bioavailability. This has been confirmed in animals and humans after oral administration wherein 95% was absorbed within the first 12 hours. These studies show that collagen peptides reached their peak value in cartilage after ingestion of collagen peptides and remained relatively high after 96 hours [5].

Athletic Performance

Collagen peptides supply amino acids that are needed to build new collagen. Collagen peptides are high in specific amino acids, such as glycine and proline, that are especially needed for the production of new collagen. The collagen peptides stimulate certain cells (fibroblasts, osteoblasts) to build new
collagen. Supplementation with collagen peptides can protect the degradation of the connecting tissues in athletes and could completely prevent the exercise-induced increase of urinary collagen crosslinks. Supplementation with 30 – 70 grams of collagen peptides per day showed a reduction of risk for injuries in muscle, tendons, and ligaments in athletes. [6]

Collagen supplements are the perfect protein to consume before and after exercise, helping to maintain and restore the protein content of muscle. Collagen peptides, which consists of 20% glycine and 8% arginine, may help the synthesis of creatine in the body. Creatine has been shown to help improve performance during short periods of exercise, thus helping athletes to increase their body mass and reduce body fat percentage. [7] Creatine is made of three amino-acids, glycine, arginine, and methionine. Each serving of Vital Protein’s Collagen Peptides contains 4.12g of Glycine, 1.68g of Arginine, and 120mg of methionine.

Three Ways to Incorporate Vital Proteins Collagen Into Your Diet

  1. Add a scoop to your coffee.  Read Eight Ways to Make America’s Favorite Beverage a Superfood
  2. Add a scoop to pancake or muffin batter.  Try this recipe, Protein and Fiber Packed Pancakes
  3. Add a scoop to your favorite smoothie.  Try this recipe, Pumpkin Pie Superfood Smoothie

I have tried many different superfoods and supplements.  Collagen has been, by far, my most favorite way to sneak in extra nutrition.  I have seen remarkable changes in my hair, skin, and digestion since using it regularly.

Have you tried supplementing with collagen?  What has your experience been?  Please share in the comments.

Sources:

[1] Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., Murray, P.G. and Mayes, A.E. 2007. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86: 1225-1231.
[2] Asghar, A and Henrickson, R.L. 1982. Chemical, biochemical, functional characteristics of collagen in food system. Advances in food research, 28 :231-372.[3] Iwai, K., Hasegawa, T., Taguchi, Y., Morimatsu, F., Sato, K., Nakamura, Y., Higashi, A., Kido, Y., Nakabo, Y. and Ohtsuki, K. 2005. Identification of food-derived collagen peptides in human blood after oral ingestion of gelatin hydrolysates. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53: 6531-6536.

[3] Iwai, K., Hasegawa, T., Taguchi, Y., Morimatsu, F., Sato, K., Nakamura, Y., Higashi, A., Kido, Y., Nakabo, Y. and Ohtsuki, K. 2005. Identification of food-derived collagen peptides in human blood after oral ingestion of gelatin hydrolysates. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53: 6531-6536.
[4] Wu, J., Fujioka, M., Sugimoto, K., Mu, G. and Ishimi, Y. 2004. Assessment of effectiveness of oral administration of collagen peptide on bone metabolism in growing and mature rats. Journal of bone and mineral metabolism, 22:47-553.

[5] Oesser, S., Adam, M., Babel, W. and Seifert, J. 1999. Oral administration of 14C labeled gelatin hydrolysate leads to an accumulation of radioactivity in cartilage of mice (C57/BL). Journal of Nutrition, 129:1891-1895. Referenced from http://jn.nutrition.org/content/129/10/1891
[6] Wienecke, Elmar. Performance Explosion in Sports: An Anti-doping Concept: Revolutionary New Findings in the Area of Micronutrient Therapy: Training Continuity, Training Optimization, Injury Prevention Through Personalized Micronutrients. Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2011. ISBN 978-3-89899-6525;

[7] Hoffman, J. R., et al. “Effect of creatine and ß-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes.” Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab 16 (2006): 430-446.

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