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Nutrition

Collagen 101: Questions, Myths, Tips, and Recipes

Collagen 101: learn what collagen is, how it works, the different types, how it use it in your diet in a safe and effective way, plus more tips and collagen recipes.

Last month I sat down with the Director of Education and registered dietitian of Vital Proteins®, Jenn Randazzo for a conversation on all things collagen. I’m always getting questions on whether or not the hype is real and if collagen is worth incorporating into your routine, which is why I’m excited to dive into collagen 101 and examine all of the details to help you determine if adding collagen to your diet is right for you!

Consider this collagen 101 post your beginner breakdown of all the information there is out there about collagen. Learn what collagen is, how it works, the different types, and how to use collagen powder in your diet in a safe and effective way. 

Personally, I’ve seen my own hair and nails get stronger and longer from consistent collagen use and as skin health — both on my face and my scalp — is a top priority for me as I approach 30, I plan to continue to incorporate collagen in my diet! Vital Proteins unflavored collagen peptides are always in my coffee or post-workout smoothies!

what is collagen

What is Collagen?

Let’s start at the beginning — collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is abundant in the skin, connective tissues, bones and organ meat of animals we consume.

When describing it, Jenn had a great analogy to think of it as our body’s scaffolding. It’s the structure that allows for movement and mobility for our joints and helps for more fluid retention in the skin, helping to keep it plump. 

Collagen 101: Collagen vs. collagen peptides

Collagen peptides are the more broken down form of collagen. They are better absorbed into the bloodstream because they are much shorter chains of amino acids than collagen. Collagen peptides are also sometimes referred to as hydrolyzed collagen.

Something to note about collagen peptides is that they’re sourced from parts of the animal that are often discarded. Animals are not killed for collagen and collagen is dairy free. 

Different types of collagen 

There are more than 30 types of collagen. Types I, II, and III make up 90% of the body. 

Collagen is sourced from bovine, marine and porcine sources. 

It’s also important to note that there is no vegan or plant-based collagen. Collagen builders can be vegan, however, they do not have any activating ability to do what collagen does in the body. 

Collagen type I and III benefits 

Both types I and type III collagen are found in bovine skin. But this does not mean these types only benefit the skin. In addition to benefiting the skin, they also help with joint support, along with hair and nail support. 

Type I collagen – Type I collagen is the most prevalent type of collagen in the body. It’s most prevalent in connective tissues, and plays a major role in the component of the tendons, organs and bones. Type I collagen is used for collagen peptides (bovine) and marine collagen. 

Type III – Type III collagen is commonly found alongside type I collagen in the body. 

How can I consume collagen?

The cool thing about collagen is that you can consume it in a variety of easy ways, like adding it to your coffee or a smoothie. It’s unflavored and blends right into hot liquids, or blended smoothies. 

What is collagen used for?

Since this is collagen 101, let’s look at what collagen is used for as I’m sure you’ve seen people talk about these benefits that come from using it.

Collagen for hair

Collagen offers hair, skin and nail support. Our hair is made of the protein keratin which is built from several amino acids including an amino acid found in collagen called proline. Proline is an amino acid that helps provide your body with the building blocks it needs for hair growth.  

Does collagen help hair growth?

More studies are needed when it comes to confirming if collagen helps to promote hair growth, however in my personal experience with hair loss (from a scalp infection), using collagen helped my hair grow back faster and stay stronger. 

Collagen for skin 

Collagen is a major component of your skin! It activates fibroblasts, a type of connective tissues that synthesizes more collagen. Amble collagen allows for more space for fluid and water retention that helps to plump the skin, giving it a more youthful appearance and helping to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Collagen for joint pain 

Ligaments, joints and tendons are all part of the intricate matrix in our body largely consisting of collagen. Our joints are made up of chondrocytes which are cells that preserve the structural integrity of the cartilage matrix, essentially the joint itself. These cells need enough collagen to keep the joint functioning properly. 

Supplemental collagen may accumulate in cartilage and stimulate your tissues to make collagen, preventing joint pain and reducing joint degeneration. 

Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and including foods rich in collagen, and collagen supplementation are a few ways to help keep these important parts of our bodies working properly for a long time. 

I know as millennials we don’t often think about joint health, but consider the amount of time you spend exercising and putting stress on those joints to run, jump, climb and get you from one place to the next. For that reason alone, it’s important to keep your joints healthy to keep you active for a long time! 

how much collagen to take

The recommended daily amount of collagen for someone above the age of 25 is 10-20g per day (1-2 scoops). Collagen production starts to decline after the age of 25, so that is around the time you might want to consider adding it to your routine. 

how long does it take for collagen supplements to work

Results vary from person to person, but taking collagen on a regular basis is recommended. Adding it to your daily coffee or smoothie is a great way to make sure you’re using it consistently! 

gelatin vs collagen

Gelatin is the cooked form of collagen. They both contain skin, joint, gut and bone benefits, but have differences when it comes to solubility (which is why they can’t be used interchangeably) and some commercial gelatin products contain added sugar, artificial colors, and flavors, which impacts their nutritional profile.

Collagen 101:what foods contain collagen

  • Bone broth – made by boiling animal bones to extract the minerals and collagen, making it a great, sippable source of collagen 
  • Berries – foods rich in vitamin C like berries and citrus help with collagen production 
  • Bell peppers – bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C 
  • Eggs – Eggs contain glycine and proline which are two of the main amino acids that make up collagen. They’re also rich in nine essential amino acids which we need for our muscles and tissues. 
  • Fish – marine collagen comes from fish. The skin, bones, scales and eyeballs although not often consumed are the richest sources of collagen on fish. Fish also contains essential fatty acids that can give your skin a healthy glow. 

best time to take collagen

There’s a lot of info out there on the best time to take collagen and a lot of chatter about making sure you take it in the morning. So, is there something about the morning that helps collagen work better? The truth is taking collagen and having something that contains vitamin C (like fruit or veggies) is more important than when you take it. I default to the morning and make it part of my breakfast routine or post-workout smoothie to make sure I don’t forget later in the day. 

how to use collagen powder

What’s great about collagen powder is that it’s super versatile and easy to add to your routine. Adding collagen to coffee is one of the easiest ways to incorporate collagen into your diet, plus unflavored collagen doesn’t change the taste or texture of your coffee whatsoever — just gives it a nice boost! Some of my other favorite ways to use collagen include, adding a serving to smoothies, energy bite recipes (my favorites linked below), 

Collagen recipes

These are some of my favorite ways to use collagen! 

Collagen 101 questions

Prior to this interview, I asked on Instagram what questions you have about collagen. Here are your questions, answered! 

Is collagen just a trend?

Sure, collagen is a trend right now, but more and more research points to it’s benefits beyond beauty. That said it’s important to choose a brand that is reputable when considering supplementation in your diet. I trust Vital Proteins and their dedication to science and safety as leaders in the collagen industry. 

How is collagen absorbed in the body?

During processing, collagen undergoes a proteolytic enzymatic bath that breaks it down into collagen peptides, or short chains of easy to digest di/tri-peptides and amino acids.  These peptides and amino acids are incredibly bioavailable (or “body friendly”) and 90% are absorbed into the bloodstream within an hour

Can you take too much collagen?

While there isn’t substantial evidence to answer this question, Jenn recommends consuming collagen as you would any other protein: distributing it throughout the day.  Jenn consumes 10g in the morning with her breakfast (tosses in her tea) and then 10g in the afternoon in her post-workout smoothie.

Is there a difference in absorption between marine and bovine collagen?

No, the benefits and the bioactivity is the same for both marine and bovine collagen. 

Should collagen replace my protein powder?

No, it’s important to note that collagen should not replace protein in the diet or protein powder because it’s not a complete protein. It should be used in conjunction with protein in the diet. 

Does baking with collagen destroy the benefits?

This question is getting more attention, and right now, there’s not a 100% definitive answer.  Vital Proteins recommends enjoying collagen either in warm beverages and foods (like coffee, tea, soups, stews) or your favorite chilled drinks (water, smoothies).

Is collagen recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding? 

As with any supplement you are considering adding to your routine while pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider. 

Are there any side effects to taking collagen supplements?

Each of us can have a unique experience to any supplement. Before adding collagen to your daily wellness regimen, it’s always important to chat with your healthcare provider.

This blog post was written in collaboration with Vital Proteins. As always all opinions are my own and I appreciate your support!