In this ultimate collagen guide, we’ll empower you with knowledge and tips to navigate the world of collagen.
Whether you’re looking to improve your skin, support your joints, or simply learn more about this remarkable protein, this guide is your resource for all things collagen!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body.
It is one of the main building blocks for your bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
When it comes to your skin, collagen provides its structure and elasticity.
Types of Collagen
There are five main types of collagen, with 80-90% of all collagen consisting of Type I, Type II, and Type III.
- Type I: Makes up 80% of the collagen in your body and is found in your skin, bones, and tendons.
- Type II: Found in your cartilage and joints.
- Type III: Found in your muscles, blood vessels, and organs.
Importance of Collagen in the Body
Collagen is the body’s glue, holding everything together and keeping us moving.
It provides structure, strength, and elasticity to your skin, bones, joints, and organs.
Aging and Collagen Depletion
Aging causes collagen breakdown. You can see evidence of this in your wrinkles and fine lines.
These hallmarks of aging also demonstrate our inability to replenish collagen.
Collagen breakdown doesn’t just impact your skin. It also weakens your bones, making you more susceptible to breaks and fractures.
In addition, with age, the cartilage in your joints decreases, and your muscles lose strength with the loss of collagen.
An additional concern for women is menopause when the skin loses collagen quickly. You can learn more in this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post – “Collagen & Menopause: Is It Right For You?“.
By taking collagen peptides (broken-down collagen protein), you can help replenish your body’s stores and potentially slow down the aging process.
Benefits of Collagen Supplements
Studies have shown that collagen supplementation can offer a range of benefits, including:
1. Skin Health and Anti-Aging
Collagen can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. It can also improve skin hydration and elasticity.
A 2021 grouped analysis of studies showed favorable results of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation compared with placebo in terms of improved skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkles.
Improved skin elasticity and hydration can improve the appearance of stretch marks. Learn more here – The Role of Collagen Supplements for Stretch Marks.
2. Joint and Bone Support
Collagen can help lubricate your joints and reduce inflammation, leading to less pain and stiffness.
It also plays a role in bone health and density. Supplementation may help prevent osteoporosis and fractures.
A 2021 study found that collagen is effective in reducing joint pain and stiffness, and in improving mobility.
3. Gut Health and Digestion
Our skin and gut, though seemingly distant organs are connected in a complex partnership known as the gut-skin axis.
This dance between our gut microbiome (the trillions of microorganisms living in our intestines) and skin health has far-reaching implications, making skin health fundamentally dependent on gut health.
Collagen may strengthen the lining of the gut. This protects the gut from inflammation.
In addition, collagen stimulates the growth of good bacteria in our gut, promoting immunity and healthy digestion.
4. Muscle Mass and Metabolism
Collagen provides building blocks (amino acids) to build and repair muscle, potentially boosting lean mass.
It also strengthens connective tissues in muscles, allowing for better force transfer and potentially higher power output.
Increased muscle mass helps boost metabolism, burning more calories at rest and during activity.
Sources of Collagen
Bovine collagen comes from the connective tissue of cows, particularly from the hides and bones of the animal.
This collagen increases types I and III collagen. Your skin is primarily made up of types I and III collagen.
In addition, bovine may benefit joint health and connective tissue.
This collagen comes from fish skin and scales and contains mainly Type 1 collagen.
Type I collagen is the most abundant type of collagen in the human body. It benefits the skin, hair, nails, and joints.
Marine is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option than bovine.
This is because it uses parts of the fish that would otherwise go to waste.
Learn more about the difference between these collagen sources in this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post – “Marine Collagen vs Bovine Collagen – Which One is Right for You?“.
Simmering animal bones releases collagen and other nutrients, making it a concentrated source.
You can use bone broth in a variety of recipes like this Age-Defying Dietitian recipe – “How to Make Bone Broth Hot Cocoa“.
Plant-Based / Vegan Collagen
While they technically don’t contain actual collagen, these supplements include plant-based “collagen-boosting” ingredients.
Vegan collagen supplements typically contain vitamin C, zinc, and amino acids that support your body’s natural collagen production.
A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies in 2021, deemed collagen as one of the most important supplements for aging people.
These supplements have become increasingly popular for their potential health benefits.
But with so many brands and types available, navigating the world of collagen supplements can be confusing.
Let’s dive into the details!
Types of Collagen Supplements
Collagen supplements come in various forms, including powders, capsules, liquids, and gummies.
Powders are the most versatile and can be added to smoothies, coffee, yogurt, or baked goods.
Capsules are convenient, however, you may need to take several capsules to get the recommended dose.
Gummies also require you to take at least a couple of gummies to get an effective dose of collagen. They can also be high in added sugars.
Liquids are easy to take but can be expensive.
How to Choose the Right Collagen Supplement
With so many collagen supplements on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Source: Choose a source you’re comfortable with, and make sure it’s grass-fed or wild-caught if possible.
- Supplement Form: Collagen supplements come in powder, liquids, gummies, and capsules.
- Hydrolyzed: Look for hydrolyzed collagen peptides, which are easier for your body to absorb.
- Collagen Type: Choose a supplement that contains the type of collagen you’re targeting. For example, if you’re concerned about wrinkles, choose a supplement with type I collagen.
- Dosage: The recommended dosage for collagen supplements is typically 10-20 grams per day.
- Brand: Do your research and choose a reputable brand with good quality standards.
How to Take Collagen Supplements
- Develop a plan. Decide how and when you will take your supplement.
- Create habits and routines to promote regular use. A supplement only works if you take it consistently.
- Try to take your collagen on an empty stomach; first thing in the morning or after a workout.
- If consumed with food, consider a carbohydrate source, rather than protein. Other proteins may compete with collagen, and carbohydrates increase the secretion of insulin which may help the cells absorb the collagen.
- Aim for 20 grams of collagen daily.
Recommended Collagen Supplements
Below are supplements that I recommend and use myself.
The gummies are very convenient and tasty, however, I use the powder regularly to avoid the added sugars.
The capsules are also convenient, however, I struggle with taking 3 capsules with my daily medications.
Natural Ways to Boost Collagen Production
While collagen production naturally declines with age, there are several natural ways to give it a boost!
Here are some key strategies:
1. Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet
Eat a diet rich in collagen-boosting foods. These include bone broth, chicken skin, fish, eggs, citrus fruits, and red bell peppers.
It’s important to address diet before supplements. You can’t supplement in a vacuum.
Make sure you are eating well or collagen supplements will not be effective.
You can learn more about these nutrient-rich foods in this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post – Beauty Foods: Radiance from the Inside Out.
2. Protect Your Skin
UV radiation can cause collagen to break down at a higher rate than normal aging.
Wear sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days.
The connection between collagen and exercise is still unclear, however, some studies have found that exercise slows down cell activity involved with aging skin.
4. Manage Stress
Find healthy ways to manage stress such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature.
5. Prioritize Sleep
During sleep, your body repairs and rebuilds tissues, including collagen.
Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night to give your collagen production a restorative boost.
Supplemental collagen can be incorporated into your diet in delicious and diverse ways.
Here are some recipe ideas to spark your culinary creativity.
Frequently Asked Questions about Collagen
Collagen, the protein that keeps our skin plump, bones strong, and joints lubricated, is a hot topic these days.
But with all the buzz, there are bound to be questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked ones:
What are the side effects of collagen?
Collagen is generally safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, bloating, and diarrhea. If you experience any side effects, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
Is collagen vegan?
No, collagen is not vegan because it is derived from animal sources.
Those “vegan collagen” supplements you’ve seen? They’re clever workarounds!
Instead of containing actual collagen, they’re packed with plant-based nutrients like vitamin C, zinc, and amino acids, which act as cheerleaders for your collagen production.
Think of them as providing the building blocks and tools your body needs to build its collagen, not delivering the finished product itself.
You can learn more about vegan collagen in this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post – Vegan Collagen vs Animal Collagen: Which is Better?
How much collagen should I take?
The recommended dosage of collagen varies depending on the type of collagen and the desired results.
Current research suggests that 10-20 grams of collagen per day is an effective dose.
It’s important to talk to your doctor to determine the right dosage for you.
How can I get more collagen?
There are two main ways to get more collagen.
Through your diet: Collagen is found naturally in animal products like meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. You can also get it from bone broth and gelatin.
Through supplements: Collagen supplements are available in various forms, including powders, capsules, and liquids. They can be a convenient way to boost your collagen intake, especially if you don’t eat a lot of animal products.
Takeaways on our Ultimate Guide to Collagen
You’ve now unlocked the secrets to harnessing the power of collagen for a healthier and more vibrant you.
Whether you boost your collagen levels through dietary changes or supplements, incorporating this essential protein into your routine can lead to noticeable improvements in your overall health.
Embrace the collagen revolution and let your natural beauty shine!
Hungry for More?
Check out the Skin & Beauty Nutrition section of the blog for more!
Sign up for our Nutrition for Healthy Aging Newsletter and receive our latest content directly in your inbox!
*Please note this blog post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
Kathryn is a Registered Dietitian and a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is also certified through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Weight Management. She has 20+ years of nutrition experience working in a variety of healthcare settings. Her passion is to provide evidence-based nutrition information that supports vitality and longevity!