Collagen peptides are becoming increasingly popular as protein supplements – and for good reason. There are benefits that collagen can give you that other popular protein types simply can’t. But what are collagen peptides anyway? And are collagen peptides good for you?
There are several reasons collagen peptides are what elite athletes and fitness enthusiasts are gravitating towards. Today we will examine what collagen peptides are and why they are the supplement of choice for a growing number of people.
But if you want to understand what collagen peptides are, it’s important to understand collagen as a whole. Before we answer the questions: “What are collagen peptides?” and “What are collagen peptides good for?” Let’s take a look at the main protein in the equation – collagen.
What is collagen protein?
Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the human body. Where is collagen found? Almost everywhere! It is the main building block for your tendons, ligaments, bones, skin, muscles, and other connective tissues – and comprises 25-35% of the total protein in your body.
Collagen is built from amino acids (the building blocks of all proteins), including proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine, which are wound together in triple helix fibrils. Because of its complexity and structure, collagen protein creates strong and flexible foundations for all our connective tissues.
In fact, there are 28 different types of collagen that play important roles in your body. But it isn’t just found in humans. Collagen is the most common type of protein throughout the animal kingdom, and is found in the connective tissues of all mammals, fish, and birds.
This is why you’ll notice that all collagen products are made from animal sources – plant-based, vegan collagen doesn’t exist.
There are many researched benefits of consuming collagen, which we will discuss later in this article, but it's difficult for your body to absorb collagen protein in its whole form. That’s because the collagen protein molecule is rather large!
In order to make collagen easier to digest, high-quality supplements are made from collagen peptides.
What are collagen peptides?
Collagen peptides are smaller pieces of collagen molecules that have been broken down through the process of hydrolysis. So if you’re trying to understand the difference between collagen peptides vs hydrolyzed collagen, there isn’t one! These terms can be used interchangeably.
Collagen peptides are what the best supplements are made from. That’s because hydrolyzing collagen makes it much more bioavailable for your body (aka easier to digest and absorb).
To understand that, we need to talk about daltons. Daltons are the unit of mass used to measure the size of molecules.
Your stomach pores are 4,000 daltons in size, but collagen protein in its whole form is a whopping 30,000 daltons. Your body can’t break down and absorb all of that, so the excess gets passed through your digestive system as waste.
So what collagen peptides are great for is digestibility. They are much smaller in size – around 10,000 daltons or less – they can quickly be absorbed into your bloodstream and utilized where they are needed most in your body.
Are collagen peptides protein?
Technically, collagen peptides are NOT protein. But they do come FROM protein. Once a protein has been broken down to a size of 10,000 daltons or less, it is actually no longer considered a "protein."
A collagen protein molecule contains over 1,000 amino acids, and collagen peptides are what results when those amino acid chains are broken down into fragments. Bigger chunks of amino acid chains are called “polypeptides,” and smaller pieces are called “peptides.”
What collagen peptides are, in simple terms, are building blocks for making collagen protein in your body. Once your body absorbs your collagen peptide supplement, the peptides are broken down into individual amino acids and then rebuilt into full-strength collagen protein fibers.
So you understand what collagen protein is, and what collagen peptides are, but what about gelatin? Let’s take a look at the difference between gelatin vs collagen peptides.
Gelatin vs collagen peptides
Gelatin is another type of broken-down collagen. It is sometimes referred to as a partially-hydrolyzed protein, and is a polypeptide (those bigger amino acid chain chunks we discussed above).
If you’ve ever made bone broth, then you’ve actually made gelatin! Gelatin forms during the slow heating of animal bones and connective tissues, and is used as a thickening agent in gummies and Jello.
While gelatin has many excellent benefits (there is a reason so many people are using homemade bone broth as part of their diet), it is not as easily absorbed as collagen peptides.
So, while you might absorb more collagen from Jello than you would from eating a chicken, you still won’t receive as many benefits as you would from collagen peptides.
Now that you have a slightly better understanding of what collagen peptides are, it’s time to discuss the more important question: “Are collagen peptides good for you?”
Are collagen peptides good for you?
Absolutely! Collagen peptides are very good for you. And because collagen is a natural protein in your body, there are very few safety concerns from consuming it. You just have to make sure you are buying from a reputable source that doesn’t contain harmful additives.
But what are collagen peptides actually beneficial for? Should they be part of your daily supplement routine? Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of collagen peptides.
What are collagen peptides good for?
Collagen has long been touted as a beauty supplement. And while it can have amazing effects on your skin, there are so many other collagen peptides benefits to celebrate.
We dove into the studies on collagen – and conducted some of our own – to bring you the very best information on this powerful supplement.
Let’s take a look at some of the evidence-based benefits of collagen peptides:
1. Collagen can support joint health
A 24-week study on athletes experiencing joint pain found that those who consumed hydrolyzed collagen (collagen peptides) reported statistically significant improvements in their joint pain. The differences were noted while at rest, while walking, while carrying objects, and while lifting.
This isn’t surprising, since collagen makes up around 80% of the dry weight of tendons and ligaments, and is also a major component of cartilage.
Because collagen is beneficial for cartilage, it can also help people suffering from osteoarthritis. Other research done on adults experiencing osteoarthritic-related joint pain found that collagen is a complementary therapy for osteoarthritis and can help reduce symptoms.
2. Collagen can help strengthen bones
Research has found that hydrolyzed collagen has a positive effect on both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis with a potential increase in bone density. This is great news for people who are already suffering from osteoporosis.
It also makes collagen peptides an important preventative supplement for menopausal women, who are more at risk of developing osteoporosis.
3. Collagen may help anti-aging
Your collagen intake becomes more and more important as you age. That’s because your natural collagen production starts to slow down in your mid-20s, and you make less and less of it each year.
The increasing lack of collagen is why you start to see more wrinkles, and feel more aches and pains, as you age. In fact, some people end up with a collagen deficiency because their production slows down so drastically.
If you want to fight some of the negative effects of aging, taking a daily collagen peptide supplement is a way to do that.
One study determined that collagen peptide supplementation may be an effective solution to slow down the effects of aging. This was based on participants' reports of improved skin hydration and elasticity and improved joint pain and mobility.
4. Collagen supports your skin health
Perhaps what collagen peptides are best known for are their benefits for skin.
A systematic review found that collagen supplements help to increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. It was also determined that collagen may support wound healing and skin aging.
Another study demonstrated that collagen peptides may increase skin collagen content, thus improving the laxity of the skin of older adults and reducing or preventing age-related wrinkles.
5. Collagen may boost muscle mass
While supple skin is what collagen peptides are most touted for, they are also beneficial for your muscles. Collagen comprises up to 10% of your muscle tissue, and contributes to the strength and elasticity of your muscles.
A 2015 study on collagen peptide supplementation found that participants experienced significant improvements in muscle mass, muscle strength, and body composition when adding the supplement to their resistance training.
This means it can be just as beneficial as your whey protein supplement – and, since it’s dairy-free and easier to digest, collagen peptides don’t come with the stomach upset the whey protein often does.
6. Collagen can support injury prevention/recovery
A fascinating and first-of-its-kind study found that using collagen peptides significantly improved ankle function in participants with chronic ankle instability. During the 3-month follow-up period, subjects also reported reduced ankle sprains and ankle-related injuries.
Another study on the benefits of collagen peptides found that collagen may provide connective tissue protection and recovery for athletes. This is not especially surprising, as collagen improves the strength and flexibility of tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
Adding more collagen to your diet may protect your joints from sprains and strains, and help you to bounce back faster after strenuous activities.
So now you know what collagen peptides are, and what collagen peptides are used for – but HOW do you use them? Let’s dive into the details of using a collagen supplement.
How to use collagen peptides
You can use collagen peptide supplements in the same way you would use other protein products.
Collagen peptides come in pill, powder, and liquid form, so you can choose the supplement that works best for your lifestyle.
If you like making smoothies or protein shakes, then a protein powder might be your supplement of choice.
If you prefer a no-fuss supplement that doesn’t require any mixing, then you might prefer liquid collagen supplements.
In fact, ProT Gold even offers single-serve liquid collagen shots that you can throw in your purse or gym bag and take on the go.
Whatever form of supplement you decide to take, make sure to follow the directions on the label. We generally think that a 15-20 gram dose is an optimum amount for collagen synthesis.
You also want to pay close attention to customer reviews and ingredient labels when choosing your supplement. That’s because most supplements aren’t FDA regulated. Companies can say whatever they want about their supplements without backing up their claims!
It’s important to do your own research and find a reputable company that backs their collagen supplements up with scientific research. You also need to ensure that your supplement is hydrolyzed for easy absorption.
Better yet, you can find a supplement that has been nano-hydrolyzed. This is collagen that has gone through the process of hydrolysis more than once.ProT Gold nano-hydrolyzed collagen supplements have been broken down to a size of 2,000 daltons – smaller than stomach pores. This means that our hydrolyzed collagen protein can be fully absorbed in just 15 minutes or less, allowing you to receive all the benefits of your collagen.