There’s a new player on the protein field called collagen, or collagen peptides. People are wondering what all the hype is about. What is collagen anyway? Is collagen really a protein source? What is collagen peptide protein? Are there benefits to choosing a collagen-peptide-based protein over other popular types of protein?
We know you are looking for answers, so we’ve compiled the basics about collagen as well as the past and current research published about this powerful protein source. There are several reasons collagen has become our protein of choice for elite athletes and fitness enthusiasts!
What Is Collagen Protein?
Collagen is a major insoluble fibrous protein that is the main building block for your tendons, ligaments, bones, skin, muscles, and other connective tissues. It is created by three chains of over 1,000 amino acids including proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine. Collagen is strong enough to form the powerful foundational and protective structures of your body.
Collagen is one of the most abundant types of protein you possess, compromising anywhere from 25-35 percent of the total protein found in your body. There are actually an estimated 16 different types of collagen, with the 80-90 percent being type 1, 2, and 3. It also happens to be the most common type of protein found throughout the animal kingdom, meaning you share this protein type with all other mammals. This is why you’ll notice that all collagen products are made from animal sources; you can’t find them in plants.
That also means that there are NO vegan sources of collagen, but it is a protein that your body naturally produces and continually needs for optimal performance.
There are many researched benefits of consuming collagen, including faster recovery, improved skin hydration, strengthened connective tissues (less risk for injury!), and stronger joints. It is important to understand that the body cannot absorb normal collagen in the digestive system because of its size and how difficult it is to break down (1,000+ amino-acid triple-stranded helix structures). But, when ingested in both gelatin and hydrolyzed forms, collagen has been proven to stimulate collagen synthesis in your body.
What Are Collagen Peptides?
Collagen is the main structural protein within extracellular spaces of the body. It is built from amino-acids (building blocks of all proteins), which are wound together to form elongated triple helix fibrils. Because of their complexity and structure, they create strong and powerful foundations for all our connective tissues. Not only do they provide support, but also flexibility.
Collagen peptides are like the individual puzzle pieces of a collagen jigsaw puzzle. To get them, we break down full-length collagen molecules into smaller pieces. By doing this, we make the collagen more bioavailable (aka digestible/easy to absorb and utilize).
When you consume collagen peptides, your body is able to absorb and send them through the bloodstream to areas of the body that require energy and rebuilding. The body is able to take these collagen peptide “puzzle pieces” and rebuild them into full collagen molecules as needed.
Are Collagen Peptides Protein?
Collagen peptides are amino-acid rich protein structures that are taken from collagen strands.
Remember, collagen contains over 1,000 amino acids, and collagen peptides are just smaller pieces of these collagen strands. They are proteins and are able to be utilized by the body and rebuilt into full-strength collagen fibers once absorbed.
Think about what it takes to move a large piece of furniture through a small doorway. In order to get it into the room, you have to disassemble the furniture, move it through the doorway, and then reassemble it once inside. This is how collagen and collagen peptides work in your body.
A full-length, 1,000 amino-acid dense collagen cannot fit through the intestinal lining in your digestive tract. First, it must be broken down into smaller pieces, which are then absorbed (moved through the intestinal doorways and into the bloodstream), and rebuilt in connective tissue throughout your body.
Why Should I Use Collagen Peptide Protein?
Now that you understand what collagen is, and how abundantly it is used in your body, it seems only logical that it would be a beneficial protein source to use for strength and recovery.
Another important reason that you should be consuming collagen isn’t just that your body needs it, but also that your natural collagen production begins decreasing in your 20’s and continues as you age.
Athletes and sports professionals should be especially interested in collagen peptide protein because of its important role in creating strong structural systems in the body. Since collagen makes up 65-80 percent of the proteins in a ligament, 70 percent of the proteins in a tendon and 60 percent of the proteins in bones, stimulating that collagen synthesis with hydrolyzed collagen is especially important when you are putting added stress on these body parts. These connective and support structures are not inert but dynamic and rely upon the amino acids in collagen for turnover and repair.
The Health Benefits of Collagen Peptide Protein
Collagen has been proven to not only make your skin look pretty, elastic, and hydrated, but has also been found to potentially reduce the risk of sports-related injury, improve function in damaged/weak joints, reduce exercise-induced pain, and more!
We dove into the studies - and conducted some of our own - on collagen protein to see what benefits have been rigorously and reputably studied so that we can bring you the best information.
Let’s take a look at the evidence-based benefits of collagen peptide protein:
1. May Support Healthy Joints
A 24-week study on athletes experiencing joint pain found that those who consumed collagen hydrolysate reported statistically significant improvements in their joint pain. The differences were noted while at rest while walking, while carrying objects, and while lifting.
Other research done on average adults experiencing osteoarthritic-related joint pain found that collagen hydrolysate is a good complementary therapy to other treatments for osteoarthritis.
2. Can Help Strengthen Those Bones
Research has found that hydrolyzed collagen has a “positive therapeutic effect on osteoporosis and osteoarthritis with a potential increase in bone density, a protective effect on articular cartilage, and especially in the symptomatic relief of pain”.
3. Assists with your Body's Natural Aging Process
A subjective study published in 2018 determined that collagen peptide supplementation may be an “effective solution to slow down the hallmarks of aging”. This was based on participants' reports of improved skin hydration and elasticity and improved joint pain and mobility.
4. Helps Support Healthy, Strong Skin
A systematic review of the dermatological benefits of collagen found that oral collagen supplements may support wound healing and skin aging. It found that collagen helps to increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. They also found that collagen is a relatively safe supplement and had no reported adverse effects in the studies they reviewed.
Another study demonstrated that collagen peptides may increase skin collagen content thus improving the laxity of the skin of older adults. Many studies have also found collagen to reduce/prevent age-related wrinkles.
5. May Boost Muscle Mass
With 1-10 percent of your muscle tissue being composed of collagen protein, it’s an understatement to say that it plays a role in your muscle composition. Collagen contributes to the strength and elasticity of your muscles and is vital to keeping them functioning effectively.
A 2015 study focusing on collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training found that participants experienced significant improvements in body composition, muscle mass, and muscle strength when combining both supplementation and training.
6. Can Support Injury Prevention/Recovery
A 2015 study on the benefits of collagen peptide protein in athletes found that collagen may provide “connective tissue protection and recovery in those engaged in routine resistance training and cardiovascular exercise.”
A fascinating and first-of-its-kind study found that the administration of certain collagen peptides significantly improved the perceived 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.
Collagen Protein vs Collagen Peptide Protein
As discussed above, collagen protein is the full, 1,000 amino-acid helix formation that cannot be absorbed from the diet because of its size and complexity. Collagen peptide proteins are the smaller, broken down pieces of collagen that are bioavailable and researched for their benefits on the human body.
Hydrolyzed collagen is just another term for collagen peptides; these two terms are often used interchangeably but are referring to the same product.
Gelatin vs Hydrolyzed Collagen/Collagen Peptides
The great thing about collagen is it can be combined with a variety of foods and flavors without changing the texture or disturbing the taste. Gelatin is a great example of this! You may have seen it as a thickening ingredient in jellos and gummies.
Gelatin is another type of broken-down collagen and is sometimes referred to as a partially-hydrolyzed protein. Gelatin is collagen broken down into a gel-like substance. If you’ve ever made home-made bone broth, then you’ve actually made gelatin! It forms during the slow heating of animals bones and connective tissues to make bone broth.
Gelatin does have many excellent benefits, which is why so many people are now using homemade bone broth as a regular part of their diet. It is not, however, as easily absorbed into the bloodstream as collagen peptides.
How To Use Collagen Peptide Protein
You can use collagen peptide protein supplements in the same way you would use other protein products.
A popular way to get a quick dose of hydrolyzed protein (collagen peptides) is through liquid protein shots. Our ProT Gold supplements are premade and don’t require a blender or mixing liquid, and give you a full 15-gram dose of pure collagen peptide proteins. Studies have shown that a 15-20 gram dose is an optimum amount for collagen synthesis - regardless of your size and physiology. It’s what we call the “sweet spot.” Anything less than 5 grams or more than 20 grams wasn’t shown to have a measurable impact.
Wandering how often you can gulp down a shot?
We know that the amino acid content in your blood peaks around 60-90 minutes after ingestion. Therefore, if you want to take another shot of liquid protein, you absolutely can! The best time to do so is 90 minutes after your prior dosage.
Our liquid protein shots also formulated to absorb extremely fast (completely absorbed in around 15 minutes) making them a first-choice for athletes wanting a quick recovery boost after a hard workout.
Are Collagen Peptide Proteins Safe?
Because collagen is a naturally-occurring protein in the human body, there are very few safety concerns as long as you are buying from a reputable source who ensures the quality of their products. In studies where collagen has been tested for efficiency, very few to no adverse effects have been reported by participants.
However, it is always recommended to speak with your health professional or dietician before beginning a new supplement regimen, as well as remain up-to-date on the latest research and studies done on collagen peptide protein supplements.
In summary, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and plays a vital role in the strength and maintenance of tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones, and skin. While your body can’t absorb and utilize full-length collagen proteins effectively, collagen peptide proteins (aka hydrolyzed collagen) have been found in multiple research studies as being bioavailable to the human body as well as beneficial on a number of levels.
A quick and easy way to get a healthy dose of hydrolyzed collagen and other amino acids is through our ProT Gold liquid protein shots, which can be consumed directly with no blending or mixing required. They are fortified to be a complete protein, meaning they contain everything your body needs in a protein supplement. Studies have shown that collagen protein supplements that haven’t been fortified may lead to some side effects such as anxiety.
Our supplements have been medically tested for effectiveness and to ensure there aren’t harmful effects. So, see the difference ProT Gold Protein can make in your health, wellness, and fitness goals today!