Updated: Mar 9, 2021
One of the most popular supplements on the market today is collagen. Unlike some other supplements on the market, this popularity isn’t unfounded. Collagen can provide a whole host of benefits, but there are a lot of misunderstandings out there when it comes to collagen. Hopefully, by the end of this writing we can bring some clarification as to what exactly collagen is, what its benefits are, is it a good source of protein, what are the different types of collagen, where can you get collagen from, and also, if you’re vegan or vegetarian is there any way to get collagen that isn’t from animal sources?
What is Collagen?
First and foremost, Collagen is a protein, and not just any kind of protein, but a super important protein that accounts for 30% of all protein in your body. (1) Your hair, skin, nails, tendons, ligaments, and the connective tissue called fascia that holds all your organs and muscles in place are made up of this collagen protein. As we get older, usually after the age of 25, collagen production begins to decrease making you more susceptible to wrinkles and injuries. (2) If you want to slow down this decrease in production it is incredibly important to supply your body with enough collagen and the nutrients that support the synthesis of collagen.
Is Collagen a Good Source of Protein?
Now, even though Collagen is a protein, it is an incomplete protein, meaning that it is missing or is low in certain essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are placed in two categories, essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are labeled as essential because they cannot be made by the body and must come from our diet. Non-essential, on the other hand, can be made by the body. Because collagen is an incomplete protein and is low in certain essential amino acids, it is not a good source of protein.
This is why I don’t recommend Collagen as your only source of protein for your meals. If you do use collagen as one of your only sources of protein for a meal and not just as an addition to other protein sources then my recommendation is to only, at most, do that for one meal a day, anything more than that can lead to a deficiency in certain essential amino acids which can be extremely detrimental to your health. Now, even though I don’t recommend collagen as a single protein source I do however believe it is vital in one’s diet and highly recommend getting more of it. My recommendation is to combine it with other protein sources just as you would find it in nature. I personally add a scoop of collagen to my whey protein shakes.
What Are the Different Types of Collagen?
There’s actually a debate currently going on about how many types of collagen there are. Some say there are 28 types and some say there are 16 types. The total number doesn’t really matter for us though since there are only 5 types that we are going to focus on. These 5 types makeup over 90 percent of the collagen in our bodies and provide us with the most benefits. (3) Type I, II, III, V, and X. Each type has its own specific benefits and comes from a different source. Type l and III are found in bovine and fish and are best for hair, skin, nails, and fascia. Type II is found in chicken and is best for joints (can be found in our Joint Formula). Lastly, Type V and X are found in eggshell membrane and are best for joints, overall collagen synthesis, and bone health.
Picking a Collagen Supplement
When it comes to picking a collagen supplement, look for a hydrolyzed collagen- this makes the collagen easier for your body to break down and absorb. Also, make sure it includes all 5 types of collagen. As well as getting enough collagen in your diet make sure you are also getting plenty of vitamin C, B6, Magnesium, and Zinc (All found in our Joint Formula). All of these vitamins and minerals play an integral part in collagen synthesis. Even a minor deficiency can limit your body’s ability to synthesize collagen. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Instead of a supplement, you can also increase your intake of foods that are high in collagen and nutrients that promote collagen synthesis like bone broth, organ meats, and meats with the bone in and skin on like chicken wings or chicken legs as these have far more collagen than boneless skinless chicken breast.
Are There Vegan/Vegetarian Sources?
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are unfortunately no plant-based sources to get collagen. All collagen is animal-based and comes from the skin and connective tissues of these animals. However, collagen is just a chain of amino acids, so supplementing with the amino acids Proline, Glycine, and Lysine or getting enough of these amino acids through your diet will help your body produce its own collagen. Vegan sources of these amino acids include legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa, tempeh, and tofu.
For a quick recap, some of the benefits to increasing your collagen intake are healthier hair, skin and nails, as well as healthier stronger joints. Make sure you get plenty of protein from other sources and not just collagen. If you're looking for a supplement make sure it includes types I, II, III, V, and X. Also, make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin C, B6, Magnesium, and Zinc to promote collagen production. Lastly, all the meat-eaters out there try to eat meats with bone and skin still remaining and vegans make sure you eat a balanced number of legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa, tempeh, and tofu.