What is the Deal with Collagen Protein?
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This week we are talking about Collagen Protein
One of the best parts about writing this weekly blog is I get to dig deep into trends that pop up in the wellness and fitness community and snowball into popularity. Collagen protein is, without a doubt, one of those things.
Before bulletproof coffee showed up on Instagram, Pinterest, and all things keto diet promoting, collagen was something that only popped up in large scale marketing for anti-aging face creams. Now collagen is spiked in many wellness supplements with some big health claims. So, what is the deal with collagen? Does it live up to all the claims? Let’s find out!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the body that binds tissue. According to Whitney Bowe, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Looking and Feeling Radiant from the Inside Out, “It’s the glue that holds the body together”. She continues to explain that collagen makes up about 75% of your skin, is what keeps your skin looking plump and elastic, and is rich in amino acids which maintain and help repair bones, tendons, and joints.
Collagen is synthesized in the body but can also be found in consumed animal protein like meats, eggs, and bone broth. As we age, our collagen synthesis decreases which results in wrinkles, weakened tendons, and more healing time for bone repairs. However, in theory, increasing collagen consumption can help to support collagen synthesis, and likewise, can help athletes recover quicker. This forward thinking may be the reason for the increased uptake in collagen showing up in fitness-focused supplements, but there are some concerns about the rising popularity of the protein.
For example, the collagen that we are using to create collagen protein powders and supplements is coming from ground-up fish, chicken, and pig body parts that act as sponges for environmental contaminants. By increasing collagen, we may be increasing our own heavy metal intake (although no scientific studies have made this claim a fact). Further, there are very limited long-term studies that provide proof that collagen that is consumed is automatically turned into collagen in the tissues. Consumed collagen is broken down into amino acids, and we do not have control to tell our body how to use these amino acids – this means your body may not push these amino acids into your bicep but may use it to regulate a more essential muscle – your heart. However, there have been some successful studies that show positive outcomes for different ailments in utilizing collagen.
Some Hope for Collagen
Despite these concerns, there are some short-term outcomes studies that are showing positive benefits of collagen. For example, one study found increasing intake of collagen may lessen joint pain in college athletes, and another study found consuming collagen can improve bone density in rats. Further, in regard to boosting workout performance, one study claimed that collagen supplements may help to preserve lean muscle mass, but one can argue any protein consumption would result in this outcome. The most promising area of study for collagen’s impact on the body is for skin health – most oral collagen consumption outcomes show an increase in skin complexion, and increased hydration.
It is always essential to remember that dietary supplements are not tested or regulated closely like medicine. That means, as the consumer, you should be cautious of what you are buying and putting into your body. Although collagen may not have the science to back up all the claims that are seen in the ads, we do know that increasing protein (in any form) can have a positive impact on your overall health and wellness. If you prefer collagen protein, want some benefits for your skin, and may need some extra support for your joints, using collagen proteins COULD provide an extra nudge in your training. However, make sure you are getting your collagen protein from a source that is cage free, range free, and antibiotic free, and ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
Do you take collagen? Have you seen an improvement? We would love to hear from you!
Talk at you next week!