Collagen and protein powders are becoming increasingly popular staples for the health conscious individual.
You may have heard that collagen is a protein, so is it any different than a protein powder?
Collagen and protein powders are similar in that they both provide a source of amino acids however there are some clear differences in the nutritional makeup of these powders.
Sourcing is a key differentiator between the two powders and influences the amino acid makeup of each.
Collagen is sourced from the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments of beef, fish, chicken, and pork.
Protein powders on the other hand can come from a variety of whole food sources. Whey protein powder for example is derived from milk and vegan protein powders can come from a multitude of different foods such as hemp, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, soy, pea and quinoa.
A protein powder typically provides a wide variety of amino acids, including the nine essential ones that we need to obtain from our diet.
Collagen is a protein however it is missing the essential amino acid, tryptophan.
This means it is not a complete source of protein, however it does provide many therapeutic benefits.
Collagen vs protein powder, which should you choose?
Collagen powder and protein powder contain different nutrition profiles and therefore provide different benefits for the body. Depending on your current diet and personal goals one may make more sense for you than the other.
Collagen powder is particularly useful if you are wanting to improve your skin, joint, hair, nail, or bone health. Protein powder is great if you have additional protein requirements or are particularly active and want to build muscle.
Let's dive deeper into the top uses and benefits of collagen and protein powder to help you determine which one may be the best fit for you.
Collagen powder benefits
Collagen is found abundantly in the skin and is required for structural support and elasticity. It is a key component to maintaining healthy and youthful looking skin.
Unfortunately natural collagen production in the body starts to decline starting at the ripe young age of 20 (1). Though this is part of the natural aging process, supplementation can help to counteract this decline as well as signs of aging in the skin like wrinkles.
Supplementation with collagen has been shown to reduce skin aging and improve elasticity and hydration of the skin within as little as 90 days (2).
Collagen protein is also abundant in bone tissue, and gives bones structure, flexibility, and strength.
Loss of collagen may lead to an increased risk of bone breakdown and conditions like osteoporosis (3).
Research has found that collagen may exert a positive therapeutic effect on osteoporosis by increasing bone mineral density, protecting cartilage, and providing pain relief (4).
Though more studies are needed, the results are already promising around collagen's potential role in inhibiting bone breakdown and in the treatment of osteoporosis (5)(6).
The amino acids, glycine and proline, that are found in collagen are particularly important for joint health by supporting a healthy inflammatory response.
Your joints are primarily made of collagen and the loss of this protein, that comes with age, can affect mobility, increasing joint stiffness and even pain.
Collagen supplementation has been shown to benefit athletes suffering from joint pain as well as improve the condition of osteoarthritis (7).
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that is characterized by a gradual reduction in joint mobility. Collagen has been shown to reduce pain and improve joint function in individuals with osteoarthritis and may provide a safe, effective and natural treatment option (8)(9).
Protein powder benefits
Protein is an essential macronutrient for muscle growth which is why protein powders are often recommended for active individuals who are looking to boost their protein intake in order to build muscle mass.
Whey protein in particular is a popular choice for muscle building because it is fast digesting and contains the branched chain amino acids that are essential for muscle synthesis (10)(11).
Research has shown that the use of protein supplementation can significantly increase muscle mass and strength when combined with resistance training (12).
In addition to stimulating new muscle growth, protein can also help to support the repair and regeneration of damaged muscles and tissues.
Recovery is essential in order to consistently improve exercise performance and continue to build muscle mass. Protein supplementation has been shown to reduce muscle damage, enhance recovery, and maintain lean body mass (13)(14).
Collagen can be used for exercise recovery however it has a lower content of protein compared to protein powder, which means a protein powder can more easily meet your protein needs for repair and recovery post exercise.
Because it is the most effective at curbing hunger and promoting satiation, protein is an essential macronutrient for weight loss.
Protein can benefit weight management in a number of ways including increasing satiety, reducing hunger hormones and cravings, boosting metabolism, and preserving lean body mass (15).
Whey protein is a popular choice if you can tolerate dairy because of its efficacy at preserving muscle mass while burning fat (16).
A study found that whey protein supplementation improved body weight and fat mass in overweight and obese individuals (17).
Though whole food sources of protein from the diet should always be the focus first and foremost, sometimes additional support is required.
Supplementing with a protein powder may be a good idea if you are very active and struggle to meet your daily protein needs. This can also help with appetite control and weight management.
So what's the verdict? If you are wanting to choose between collagen or a protein powder it really comes down to your lifestyle and personal goals. A protein powder is a convenient way to boost your overall protein and caloric intake while also focusing on muscle gain.
On the other hand, collagen is the choice for you if you are looking for therapeutic benefits for your overall health including gut health, skin health, hair and nails, bone health, and joint support.
Can you use both? Absolutely, in many cases it will make sense to include both collagen and protein powders in your diet as they do provide different benefits for the body.