Collagen Protein vs. Whey Key Points:
- People hotly debate the topic of collagen protein vs. whey for muscle growth.
- Collagen protein supplements, including collagen powder and collagen protein shakes, have gained popularity due to their perceived benefits for joint support and muscle protein synthesis. These dietary supplements are often seen as the building blocks for skin elasticity and overall wellness.
- Research suggests that while collagen protein shakes can improve joint function and reduce joint pain, it does not significantly impact muscle protein synthesis compared to higher-quality protein sources such as whey protein.
- Whey protein is a complete, high-quality protein that contains all essential amino acids. It has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including promoting muscle growth and recovery. Whey protein has a greater effect on muscle protein synthesis than collagen, making it a most abundant protein source for muscle building.
The Rise of Collagen Protein Powder
Collagen protein supplements, including collagen protein powder, have gained significant popularity in recent years, with many users believing in their potential benefits for joint health. (J. M. García-Coronado et al., 2019) These dietary supplements are often seen as the building blocks for better health and wellness.
In the realm of wellness, one of the building blocks for maintaining skin health and joint support is collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen is crucial in skin elasticity and collagen production, combating aging and reducing wrinkles.
What Do Collagen Supplements Do?
Collagen supplements often come with additional beneficial ingredients. For instance, hyaluronic acid for skin hydration, zinc, and copper for antioxidant support, and calcium for bone health. Some products are flavored with vanilla or citrus and sweetened without artificial sweeteners.
Different types of collagen are available in the market, such as hydrolyzed and marine collagen. These are often found in dietary supplements like capsules, gummies, and collagen powder. This is important to note for those focusing on collagen production for skin health.
Collagen can be incorporated into your diet in various ways. It can be mixed into beverages like smoothies or even broth. Some people prefer to add it to their oatmeal or smoothie for a protein boost. There are even collagen-infused beverages available in the market. Supplement companies are marketing collagen protein powders for building muscle and improving performance. Some supplement companies are marketing collagen protein powders for building muscle and improving performance, often in smoothie or beverage forms.
A 2015 study showed a clear improvement in quadriceps strength, a greater loss in fat mass, and higher gains in lean muscle mass in frail older men supplementing 15 g collagen peptides per day during a 12-week training intervention compared with a placebo group. (Zdzieblik et al., 2015) This was in older frail men, so what about healthy young men? This article aims to debunk collagen’s effectiveness in these areas, particularly about muscle protein synthesis.
Understanding Protein Synthesis, Hypertrophy, and the Role of Collagen Protein
Protein synthesis is a biological process that produces proteins crucial for muscle growth and repair. (Phillips, 2017) Hypertrophy, conversely, refers to the increase in muscle size due to resistance training and is directly related to protein synthesis.
Collagen is a protein that provides structural support to connective tissues such as skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments. There is a common belief that collagen supplements, including collagen protein shakes, are necessary for joint health. (Moskowitz, 2000)
A 2021 literature review reported the potential benefits of collagen peptide supplementation in improving joint health and reducing joint pain, particularly in individuals with degenerative joint conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
The article cites several studies that have observed the positive effects of collagen peptide supplementation in reducing joint discomfort and knee pain, improving ankle and knee functionality, and accelerating recovery from joint injuries with dosages of 5-15 grams per day. However, the exact mechanisms for these adaptations are still unclear, and further research is needed to understand the exact adaptive mechanisms. (Khatri et al., 2021)
Collagen Protein Shake and Joint Health: A Detailed Review of the Literature
Collagen constitutes one-third of humans’ total protein and is the body’s most abundant form of structural protein. The primary role of collagen is to maintain connective tissue health and mechanical properties of the skin. (Ricard-Blum, 2011) Collagen also contributes ~ 65–80% dry weight of tendons, with collagen crosslinks aiding the tendon structure to endure resistance from high-impact stresses and shear forces. (Ricard-Blum, 2011) Thus, collagen is vital in maintaining tendon health and mitigating potential injury risks in sports. (Goes et al., 2020)
Even though findings are equivocal, there is compelling evidence that collagen inhibits bone collagen breakdown and alleviates painful symptoms associated with degenerative joint conditions. (Juan Mario García-Coronado et al., 2019) As a result, two review papers concluded that collagen could be used as a safe, therapeutic supplement in helping to manage symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. (Bello & Oesser, 2006; Moskowitz, 2000)
In conclusion, based on the available evidence, collagen protein supplements have demonstrated potential benefits for joint health, reducing pain and inflammation and improving symptoms of osteoarthritis. However, further research is warranted to determine the precise mechanisms and optimal dosage for different individuals and health conditions.
The Truth About Collagen Protein Benefits and Muscle Protein Synthesis
Recent research has shown that collagen’s impact on muscle protein synthesis is less significant than once believed. A systematic review involving recreational athletes, elderly participants, and untrained pre-menopausal women found that while collagen peptide supplementation improved joint functionality and reduced joint pain, it did not significantly impact muscle protein synthesis compared to higher-quality protein sources. (Khatri et al., 2021) A 2019 study also found that more proteins in tendon fibers were upregulated in the collagen supplementation group compared to a placebo.(Oertzen-Hagemann et al., 2019)
Recent studies have shown that dietary protein ingestion does not increase postexercise connective tissue protein synthesis rates. However, ingesting collagen-derived protein sources like collagen peptides or gelatin may be more suitable for stimulating connective tissue protein synthesis rates. (Holwerda & van Loon, 2022)
Collagen Protein vs Whey Studies
Collagen supplementation combined with resistance training elicited moderate improvements in body composition. The increase in lean muscle mass is purportedly due to collagen’s effect on the surrounding connective tissue and not muscle protein, as no changes were observed in muscle) hypertrophy.(Kirmse et al., 2019)
Specifically, collagen supplementation has been found to improve collagen synthesis and strength in passive structures like tendons. However, collagen is relatively poor in essential amino acids like leucine, the main trigger for MPS. Hence, the underlying mechanism by which collagen peptides act on muscle protein metabolism remains unclear.
Based on current research, collagen protein supplements do not directly improve muscle protein synthesis. The primary reason is that collagen protein lacks essential amino acids, particularly leucine, crucial for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Collagen is rich in non-essential amino acids, like proline and glycine, and relatively poor in essential amino acids, like leucine, the main trigger for muscle protein synthesis.
A high proportion of leucine is required for optimal stimulation of muscle protein synthesis by essential amino acids. (Katsanos et al., 2006) A study found that the contributions of EAAs of whey protein and collagen peptide were 46% and 17%, respectively, with approximately 5.5 times more leucine provided per supplement dose in whey protein than in collagen peptide. The observed increases in MPS, acutely and integrated over time, were significantly greater with the whey protein supplement with higher leucine and EAAs.(Oikawa et al., 2020)
Whey Protein: A Superior Alternative to Collagen Protein
When comparing collagen protein vs. whey, whey protein is a complete, high-quality protein containing all essential amino acids. It has numerous benefits, including promoting muscle growth and recovery. Whey protein was more effective than collagen protein in stimulating acute and longer-term muscle protein synthesis in healthy older women, both with and without resistance exercise.(Oikawa et al., 2020)
In 2023, a study investigated the effects of 30 grams of whey protein versus 30 grams of collagen protein taken after resistance exercise. Researchers used muscle biopsies to examine the synthesis of connective and muscle proteins post-exercise. As expected, whey protein raised the EAA levels in the blood more, leading to a higher muscle protein synthesis than collagen protein.
Collagen protein notably elevated the blood levels of proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine, but neither whey nor collagen protein affected the responses of connective tissue. (Aussieker et al., 2023)
Collagen Protein vs. Whey: The Verdict
Based on the studies collated in this review, collagen has the potential to reduce joint pain and improve joint functionality, especially when complemented with a rehabilitative exercise protocol. Collagen supplementation also increases pain-free time to exertion and collagen synthesis; hence, 5 g–15 g/day doses of collagen, when taken at least 1 h before exercise for over 3 months, may aid in reducing functional joint pain and improving muscle recovery.
However, other higher-quality protein sources, such as whey protein, may benefit MPS and muscle hypertrophy more. Strong evidence of 5–15 g/day collagen dose improves joint pain and functionality. However, moe research is ongoing to understand the exact adaptive mechanisms.
Changes in body composition and strength with 15 g/day collagen and resistance training were not as prominent in young, recreationally active participants as they were in elderly sarcopenic men. Exercise and vitamin C aid collagen synthesis. 15 g/day collagen was more effective than 5 g/day collagen in elevating collagen synthesis; hence 15 g/day may be a more effective dose. You should consume collagen prior (~ 60 min) to exercise to maximize collagen synthesis.
Muscle recovery had a modest but significant improvement with collagen. However, when considering collagen protein vs. whey, whey protein may be more beneficial for MPS and, therefore, muscle hypertrophy.
Conclusion: Collagen Protein Benefits and Limitations
In conclusion, while collagen supplements may benefit joint health, their effectiveness in stimulating muscle protein synthesis is questionable. On the other hand, whey protein is a superior alternative for promoting muscle growth and recovery. Therefore, individuals seeking to enhance muscle protein synthesis may find greater benefits from consuming whey protein rather than collagen supplements.
You should note that manufacturers don’t create all collagen supplements equally. Manufacturers derive some from bovine hide, source others from poultry, or ensure they are grass-fed. There are even vegan options available, though these are not technically collagen but aim to support the body’s natural collagen production.
When choosing a collagen supplement, looking for products tested for quality and safety is essential. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements as strictly as drugs, so it’s up to consumers to research.
In addition to supplements, there are other ways to support collagen production in the body. A diet rich in whole grains, dairy, and soy can provide the necessary nutrients for collagen production. Avoiding lifestyle factors that can degrade collagen, like smoking, is crucial.
What are the benefits of collagen protein vs whey?
Collagen protein promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails, while also supporting joint health. On the other hand, whey protein is a fast-digesting protein that promotes muscle growth and recovery. The choice between the two depends on individual goals and needs.
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