Collagen is hugely popular at the moment and no one knows which collagen is best. It’s so popular that it is virtually trending on google. Every man, woman and child seem to want to use it. Whether as a powder, supplement or ingredient in a favourite skincare product.
What is collagen?
When you ask people however, no one seems to know what it does, or even that there are different types. Every type fulfils a different role within the human body. If you’re interested in anti-aging, muscle building, skincare or overall health read on and make clever choices to get the most benefits.
Collagen is the main connective protein. It makes up the connective tissue in the body. Essentially, it acts as glue or scaffolding holding everything together and making sure it keeps its shape.
It is the most common and abundant protein in the human body making up around 35% of the body’s total protein.
It is obviously crucial, or we would just fall apart into piles of goo. Interestingly, it makes up most things from skin to bone and hair depending on the type of collagen.
Types of collagen
There are actually 5 types, which cover most of the body’s connective tissues. It is worth noting that only particular types exist as supplements. Why this is is about to become blatantly obvious. You may not wish to consume hair for example.
- Type 1 – Skin, tendons, bone etc.
- Type 2 – Cartilage
- Type 3- Reticulin (a type of fibre that creates a mesh for mostyle type 1)
- Type 4 – Basal lamina (Essentially a thin layer next to cells)
- Type 5 – Hair and cell surfaces
Quick Science Scan
Collagen is generally taken in 1 of 2 forms. Hydrolysed collagen, which you may also know as gelatin, and undenatured type 2 collagen.
Denaturing is the process of heating and processing the collagen into a powder.
Before you ask; Yes, gummy bears are made of collagen. Although considering their creation process I would not classify them as a suitable supplement to get health benefits.
Both hydrolyzed and undenatured collagen supplements have some of the same benefits, although their methods of consumption are quite different.
This article will not extensively cover Undenatured collagen. Collagen is taken in very small doses (around 40mg/day) for the treatment of diseases such as osteoarthrisis and rheumatoid arthritis. Even then, undenatured collagen is taken when autoimmunity (the body attacking itself) is part of the disease.
If you are interested in this, then this particular supplement is best taken in the morning pre-breakfast.
Hydrolyzed collagen, tends to be type 1 or type 2 collagen and is therefore never vegan or vegetarian.
Now let’s continue to why you’re really here, RESULTS! Does this supplement actually provide tangible change.
Effects On Skin
As you age your skin loses elasticity and hydration. As a result, it falls pray the evil that is gravity. The final result of gravity being wrinkles and saggy skin. Interestingly, collagen appears to have a beneficial impact on skin elasticity and hydration when supplemented orally. Obviously you can follow a great men’s skincare routine to help combat this.
Studies found that it reduces wrinkles and reduces dryness of the skin. The women in the study took a tiny amount too. In fact it was only around 5 grams which is less than half of a normal supplemental dose of collagen.
Other studies have noted that it also increases skin hydration, which again would result in reduced wrinkles and more of a youthful bounce to the skin. Collagen also increases blood flow to the skin. This could help with healing and keeping the skin looking fresh.
Other benefits include an increase in skin collagen levels. This would mean that the skin ends up a little thicker. This may take up to 12 weeks though, so don’t expect overnight results. Studies have found that there may be some slight thinning before the skin returns thicker. So, if by the 1.5 month mark you don’t see result, this is why.
Collagen Applied To Skin
As far as I am aware, there is no evidence for collagen being applied directly onto the skin. This is how it can be found in many skincare products. The reason this seems unlikely to work, is that collagen, or more specifically the amino acids (building blocks) of collagen, would have to be absorbed into the skin. This isn’t possible due to the size of the molecules.
If your plan is to take collagen to combat wrinkles then it may actually be a viable plan. You do not need to worry about the dosage too much, even small doses of 1 g have been shown to be beneficial. If your intake follows the prescribed amount on a packet then you would be getting around 11 g.
Effects On Exercise
One of the other areas people consider collagen for is exercise, or more specifically muscle growth and recovery.
It is worth noting, that any protein will have an impact on recovery and muscle gain as long as you’re not deficient. The difference between collagen and other protein is that it contains more of certain amino-acids (protein building blocks) due to their requirement in skin and joint structure.
One study found that ingesting collagen post workout following a workout reduces soreness significantly 48 hours post-workout. All other metrics, such as levels of inflammation and bone strength were no different to those who did not consume collagen.
What can you do?
Since you may be wanting to take collagen for the skin health benefits, you have nothing to lose by adding it to your day in terms of its effects on exercise. You may not gain extra muscle or bone strength. You will however, have some great building blocks for your skin. As a bonus, you will likely be less sore than you normally would.
This could imply that you will be more ready to exercise when your next workout comes around.
This is an amazing one that no-one thinks about but is definitely worth mentioning. As was pointed out at the beginning of this article, collagen is essentially the scaffolding within the human body. This includes the heart, arteries and veins within a man’s body.
When collagen levels are insufficient within the body, such as in diets that are deficient in protein, arteries can get frail. When arteries are put into this position they are more likely to experience damage.
The result of this is the theory that supplementing with collagen could improve health of arteries. The would imply a reduced the chance of a heart attack as less plaque builds up. Plaque gets laid down as a result of arterial damage and inflammation.
A study later confirmed that supplementing with 16 g of collagen reduced the stiffness of blood vessels in the body, as well as increasing good cholesterol.
Obviously this is just the beginning, but it looks like a very promising start. I can’t wait to see what future studies find.
Although technically wrinkles and skin-aging are part of aging we wanted to make sure that the results in the following studies aren’t confounded with normal exercise results or the role of collagen in skincare.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering of muscle loss due to aging then it may confer additional benefits to you. A study found that men who lifted weights three times a week for 3 months gained significantly more muscle mass. In addition their bone strength increased and they lost more body fat compared to the group which didn’t consume collagen.
Aging and Wound Healing
Collagen consumption also appears to impact wound healing, which is no surprise considering its impact on skin. Bed sores suffered by subjects in a study (unlikely to be you, but you may have a loved one) healed twice as fast. To put it into context, that’s almost like the kind of healing elixir you would find a video game.
If you’re someone who heals slowly and always has cuts and bruises then it may be worth incorporating into your day as you would likely experience similar benefits.
Safety Concerns of Collagen
In conclusion, the obsession with collagen is warranted, at least regarding skincare and wound healing. Now it is worth considering there general safety of the supplement. As a basic supplement there shouldn’t be any issues. It is worth considering that it is an animal product and therefore will contain any junk the animal has been exposed to.
Personally, I like to choose fish collagen over cattle or chicken, as I think the taste is less…intense. If you prefer to take another source then make sure it’s grass-fed and as good quality as possibility.
Best Collagen Suggestions:
After extensive research for myself, these are the best products I have found in terms of quality. Pick whichever appeals to you most in terms of source and price point.
I have deliberately suggested these supplements because they are unflavoured. Unflavoured means they don’t contain a lot of the rubbish sometimes added to supplements. To make it dissolves faster use warm water and add whatever flavouring you like. Be it fruit juice, stevia or honey. Get creative and let me know what you try.