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It can feel overwhelming to sort through the many types of collagen supplements. Collagen peptides or hydrolysate? Bovine or marine collagen? Enriched with vitamin C or vitamin A?
Well, you’re in luck.
Here are seven easy, must-know steps to follow when searching for a collagen supplement.
Step 1: Look for Hydrolyzed Collagen
Hydrolyzed collagen (also called collagen hydrolysate) is the most broken down version of collagen. This makes it easiest to digest.
To get hydrolyzed collagen, massive collagen proteins — more than 1,000 amino acids long — are put through a process called “hydrolysis,” which usually involves extreme heat and water.
According to research out of Rochester University in New York, hydrolyzed collagen is the most effective form of collagen, especially for joint pain and immune health.
The reason you’re looking for hydrolyzed collagen is that natural collagen is a long protein, making it difficult for your body to digest. Hydrolyzed collagen is broken down into much smaller chains, called peptides.
Step 2: Locate the Best-Absorbing Collagen Supplement
Size is everything when it comes to collagen. The smaller the peptides, the better your body will be able to absorb them.
“Low molecular weight” takes peptides to the next level of high quality. Simply stated: it’s the gold standard for collagen supplements. It’s what you want to see on your label to ensure you can easily absorb the collagen peptides.
Step 3: Find the Best Collagen Source
The four main sources of collagen are pig (porcine), fish (marine), chicken, and cow (bovine).
Though they all provide the key amino acids to help produce collagen, some sources are better than others.
- Porcine: Pig collagen is the lowest quality source of collagen as it is less controlled compared to other sources like chicken and beef. The hide and feet of pigs offer the highest concentration of collagen.
- Marine: Fish collagen is derived from their scales and skin. It mainly contains type I collagen. There are a few different collagen types, which each have unique health benefits.
- Chicken: Once again, the feet are a significant source of collagen. Chicken collagen is mainly type II collagen.
- Bovine: The best source of bovine collagen is grass-fed and pasture-raised. Many believe bovine collagen the best source of collagen.
To sum it up, be sure to verify the quality of the source of your collagen supplements before you put it in your mouth.
Step 4: Check the Label for Vitamin C
Vitamin C assists with your body’s natural collagen synthesis, so you want to see at least 50 milligrams on the label.
Your body can still produce collagen if you don’t supplement with vitamin C, as long as you have enough in your body. Since vitamin C is water soluble (meaning it won’t stick around in your body for long), it’s best to have collagen with vitamin C already in it.
So can you get by without taking collagen with vitamin C? Yes.
Should you? No.
Step 5: Make Sure it Tastes Good (Hint: Check Reviews)
Taste may be more important than you think.
Many collagen supplements are flavorless because that’s the natural state of hydrolyzed collagen.
But many add flavors, so you don’t have to worry about mixing it in with something else. Also, “flavorless collagen” may just leave a strange taste in your mouth.
Obviously, you can’t look at a label and figure out how it tastes. However, you can look at reviews to see what other people are saying about it.
Most importantly, it should taste good enough that you look forward to drinking it every day. If it doesn’t satisfy your taste buds, you’re less likely to consistently take it. As with anything health-related, consistency is key.
Step 6: Avoid Artificial Sweeteners and Flavors
Sweeteners or flavor additives may be an attempt to mask the quality of the collagen. Plus, research shows many artificial sweeteners and flavors just aren’t good for you.
Natural flavors are far better and can provide interesting taste options without the problems associated with artificial sweeteners and flavors.
If you’re looking for a sweetened collagen supplement but keeping sugar cravings at bay, look for stevia leaf extract and stay away from aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and sugar alcohols like xylitol.
Step 7: Look for Other Essential Nutrients
Sometimes, there’s more to a collagen supplement than just flavoring and vitamin C. In cases like these, it’s important to take a closer look at the ingredients to see what else is in the collagen supplement.
A superfood combo can provide benefits on top of the collagen supplement, though one with vitamin C would be best.
As mentioned previously, vitamin C would be a welcome addition to any collagen product since it can help the body synthesize collagen.
Other quality nutrients you can look for in collagen supplements include:
Superfoods like beets have naturally-occurring antioxidants that may be beneficial for a collagen supplement. Plus, beets may help support a healthy cardiovascular system.
Many people ask: How long does it take for collagen supplements to work? Well studies have shown results in as little as one month. However, some users have claimed they saw results in one week.
Best Forms of Collagen Supplements
Several dietary supplements are shown to improve your body’s natural collagen production. Each form of collagen supplement has its own beneficial effects.
Always seek medical advice before starting any dietary supplements. Though collagen has essentially no side effects, it’s always wise to consult a healthcare professional on these things.
Check out the most popular forms of collagen supplements down below to find which suits you best.
Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue. The collagen from the bones, ligaments, and other connective tissue is then slowly dissolved into the broth.
But, is bone broth a great way to increase collagen intake?
Collagen is made of three long chains of over 1,000 different amino acids twisted into a triple helix. However, this strength that makes collagen so vital to life also makes it almost completely indigestible.
Bone broth is boiled from animal bones. Boiling is a type of hydrolysis, which breaks down the collagen protein into smaller peptides. Peptides are just the smaller versions of proteins.
This means the bone broth has broken down the collagen molecules enough for our bodies to digest them.
Collagen peptides and hydrolyzed collagen are found in very fine supplement powders. Can collagen make you gain weight?
Protein powders like collagen powder are used after a workout to build muscle mass. Collagen is not the most effective protein powder at increasing muscle strength, however. Whey powder more efficiently helps you build muscle.
But collagen powders can be effective at improving skin, joints, bones, gut, and overall health.
Not all collagen powders are made equal. For example, look for powders that include essential nutrients which help your body’s natural collagen production, like hyaluronic acid or vitamin C.
There can be some trial and error involved until you find the one best suited for your nutritional needs and morning smoothie.
Gelatin is actually collagen that has gone through partial hydrolysis. These partially hydrolyzed amino acid chains retain stray hydrogen molecules, which cause the unique gelling effect.
Due to its thickening property, gelatin is often used in stews and desserts. It is also great for producing healthy jelly, gummies, and other half-solid collagen food forms.
A collagen drink, or liquid collagen, is a consumable product that often comes in 250 to 950 milliliter bottles. In this form, the supplement is usually mixed with water for better bioavailability and to aid in digestion.
These drinks come in a variety of flavors, making it tastier and easier to consume. Collagen drinks will save you time dissolving collagen powders yourself.
Collagen pills, tablets, or capsules are an easy way to get your daily dose of collagen. Generally speaking, one capsule can provide between 200-1,000 milligrams of collagen.
To reach the recommended daily serving of 10 grams of collagen intake without any other dietary collagen, you would need to take 10 tablets daily.
What does collagen do to your face? Creams are applied to the skin — usually on your face — to improve:
- Overall skin health
Some creams and lotions are only meant to be applied to the face. Check the label thoroughly to see if these are the right choice for your skin care needs.
The main difference between creams and collagen body lotions is viscosity. Body lotions are usually thinner than creams.
Plus, lotions can normally be applied all over, while creams tend to be specifically designed for the face.
Collagen Face Masks
Even with the best collagen peptide supplements, results will usually take time. Collagen face masks may offer a faster alternative for your skin care goals.
This includes a cloth, mask, or sheet enriched with hydrolyzed collagen. They can help provide more than a dozen benefits for your skin, such as:
- Type I collagen delivered straight to the dermis layer
- Better skin hydration
- Improved appearance of dry, dull, and cracked skin
- Support to smooth, tone, and firm wrinkles
- Promotion of healing
Snack Bars (with Recipe!)
Collagen bars are just that — edible bars with collagen in them. If you make your own, you can add ingredients to increase the benefits provided. Things like whey protein, dried figs, dates, peanut butter, and more.
Here’s a quick collagen bar recipe:
- 1 cup of coconut butter
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or grass-fed ghee
- ½ cup of hydrolyzed collagen peptides (preferably grass-fed)
- Sweetener (stevia), lemon juice, cocoa powder, or turmeric to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a blender.
- Mix until even.
- Taste the mixture and add additional vanilla or sweetener to your satisfaction.
- Line a medium-size baking dish with parchment and spread the mixture.
- Freeze until firm (45 minutes to an hour).
- Slice into bars and serve.
- Store leftovers sealed in the refrigerator.
- Calories: 208
- Carbs: 8.6 grams (sugar: 2.3 grams; dietary fiber: 3 grams; sugar alcohols: 1.5 grams)
- Fat: 15.5 grams
- Protein: 9 grams
- Sodium: 35 milligrams
- Cholesterol: 11 milligrams
- Potassium: 120 milligrams
- Calcium: 1 milligram
- Iron: 5 milligrams
Collagen coffee creamers are somewhat new to the collagen bandwagon. They may be as beneficial as collagen peptides.
But it depends on the ingredients. Some collagen coffee creamers are enriched with protein (usually from grass-fed, cruelty-free raised cows) and some healthy fats.
Make sure they don’t contain artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, and gluten (if you’re allergic). If collagen creamer includes all the benefits, why not pour a dash into your morning coffee?
Collagen granules are mostly used as a cost-effective, alternative method for treating chronic wounds. Examples of chronic wounds are vascular and pressure ulcers, as opposed to acute wounds that include surgical and traumas.
Currently, the health benefits behind collagen lip gloss or lipstick remain inconclusive. These products often contain other ingredients besides collagen that make your lips tingle.
Some of these products may make the lips appear plump and pouty. But the collagen-related benefits are not established in the scientific community.
Collagen Supplementation & Dosage:
- Hydrolyzed collagen should be taken in doses of 10 grams per day.
- Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) generally should be taken in smaller doses, between 20 to 40 milligrams daily.
- Look for “low molecular weight” — collagen peptides are more easily absorbed at lower molecular weights.
- Get clean collagen sources:
- Pasture-raised, grass-fed beef
- Free-range chicken
- Wild caught, sustainably fished
- Take collagen with at least 50 milligrams of vitamin C to assist with collagen synthesis.
- Look for great taste/flavor to ensure you’ll take it daily. Check online reviews.
- Choose supplements with only natural flavors and sweeteners, such as stevia.
- Since the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates dietary supplements more like food products, not medicine, it is wise to seek medical advice from your nutritionist, dermatologist, or health care professional before taking any dietary supplements. They can check labels, assess allergies, and suggest dosage.
Collagen Side Effects
Are there side effects to collagen supplements? Fortunately, side effects are seldom experienced.
There are some reports that collagen supplementation can have an unpleasant taste and possibly cause mild feelings of fullness, heartburn, and digestive irritability.