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The Difference Between Collagen Protein and Whey

by: Dr. John Ivy

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If you’ve ever shopped for a protein powder to supplement your diet, you’ve come across these two heavy hitters:

Collagen and whey.

And if you’ve ever asked yourself, “Is there any benefit to taking one over the other?” Or,  “does the type of protein you take matter, or is it more about the amount of protein?”

Or simply,  “what is the BEST protein I should take right now?” then this article is for you.

I’m going to tell you what you need to know about collagen and whey, what the benefits are, and how to pick the right protein for you.

 

Why all the hype around protein?

For starters, protein is the vital “building block” nutrient for every cell, organ, and component of the body.

After you eat a serving of protein, it breaks down into amino acids during digestion. These amino acids are then used throughout the body for tissue repair, tissue growth, and to sustain life.

And the two main tissues that need a healthy supply of amino acids are muscle and connective tissue.

When we exercise, we need protein to build and repair these tissues. But protein isn’t just for the fitness crowd — as we get older we need more protein just to hold onto what we’ve got.

Our bodies become less effective at using dietary protein and our needs go up each decade past our 20s or so.

So why all the hype around protein? Without it, growth and repair throughout the body would be impossible. And the kind of growth and repair depends on the kind of protein you consume.

 

The difference between collagen and whey protein

Proteins can be separated into two major categories: complete and incomplete.

Whey is a complete protein because it has all 9 essential amino acids your body needs — amino acids you must get from your diet because the body can’t make them on its own.

Complete proteins are typically animal-based proteins such as meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs. However, there are some plant sources of protein that are considered complete such as soy, quinoa, buckwheat, hemp, and spirulina.

Collagen is an example of an incomplete protein because it is missing one or more of the 9 essential amino acids. When resources are limited, your body can make these non-essential amino acids if it has to.

However, just because a protein is incomplete does not mean it is not beneficial…

 

Why is collagen so important?

Collagen is one such incomplete protein with a variety of health-promoting benefits.

  • It’s found in all connective tissues, which are responsible for holding our organs, tissues and body together.
  • Collagen is a major component of our skin, nails, and hair.
  • It is the main protein found in the cartilage that protects our joints and makes up the protein matrix that gives structure to our bones.
  • Plus, collagen is the main protein in your tendons and ligaments. This helps support your joints and mobility.

There are many types of collagen, which all contain a combination of the amino acids, glycine, proline, alanine, hydroxyproline, hydroxylysine and arginine.

Because of its unique amino acid profile, dietary collagen supplementation can provide a variety of health benefits that other proteins cannot.

 

What are the benefits of a collagen supplement?

Collagen supplements have many fascinating benefits such as:

Skin, nails and hair: collagen promotes healthy skin and helps maintain a youthful, visibly healthy appearance. It does this by supporting tone and firmness of skin and improves nail and hair strength.

Bone strength and rigidity: Collagen helps make up the bone matrix or mold that holds calcium, phosphorus and other minerals, which gives bone its strength and rigidity, and research suggests that collagen supplementation may be beneficial as a treatment for osteoporosis.

Digestive health: Collagen fibers are also an important constituent of the digestive tract and the synthesis of collagen is important for the repair of the intestinal lining.

Helps strengthen tendons and ligaments

Support for healthy joints and promotes joint function

Finally, collagen supplementation has been found to enhance muscle growth and repair, and help reduce the rate of muscle loss with advancing age.

And speaking of muscle growth, repair, and preservation…

 

What’s so great about whey?

Whey protein is one of the most efficacious dietary proteins known.

Aside from containing all 20 amino acids needed by our bodies to sustain life, whey has a very high concentration of essential amino acids and contains the highest amount of L-leucine of any known dietary protein.

L-leucine is responsible for activating protein synthesis. It acts similar to a switch on a lamp. The high concentration of L-leucine in whey protein accounts for the superior efficiency of this dietary protein to promote muscle and connective tissue synthesis and repair.

 

What are the benefits of whey protein?

Compared to other sources of protein, whey protein is unmatched for its ability to rapidly active protein synthesis and help improve body composition.

Tests comparing whey protein against soy and casein found that whey protein was much more effective than soy or casein for activating muscle protein synthesis, and resulted in greater muscle development when taken while resistance exercise training.

Whey protein supplementation is also beneficial when dieting. Supplementing with whey protein when dieting increases fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. In addition, it is a great appetite suppressant.

Because of its ability to rapidly increase muscle protein synthesis, whey protein has been the protein of choice post workout.

However, this is not the only reason to use it after a workout. Supplementing with whey protein post-exercise helps reduce muscle damage and soreness, and increases the rate of recovery of muscle strength and endurance.

Whey protein is also a good source of cysteine. Cysteine is required for the cellular production of glutathione, a very important antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage and oxidative stress. Consequently, it is interesting to note that numerous studies suggest that whey protein supplementation increases cellular glutathione levels and reduces oxidative stress.

Lastly, the lactoferrin in whey protein has been found to have antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

 

What to look for in a complete protein powder

If you’re in the market for a high quality, complete protein powder, here’s what to look for:

Collagen Peptides Plus Whey is a high-quality protein blend that is  also:

  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • No added sugars
  • No artificial ingredients
  • No artificial flavors.

This helps ensure quality, purity, and compatibility with a variety of diet plans.

The kind of protein used is also important.

That’s why our Collagen-Whey product features hydrolyzed collagen peptides.

This type of collagen has been enzymatically digested to produce small peptides, or chains of amino acids, that are easier for the body to digest. Our hydrolyzed collagen peptides come from grass-fed and pasture-raised cows, which means it is pesticide and chemical-free. It also means that our collagen is free of antibiotics, growth hormones and other medicines that are normally given to grain-fed factory farm cattle.

The whey protein concentrate used in Collagen Peptides and Whey Protein is derived from grass-fed New Zealand cows. As with our collagen peptides, it is free of pesticides and other chemicals normally associated with grain-fed cattle.

It is also free of antibiotics and other medicines. In addition, cattle that are grass-fed and raised in a pasture have a high level of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in their milk. CLA is actually a group of fatty acids that help support favorable body composition.

Furthermore, our whey protein concentrate is produced through Cold Microfiltration Processing, which produces a non-denatured whey protein. This ensures that the protein is not lost or damaged during processing, and has superior bioavailability in naturally-occurring immunoglobulins that support immune function.

Why I recommend both Collagen and Whey Protein

The combination of collagen and whey is a powerful all-in-one solution that supports the maintenance and development of connective tissue and skeletal muscle.

Collagen protein is a rich source of the right amino acids your body needs for optimal connective tissue repair and development.

Whey protein, abundant in the amino acid leucine, is the most reliable and beneficial protein powder to support muscle growth, recovery, and repair.

That’s why HumanN combined the two in Collagen Peptides Plus Whey, which was designed to maximize the anabolic activity of both proteins and provide the most efficacious nutritional support for both connective tissue and skeletal muscle.

  • There are 15 servings in each canister of Collagen Peptides and Whey Protein.
  • Each serving contains 25g of the highest quality proteins available.
  • Collagen Peptides and Whey Protein comes in either vanilla or salted caramel favor.

You can take it at any time of day or night, but an excellent time is in the morning when protein consumption is typically low.

Author

Dr. John Ivy, Executive Director of Sport & Nutrition Research

With a PhD in Exercise Physiology, Dr. John Ivy is our President of HumanN’s Science Advisory Board. He has authored over 180 scientific papers and several books, including the well-known and highly respected Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition. Working with notable sports greats, and Olympians in preparation for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games, his contributions to sports nutrition and science are unparalleled. In addition to receiving a Citation Award from the American College of Sports Medicine and being named a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine, he is also one of the newest members of the University of Texas Department of Kinesiology and Health Education Hall of Honor.

Dr. Ivy’s research has pioneered our understanding of muscle metabolism and the role that properly formulated nutritional supplementation can play in improving exercise performance, recovery and training adaptation. His current research is centered around understanding the interactions of exogenous dietary nitrite/nitrate (NOx) on the endogenous NO/cGMP pathway and how dysfunctions in each system can affect cardiovascular health.

Dr. Ivy received his Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Maryland, and trained in physiology and metabolism at Washington University School of Medicine as an NIH Post-Doctoral Fellow. He has served on the faculty at the University of Texas for over 30 years and as Chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education for about half that time. Dr. Ivy is currently the Teresa Lozano Long Endowed Chair Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin.

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