I drink a protein shake nearly every day. Whether it’s in the morning for a quick and easy breakfast, or after my 5:30 workout to help my body rebuild and recover - It’s an easy and convenient way to get the nutrients you need without giving into the common pitfall of eating a bagel with cream cheese in the office lounge.
I first started taking Collagen because of the proposed health benefits. With health claims that support healthy glowing skin, less joint pain, and the same great benefits of protein, it seemed like collagen was the answer. Plus, it’s virtually tasteless, odorless, and dissolves with anything. (You can add a scoop to your coffee or your yogurt without even noticing it.)
But, the perpetuating benefits, seemed almost too good to be true. What was the real difference between collagen and my normal whey isolate protein powder? Was it really better, or was I giving into the collagen hysteria? So here we are.
What Is Collagen Protein?
Collagen is a type of protein that is naturally produced within the human body. Like so many other things, you can also get Collagen through supplements – you can add hydrolyzed collagen to your protein balls and almond milk latte for a quick and easy boost of protein.
Collagen makes up approximately 30% of the total protein in the human body. Collagen is a structural protein that can be found in the joints, ligaments, and tendons. It’s also found in the connective tissues of the human body, which promotes firm, hydrated, and supple skin.
What’s unique to Collagen unlike other proteins, is that Collagen contains a high concentration of four distinct amino acids, that often lack in the modern-day diet; glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine, which help promote protein synthesis, joint health, bone health, and wound healing.
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Collagen Is Not A Complete Source Of Protein
So what gives? With all the amazing proclaimed health benefits of Collagen protein, it seems like a no-brainer right? Here’s the catch – Collagen is not a complete source of protein.
The term, complete protein, refers to a foods specific amino acid profile. A complete source of protein is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that are utilized for human growth and metabolism. Twelve of these amino acids are considered to be nonessential, meaning that they can be synthesized by your body and do not need to be acquired through your diet. The remaining nine amino acids (methionine, lysine, isoleucine, histidine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine and leucine.) are essential and need to be consumed through dietary sources of protein.
Complete sources of protein, contain all nine of the essential amino acids. The absence of these essential amino acids will inhibit the ability of tissue growth and repair, therefore limiting your capacity to build and rebuild lean muscle mass. Collagen contains 8 of the 9 essential amino acids. Moreover, Collagen does not contain these 8 amino acids in an equally balanced ratio and contains higher concentrations of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.
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Is Collagen Better Than Whey, Whey Isolate, Or Casein Protein?
Whey, Whey Isolate, Whey Hydrolysate, and Casein all provide very high levels of essential and branched chain amino acids the building blocks that help you build muscle and are considered a complete source of protein.
Besides the amino acid content though there are some significant differences between these types of proteins, especially in regards to your lifestyle. For example, if you can't do dairy, then protein such as whey or casein, which is derived from the milk from cows, won't work, meaning that Collagen would be a better choice for you.
But, if you're lactose intolerant then you could drink Whey Isolate and Whey Hydrolysate ( and collagen obviously, since it's not sourced from milk) since these two protein sources go through a cross-filtration process that removes any remaining lactose, carbohydrates, and fat.
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Should I Start Using Collagen Instead Of My Post-Workout Protein?
If you’re drinking your post-workout shake to build more gains in the gym, then using a complete source of protein such as whey or casein will be your best bet to build lean muscle mass and help with muscle recovery.
Collagen, however, is a great source of protein for an extra boost of protein that helps with connective tissue support, joint pain, and healthier glowing skin.
To be completely honest, it’s hard to choose one protein over the other. Collagen is a profound source of protein that boasts added health benefits that conventional protein just doesn’t have. And despite the shortcomings of not being a complete protein, you can add Collagen to other proteins, in order to make a complementary protein (two incomplete proteins eaten together, to make a complete protein).
Overall, I wouldn’t use Collagen as my post-workout protein shake. But, I would use it throughout the day and add it to my coffee, yogurt, oatmeal, pasta sauce, and baked goods, to get an added boost of protein, that helps with my complexion and joint health since it’s tasteless, and has specific amino acids that you don’t typically get in your diet.
Thinking about replacing your post-workout protein shake with Collagen?
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