There’s a lot of buzz right now around collagen, and for good reason: Collagen is the most common protein found in the body and it’s a vital building block for skin, hair, nails, bones, and joints. It’s found in tendons, fat, organs, and ligaments, working hard to keep your skin looking young and your joints working smoothly.
But as we age, the body produces less collagen, leading to joint pain, decreased muscle mass, and saggy skin. “Collagen is a connective tissue protein,” says Chris Hollingsworth M.D., a surgeon with NYC Surgical Associates.
The good news: Collagen comes in supplement form—and when combined with a whey protein supplement, your joints hit the jackpot.
How It Works
According to Hollingsworth, the amino acids glycine and arginine in protein improve our skin, bone, and joint health. Because of this, collagen-enhanced protein powders provide a one-two punch to help your body recover from a hard workout while helping to keep your joints healthy enough for the next one.
Related: I Drank Collagen For 30 Days—Here’s How It Turned Out
“Our bodies work most efficiently when they are building and repairing themselves,” says Hollingsworth. “Collagen whey benefits us by keeping our body in an anabolic state (where proteins are being built, instead of being broken down).”
If you experience pain, decreased motion, and stiffness in your hands, hips, or knees, collagen whey may also help to promote functionality. According to Current Medical Research and Opinion, patients with certain kinds of arthritis saw improvements with the use of collagen. And another clinical study suggests that the ingestion of 10g of collagen hydrolysate daily helped to support joint health in patients with knee or hip issues.
Increased Muscle Strength
“It becomes harder to maintain lean muscle mass as we age and our metabolism changes,” says Hollingsworth. But that’s where collagen whey comes in, yet again: “Collagen whey supplementation has been shown to counteract these age-related decreases in muscle mass, as well as fight some of the effects of aging.”
Related: Shop collagen whey products.
A study in the British Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that, compared with placebo, collagen peptide (a type of easy-to-digest collagen found in collagen whey) supplementation in combination with resistance training further improved body composition by increasing fat-free mass, muscle strength, and loss in fat mass. The study subjects underwent a 12-week guided resistance-training program and were supplemented with either collagen peptides or a placebo. Following the training program, the effect was significantly more pronounced in subjects receiving collagen peptides.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, collagen makes up 75-80 percent of your skin, so it’s no wonder this protein may help to ward off wrinkles, sag, and even cellulite. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food investigated the results of collagen peptides on the cellulite treatment of normal and overweight women, and the results showed that the regular ingestion of collagen over a six-month period led to a clear improvement of the skin appearance.
Similarly, collagen peptides have been shown to help with skin dryness—a common sign of aging skin. Other anti-aging effects, like improved skin elasticity, have also been observed.
If you’re already taking a whey protein supplement, consider exploring one that offers the additional benefits of collagen (we recommend Vital Proteins Collagen Whey Protein). Your joints, muscles, and skin will thank you!