If You're Considering Supplementing With Collagen Protein To Build Muscle, Read This Article Before Wasting Your Money
Every once in a while a supplement comes along that grips the world of nutrition for no apparent reason. And collagen protein could be the most recent example.
Touted as a cure-all wonder supplement, apparently it's the answer to your muscle building woes, and more.
But you're cautious. In an industry dominated by modern-day snake oil salesmen, skepticism reigns supreme.
Despite the convincing argument and claims of scientific research, you're looking for clarity. An honest, no bullshit view.
And that's exactly what you'll get in this article.
As you scroll through down the page you'll discover all you need to know about collagen protein and building muscle.
No doubt you're aware of multiple other benefits claimed by collagen protein advocates, including; improvement in the health of you skin and nails. But this isn't Cosmopolitan Magazine. And I'm not here to give you beauty tips. This article is about building muscle.
Now that we're all on the same page, let's begin.
What Is Collagen Protein?
Believe everything you read and you might think a few sips of a collagen protein shake will transform you into a health God and physical adonis.
Seriously, the claims are seemingly endless:
- Reduction in joint pain.
- Muscle growth.
- Boost in immunity.
- Improved digestion.
But what the hell is it, and why is it being whored out as the solution to almost all of your problems?
Collagen is the main component of connective tissue in the body. It's the foundation of skin, teeth, cartilage, bone, and tendons. So it's an important part of your genetic makeup.
The collagen protein contained in most supplements is from a variety of animal sources. Typically, the collagen from animal connective tissue and bone is extracted and processed into the pills and powders you can buy from the local health food shop.
There are three types of collagen, categorised based on their amino acid profiles and the sources from where they came.
Now enter supplement companies and their clever marketing.
What Supplement Companies Say About Collagen Protein
The premise in favour of collagen protein goes something like this.
Over time natural collagen levels decline in your joints and connective tissue. Therefore, supplementing with a collagen protein will help replace the declining collagen, thereby helping you bounce off the walls like a spring chicken on acid, well into your old age.
Not only that, but it helps you to build muscle too. After all, collagen is the foundation of so many things, so it's only logical it will be superior for those gains.
Plus, science says it's true (more on that later).
But what's the truth? Is collagen protein really going to help you build more muscle than ever before? Is it time to ditch the whey and opt for the collagen instead?
Collagen Protein And Building Muscle
When it comes to building muscle, protein is second on the list of important considerations (the first is training). Because without adequate protein your muscles won't adapt to the training stimulus generated during training.
Essentially, training creates the opportunity for you to build muscle and protein makes it happen.
One approach, and perfectly valid for a high proportion of people is to focus on total protein intake, regardless of source. And this will get results, of that there's no doubt. Although, if you're looking to build muscle, maximise your training, and make the most of your efforts, a little more thought will go a long way.
For example, regular protein feedings throughout the day, as well as a level of consideration to protein quality will play a significant part in the development of a great physique.
And it's this last element where an assessment of collagen protein comes in.
It's at this point I'll interject and state that you do not need a protein supplement of any description, whey, collagen, or otherwise, in order to build muscle. This doesn't mean these supplements are useless. It simply means you can obtain all the protein you need without spending a penny on supplements.
Having said that, protein supplements are convenient. Offering you a simple and easy way to increase the protein content of your diet.
Collagen Protein Vs Whey Protein: The Amino Acid War
The quality of a protein, as it pertains to building muscle, is broadly defined by its amino acid profile. In particular, the essential amino acid profile.
|Essential Amino Acid||Bovine Collagen Peptides (per 11g)||Whey Protein Concentrate (per 11g)|
Essential amino acids are those amino acids which your body cannot produce on its own and needs to obtain from your diet.
For muscle protein synthesis (MPS - The process of building muscle) to occur all essential amino acids need to be available in sufficient quantities. As you can see from the table above, there is a huge disparity between collagen protein and whey protein in their essential amino acid profiles.
In particular, Leucine content is more than 70% less in a collagen protein.
"But why the hell does that matter?"
It matters because Leucine is the most important of the amino acids in the context of building muscle. Think of it as the key that unlocks the door to building muscle. And with the door open, those essential amino acids come flooding in, set up their scaffolding, and start building the 'House Of Gains' inside your muscles.
Simply put, collagen protein has an insufficient amount of Leucine and essential amino acids for optimal muscle protein synthesis. If your goal is to build muscle and you want the help of a protein powder to hit your daily targets, you're much better off with whey, as it's been proven time and again to deliver the best results. And if you're a vegan, a protein blend, with an optimal amino acid profile, will get you the results you're looking for.
The Studies Showing Collagen Protein DOES Build Muscle
"But Simon. There's this study showing collagen protein helps you build muscle. Maybe you're wrong?"
Trust me, I'm not wrong. but let's entertain the notion for a second while we consider one of the most common studies paraded out in favour of collagen protein.
The study looked at the effects of collagen protein supplementation in men aged >65 years old, suffering with sarcopenia (muscle loss).
Participants were given either 15g or collagen protein or a placebo, post-workout, for 12 weeks. Subjects trained 3 times a week on a basic resistance training programme.
At the end of the study, those consuming collagen protein gained significantly more muscle mass, and lost more body fat.
So yay for collagen, right?
Not so fast... It's worth peeling back the layers on this one.
- The study was completed on elderly men already suffering with age-related sarcopenia. Can a correlation really be drawn with a healthy, young adult focused on building muscle?
- Pre-study training and protein intake is not referenced in the study. However, it would be logical to assume subjects were eating a low protein diet with limited or no resistance training.
- Diets (outside of the 15g of collagen protein) were not measured or controlled. Therefore, a number of habitual dietary behaviours could impact the outcome of the study.
- If subjects had been given whey protein, would results have been significantly greater?
- If the participants had followed a high protein diet, would results have been increased further?
This isn't to say the study is bad. Far from it. I'm merely highlighting it's direct applicability within the context this article is written.
If you're over the age of 65, suffering with sarcopenia, then protein supplementation and resistance training are highly recommended. Although, it's still debatable if collagen protein is even the best option in this scenario.
What About The Other Benefits Of Collagen Protein?
At the beginning of this article I said I wasn't going to stray into the realms of the other claimed benefits of collagen protein. But I feel joint health does have some relevance for building muscle.
Theoretically, if you can maintain the health of your joints for longer, then you can train harder and build more muscle. At least that's the very basic notion, anyway.
But before we get into the research, allow me to bring the main flaw in the collagen protein argument to the fore.
When consumed, protein (whether collagen, whey, or other alternative) is broken down into its component amino acids. At this point the body would channel those amino acids to the processes for which it needed them. So there's no guarantee that just because you consumed collagen protein, it will end up being used in support of joint health (or any other process you may be taking it for).
Essentially, there's nothing special about your average collagen protein supplement.
But what does the research say?
Sadly, there isn't a huge amount of credible research on collagen protein and its ability to help improve joint health. This makes drawing strong conclusions difficult.
Some show very marginal benefits. But these also come with the strong health warning of being funded by companies producing and selling collagen products. And while this doesn't automatically invalidate the research, it does throw up a cautionary red flag.
Having said that, there is some research to indicate a particular type of collagen could be beneficial for joint health.
Undenatured type ll collagen, also known as UC-ll, has been shown in at least two studies to benefit joint health. However, rather than repair and replace lost collagen, it appears to slow the degenerative process. The theory being that this particular type of collagen makes it through the digestive process, enabling it to have a positive effect on joints.
Does this mean a dose or two of collagen protein will reverse the ageing process and enable you to strut around with a 20 year-old dude or dudette, long into your old age?
No. Because that would be a little creepy.
And collagen protein isn't that good.
Furthermore, you're missing out on the things that really WILL make a difference, because you're too focused on the minute, largely unproven benefits of collagen.
Are You Focused On Grains Of Sand Instead Of The Big Rocks?
Where should you focus your attention first?
Something that makes the biggest impact, or something where you'll barely notice the difference?
No need to answer. It was rhetorical.
You see, disappearing up your own butt hole by pontificating about collagen protein is akin to choosing handles for your kitchen cupboards, before you've laid the foundations for the house.
Your concentrating on the grains of sand, instead of the big rocks.
You want to build muscle. So look at the big rocks first. Is your training as good as it could be? Your programme, exercise selection, and form are critical to the process. Then there's your recovery. Are you optimising protein intake, frequency, and timing around training? What about recovery and sleep? The list goes on.
When it comes to joint health, collagen protein could be a sticking plaster on the Grand Canyon. Are you overloading your joints in the gym? Is your form sub-par and causing unwanted stress? Are you overweight and placing further stress on your joints?
And if you want better skin, maybe think twice about overexposing yourself in the sun, in search for that holiday tan.
These are the big rocks. And even after that, collagen protein still wouldn't be anywhere near the top of my list.
When it comes to supplementation, Omega 3 has been shown to offer far more proven benefits, compared to collagen protein, including improving joint health. Plus, it's likely to be much cheaper in comparison.
So choose wisely where you decide to focus your attention.
The Bottom Line On Collagen Protein Supplementation
Collagen protein is an inferior choice for building muscle. Whey, and other forms of protein, have an amino acid profile aligned with optimising muscle protein synthesis. Whereas, collagen does not. Save your money and stick to the basics.
Ultimately, collagen protein isn't worth a moment of your consideration if your goal is to build muscle.
If you're looking for perfect skin and hair, who knows? Maybe go check out the Vidal Sassoon and Nivea websites for their take (although I'd assume they might be a touch biased).
There are far superior supplement choices that optimise the muscle building process. And chances are, you're already taking those. So don't waste your money on collagen protein. Save it for some BCAA's instead... Joking (they're shit too).
"But if collagen protein supplements are as crap as you say, why are they so popular?"
Great question. And the simple answer is this...
Because they're cheap!
Cheap for the supplement companies to make, which makes them easy to sell at a huge margin. Sprinkle a little magic marketing BS dust on top, and you've got the recipe for a cash cow.
It's the sad truth.
So if you want to build muscle, train hard and consume sufficient protein. And if you need to supplement, stick to the tried and tested products. Leave the collagen to the fish-lipped weirdos of Instagram.
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