While eating whole foods is preferable, it’s not always easy to get enough collagen that way. This is a big problem if you’re aware of all the benefits arising from having enough collagen in our bodies. High-quality supplements are an ideal way to fill the gap. A quick stroll through the supplement section of your local health food store, however, is enough to make your head spin. With the range of options, from gelatin to hydrolyzed collagen to collagen peptides, it’s hard to know which ones to choose. Choosing the right collagen supplement for your lifestyle could be tricky if you don’t know in advance what exactly should you be checking once the product is in your hands.
But as with all health supplements, when one gains popularity, poor-quality mass-produced knock-offs pop out of the woodworks making the process of choosing a quality one, a much more difficult task. To make your life easier, here are nine key guidelines to find a quality collagen supplement, and avoid wasting your hard-earned cash, or precious time on a product that promises much, but delivers less, or at worst, nothing at all…
Here are the nine things you need to keep in mind to make the best choice:
1. Look for hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides
Although different products might say one or the other, they’re essentially the same thing. Both labels mean the product has undergone a process called hydrolyzation, which breaks collagen molecules down into individual collagen peptides that are easier for your body to absorb after ingestion. In addition to being more bioavailable, hydrolyzed collagen peptides have a lower molecular weight and can dissolve quickly into nearly any liquid, making them incredibly simple to add to your diet. You can throw a scoop or two in your morning coffee or smoothie, or add it to soup or stew.
Hydrolyzed collagen is also super high in the amino acids glycine and proline, which are essential for building new collagen in your muscles, bones, and gut.
2. Opt for products that contain a wide array of collagen types
Since the most abundant collagen in your body is type I, any collagen supplement you take should contain it. But because it’s important to have an amino acid balance, we believe it’s best to find a supplement that has types I, II, III, V, and X, which account for most of the collagen in your body.
A multi-collagen product featuring bovine collagen, chicken collagen, fish collagen, and eggshell membrane collagen ensures that you’re getting all five types.
3. Bone broth protein powder and bone broth collagen powder are great options
While hydrolyzed multi-collagen protein is wonderful for collagen building, bone broth collagen has an added benefit. It contains glucosamine and chondroitin. If you have arthritis or are starting to develop aches and pains in your joints, a bone broth supplement may be a better option.
4. Make sure the label specifies the type of collagen the product contains
If the types aren’t listed on the label, there’s no way to be sure what you’re getting.
5. Check the dose
Taking 10 to 30 milligrams daily is ideal for most people. You can take more, especially if you are on a collagen-loading program and looking to help improve collagen deficiencies. However, if the label recommends a super-high quantity, I’d be wary.
6. Choose a product made from grass-fed, pasture-raised, antibiotic-free animals
Collagen supplements have varying levels of quality. The best way to think about this is the source. Where does the collagen come from, and how were these animals living?
You may want to avoid chicken sources altogether, as it’s difficult to assess if the chickens were living their best life (battery cages or free to roam?).
Besides, bovine (cow) sources are considered to have a more complete amino acid profile (high nitrogen amino acid ratios) that outshine the gamut of chicken to fish as well as, pork, “porcine,” sources. The ratios found in this source of collagen protein are more effectively utilized by the human body. Also, you can choose one that comes from cows that are grass-fed and pasture-raised. Not only are these cows happier (which naturally means healthier), they are usually free from hormones, pesticides, and heavy metals.
With marine collagen, you’ll want to think along the same lines (read: no fish farms). One of the benefits of taking marine collagen is that since it uses the parts of the fish that would normally go to waste, you’re also supporting practices that are in line with a sustainability mindset.
Overall, when choosing a collagen supplement opt for a brand that is transparent about its processes and sourcing.
7. Powder, pills, or liquid collagen supplements?
The majority of collagen supplements come in powder and pills. There is also a liquid form of collagen. Your body isn’t too picky about how it receives collagen, so adding it to your routine is really a matter of personal preference. To your body, any collagen is just collagen. So whether you choose is okay.
While most of the time it comes down to personal preference, liquid always provides a much higher concentration (dose) of collagen protein (or anything for that matter), and it’s easier to take than its pill kin. Also, with liquid collagen supplements, you have the added benefit of faster and more effective absorption by the body, which means quicker and better results.
8. Viscosity and thickness of the liquid
This tip applies only if you have chosen a liquid collagen supplement.
Liquid collagen (both Type I Collagen and Type II Collagen, which are found in dietary supplements), at room temperature liquid collagen will appear more like a semi-thick syrup than a watery mixture. If the collagen is pure (i.e. it hasn’t been cut with fillers) different batches of it (even from the same company) should vary slightly in viscosity. Avoid any thin or watery collagen supplements; they may say “collagen” but you’ll know different now.
9. Reddish gold or a rich coppery color
This tip also applies only if you have chosen a liquid collagen supplement.
Liquid collagen supplements should be reddish gold, or coppery in hue. Any variation from these color families most likely indicates the presence of outside additives to artificially color the product (usually to hide a lack of collagen content).
Worst of all, if your collagen supplement is clear, you’re mainly buying expensive water. Stick to the color palette above for quality, natural collagen protein.
Closing thoughts: Choosing the right collagen supplement
Choosing the right collagen supplement is not an easy task. We can all agree that it’s best to know what you’re getting into before adding a new supplement to your diet. Now that you’re equipped with these valuable nine tips, you’re ready to choose the right collagen supplement for your lifestyle.
1.Czajka, A., E. M. Kania, L. Genovese, et al. “Daily Oral Supplementation with Collagen Peptides Combined with Vitamins and Other Bioactive Compounds Improves Skin Elasticity and Has a Beneficial Effect on Joint and General Wellbeing.” Nutrition Research 57 (September 2018): 97-108.
2.Zdzieblik, Denise, Steffen Oesser, Manfred W. Baumstark, et al. “Collagen Pep¬tide Supplementation in Combination with Resistance Training Improves Body Composi¬tion and Increases Muscle Strength in Elderly Sarcopenic Men: A Randomised Controlled Trial.” British Journal of Nutrition 114 (2015): 1237-1245.
3.Kumar, S., F. Sugihara, K. Suzuki, et al. “A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomised, Clinical Study on the Effectiveness of Collagen Peptide on Osteoarthritis.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 95, no. 4 (March 2015): 702-707.
4.Hexsel, Doris, Vivian Zague, Michael Schunck, et al. “Oral Supplementation with Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Improves Nail Growth and Reduces Symptoms of Brittle Nails.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 16, no. 4 (December 2017): 520-526.
5.Tomosugi, Nachisa, Shoko Yamamoto, Masayoshi Takeuchi, et al. “Effect of Col¬lagen Tripeptide on Atherosclerosis in Healthy Humans!’ Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis 24 (2017): 530-538.