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Home » OSL Blog » What are Collagen Peptides?

What are Collagen Peptides?

February 9, 2020

Key Takeaways

  1. Collagen peptides are getting a lot of attention in the health and wellness industry due to their perceived benefits.
  2. While aging can cause bone density loss, cardiovascular disease, joint pain, and other issues, athletes and seasoned bodybuilders can struggle with some of these issues even sooner.
  3. There are some benefits that you may find with collagen peptides supplementation including reduced joint pain and bone loss, increased muscle mass and weight loss.
  4. With small side effects which can include heartburn or stomach upset, collagen peptides may be something to consider adding into your daily routine.

When you think of collagen, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Is it the anti-wrinkle cream your grandma used to buy from the drugstore? 

Or perhaps the stuff that gives Jello its signature jiggle?

Jello with Collagen

Regardless of the image that the word collagen brings up, it’s something that’s important to your body’s everyday function. And most recently, there has been some buzz in the health and wellness industry around collagen peptides.

Are they the same thing? What’s the hype all about? What exactly is collagen anyway? And why is it so important for you? 

Today we will discuss just that:

  • What collagen is
  • What collagen peptides are
  • The benefits they both have
  • Ways you can increase the amount of collagen in your body

First, let’s talk about what collagen is and then we’ll get into what collagen peptides are.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a Greek word meaning kólla-gen, or “glue producing.” This meaning comes from earlier years when animal bones and skin were boiled down to make glue. Except for very specific applications, collagen is no longer being used this way. 

The most abundant protein in your body (and animals as well) is collagen. It’s found in every major part of your body:

  • Skin
  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • The cornea of the eye
  • Teeth
  • Blood vessels

You could say that collagen literally is the glue that holds you together. 

Collagen powder

There are at least 28 different collagen types with more being discovered; this is as recent as 2011.

There are four main types found in your body:

  • Type I: Over 90% of the collagen in the human body is made of this type. Densely packed fibers create the structure for: 
    • Interstitial tissues (fluid-filled space between cells) 
    • Skin 
    • Teeth
    • Tendons 
    • Bones
    • Ligaments
  • Type II: This type is less densely packed than Type I and is mainly found in cartilage and the vitreous humor (clear gel between the lens and retina of the eye).
  • Type III: Works with type I to support muscles, blood vessels, skin, and arteries.
  • Type IV: Found in the skin along with types I and III and also helps fetal tissue to form.

As you age, your body naturally stops producing this important protein. The skin will start to sag and wrinkle, which is why it’s found in a lot of anti-aging products. It’s also found in:

  • Hair products
  • Nail products
  • Body lotion
  • Moisturizers
  • Serums

Now, let’s take a look at what collagen peptides are and the benefits they have to the body.

What are Collagen Peptides?

Collagen peptides are hydrolyzed, which means they are broken down protein chains. This is a good thing as it makes the proteins more readily and easily absorbed into the body.

Hydrolyzed collagen peptides come in either pill or powder form and have no flavor. It also doesn’t gel, which means you can mix the powder into all kinds of things without changing the texture. 

Collagen In Stores

If the thought of taking yet another pill makes you want to scream, consider collagen powder instead.

You can mix the collagen powder with just about anything to get the benefits your body needs from this important protein. Dissolve it in your favorite food or drink once or twice a day to get your daily collagen boost.

We can’t say that your collagen peptides are the best available, but here’s what we can say:

  • They include types I and III to help repair and improve connective tissue
  • Our peptides use grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free pasture-raised animal products to provide high-quality collagen
  • We also include BioFit™ probiotics in our powder, which helps boost your immune system and improve gut health

Still not convinced that collagen peptides may be something to consider? Here are some benefits that collagen peptides supplements may offer.

What are the Benefits of Collagen Supplements?

Research has shown that there are some gains that can come from taking collagen peptides supplements.

1. Build Muscle Mass

Since part of your muscle tissue includes collagen, it makes sense that supplementing might help build muscle mass.

This is especially true in the elderly. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle tissue that happens naturally as you age. Collagen production is severely reduced, which also reduces the ability to build and maintain strength

In this study, 53 elderly men went through a 12-week resistance training program. They fed half the group a placebo while the other half took 15 grams per day of collagen peptides. At the end of the study, the peptides group showed significantly lower fat mass and significantly higher:

  • Bone mass
  • Muscle strength
  • Fat-free mass
  • Sensory-motor control

Researchers subjected a group of 77 premenopausal women to the same study parameters with similar results. These studies show that as you age, collagen peptides help keep muscle mass and strength while reducing fat mass.

2. Improve Skin Elasticity

Another effect of reduced collagen production as you age is less skin elasticity. Hydration is also lost as you get older, which leads to wrinkles and dryness.

Wrinkled Eyes

Remember grandma’s collagen peptides skin cream she got on trips to Costco when you were younger? It turns out, the research on skin health and aging supports using collagen peptides. While some may swear by skin cream like grandma, supplements can also help.

Here, 69 women of varying ages from 35 to 55 were given a collagen peptides supplement or placebo for eight weeks.

They were initially tested for:

  • Skin moisture
  • Skin elasticity
  • Transepidermal water loss
  • Skin roughness

After four weeks, everyone in the peptide group showed signs of improved skin moisture. There was a significantly higher level of elasticity in older women. By the end of the eight-week trial, all in the collagen peptides group showed improvement in moisture and elasticity.

Skin moisture and Collagen

Similarly, a group of 120 participants was divided between the placebo group and the supplement group using hydrolyzed fish collagen. Forty percent of the peptides group felt a significant increase in elasticity and hydration of the skin. 

When biopsies were done, researchers found positive changes in the collagen fiber structure, confirming participant survey results. Regular supplementation can help stimulate the production of beneficial skin proteins, including:

  • Type I procollagen
  • Elastin
  • Fibrillin

Based on the research, taking collagen peptides supplements can help reduce wrinkles, improve skin hydration, and elasticity.

3. Improve Joint Health

So far, you’ve seen that aging is not fun and can really do a number on your body. For many, connective tissues including joints and cartilage, are no different.

The same study of 120 subjects listed above not only improved skin health, but participants also noted joint improvement. In the collagen group, 39% showed increased joint mobility and 43% had less joint pain.

As health-conscious individuals, we know that age is not the only reason to have joint pain. Athletes and bodybuilders alike put their bodies through a lot, which can translate to early-onset joint pain. 

Don Howorth
Golden Era Legend Don Howorth Showing Off His Incredible Muscles and Great Skin

Golden Era bodybuilders were no different, using diet and the limited supplements available then to fuel their bodies.

This study included 147 male and female athletes from Penn State University. At the end of the 24-week study, the collagen hydrolysate group showed significant improvement in joint pain over the placebo.

 As a high-risk group, regular supplementation of collagen peptides could reduce the risk of continued joint deterioration.

Osteoarthritis can debilitate and restrict the ability to even do everyday tasks. Here, a group of 40 people took hydrolyzed chicken collagen supplements for 70 days. By day 35, they showed a significant decrease in joint pain and were able to regain activities of daily living.

This review of seven different studies also showed marked improvements for participants. They all suffered from joint pain and limited function before taking part in collagen peptide supplementation.

One of the reasons collagen hydrolysate can improve joint health is the presence of glycine and proline. These important amino acids are absorbed in the body and help increase the production of collagen

4. Boost Arterial Health

Collagen helps to strengthen the arteries and blood vessels in the body. Over time, they can weaken and cause heart issues, like a stroke or heart attack.

Arterial Health

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of blood vessels and arteries. This is a common disease and can cause heart issues or produce a blood clot with no warning.

Collagen peptides can help not only reduce the likelihood of atherosclerosis but also treat it in healthy humans. 

One way this happens is by reducing the LDL “bad” cholesterol and increasing the HDL “good” cholesterol. Even people who are high-risk saw marked improvement when supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen.

While more studies still need to be done on how collagen peptides can improve heart health, current data is positive. The supplements’ ability to reduce plaque and total serum cholesterol could reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

5. Improve Bone Density

Bones get their strength and density from collagen, so it’s no surprise that bone loss happens. In fact, osteoporosis can happen as early as your 30s. This can lead to a higher risk of bone fractures, even in otherwise healthy people.

Bone Density

Studies have shown that collagen hydrolysate supplementation can help slow down the bone degeneration. In this study, postmenopausal women took a combined calcium-collagen supplement along with vitamin D. After 6 months, this group showed much lower bone mineral density loss than the control.

Another study was done over 12 months in the same age group of women. Those who took the collagen peptide supplement showed less bone degradation with 5 grams taken daily than the control. 

Women who are postmenopausal have a higher rate of bone density loss than men in the same age bracket. Though calcium and vitamin D are usually the first supplements recommended, studies don’t show a significant reduction in bone fractures like collagen.

6. Improve Hair and Nail Health

One of the pros that people can see from increasing their collagen intake is healthier hair and nails. Brittle nail syndrome is more common in women than men and affects roughly 20% of the population. 

Collagen and Hair

This can be embarrassing for some and also hinder some daily activities. People in certain occupations are also affected when nails are:

  • Rough textured
  • Peeling
  • Splitting
  • Cracking 
  • Ragged
  • Breaking easily

If you suffer from this disease, then taking collagen supplements may help. Taking just 2.5 grams daily for six months can help improve nails, even if you stop taking them eventually. In a group of 25 people, 80% of users were completely satisfied with their nails condition, even four weeks after stopping supplements.

As you age, you may find that your hair thins and/or doesn’t grow as fast. For men, this isn’t always as much a problem as it is for women. Still, it can be a sore spot for some men as their hair thins with age.

Balding Man

One of the nonessential amino acids created from collagen is the protein proline. Hair is primarily made up of keratin, which is mainly proline. While more human studies need to be done on the connection between collagen and hair production, supplementation may stimulate hair growth.

Taking collagen peptides can produce more of this important protein. However, eating certain foods might also increase collagen.

Increasing Collagen Production through Food

Most hydrolyzed collagen comes from the skin and bones from mammals, mainly cows, pigs, and poultry. Skin, scales, and bones of marine animals also contain collagen and are used in supplement production.

There are different options available these days that include collagen in food products, here are a few:

  • Meat-based snacks
  • Drinks
  • Coffee creamer

Gelatin is cooked collagen, which is what gives Jello and similar products their gummy and almost solid texture. 

Bone broth is becoming more popular as well because of its high amount of collagen. Simmering bones and skin of animals for 24 hours or longer will create a highly nutritious bone broth.

Collagen in Bone Broth

While some say that drinking bone broth can help with things like leaky gut, the research is still out. This study shows that taking 20 grams of collagen supplements has higher levels of amino acids than bone broth. It shows that homemade bone broth may be better than commercially made.

What Types of Food are Best?

When trying to increase your collagen production through food, it’s important to eat protein-rich items like:

  • Grass-fed meat
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Dairy

To help the body produce the right amounts of amino acids, other vitamins and minerals are needed.

Eggs, milk, and nuts

Include some of these in your diet as well to help boost collagen production:

  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, broccoli, leafy greens, kiwi, cauliflower, cantaloupe, brussels sprouts, green and red peppers, tomatoes
  • Zinc: Shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, spinach, garlic
  • Copper: Oysters, liver, spirulina, dark chocolate, lobster, tofu, shiitake mushrooms, avocados

Depending on your specific diet, it may not be feasible to include all of these food sources. Would supplementing be a better or easier option?

Why Take Supplements?

If you can eat foods that are rich in collagen, why would you need supplements? That’s a good question, and the answer is because of the way your body breaks down and uses the food.

Everything you eat and drink is broken down and used the way your body thinks is best. That means all the nutrients are funneled to the closest area that needs those specific vitamins and minerals. 

Stomach, the digestive system

So even if you are eating foods high in collagen, your body may break down that food for other resources. There may be little to no spike in collagen protein production, providing none of the benefits discussed earlier.

However, studies show that hydrolyzed collagen gets absorbed in the gut, then delivered through the bloodstream to skin and joints. Supplementing with collagen peptides may be a superior way to benefit the body better than eating collagen-rich foods.

Final Thoughts

Collagen Peptides are a great supplement to take to help maintain the level production of collagen protein in the body. Most studies indicate that there are little to no side effects, but can cause heartburn or potential stomach upset.

For many, the benefits may outweigh the small side effects. Choosing the right type of collagen peptides supplement is important. Collagen hydrolysate powder may be a superior form to pills and can enter the bloodstream quicker.

Collagen Powder

Our Classic Collagen powder is the perfect supplement to mix with:

  • Water
  • Juice
  • Smoothies
  • Soups
  • Salad dressings

Eating protein-rich foods may boost collagen production, but you can’t control how your body uses the food you eat. If you’re eating the right foods and still don’t see a difference, supplementing might work better for you.

If you are struggling with joint pain, want to build muscle or are susceptible to certain diseases, collagen peptides could help. As you age, the likelihood of needing to supplement with collagen protein is much higher and has shown proven benefits.

Do you use collagen peptides supplements? What benefits have you noticed when taking this supplement? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section.

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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Old School Labs™ is the maker of premium supplements that carry on the fitness values of the “Golden Era” of bodybuilding. Old School Labs™ products do not hide behind proprietary blends, contain no artificial sweeteners or artificial flavors, and are manufactured using only high-quality ingredients.

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