Collagen is one of the best supplements we can take to stay healthy and age gracefully.
Our bodies naturally produce their own collagen. We constantly deplete our natural collagen as we replenish layers of skin, grow muscles, and heal wounds. As we age our ability to make our own collagen slows down. After age 25, we produce ~1.5% less collagen every year.
Usually by the time we’re 40 we use the collagen we make faster than we create it. Since collagen is the most abundant binding protein in our bodies we start to have sagging skin, wrinkles, brittle bones, dental issues, and so on.
You could say the whole “aging” shebang is really kicked into gear by a need for more collagen.
Unfortunately, we’re not very good at absorbing it from the food sources where we find the most of it: animals. We eat meat, drink bone broth, and even eat gelatin (which is basically just collagen we’ve boiled out of bones and tendons) – but it doesn’t replenish much of our collagen.
That’s because the collagen molecules are too big for our digestive tract to absorb. It mostly just passes through in tact.
Until it goes through HYDROLYSIS
The complicated scientific descriptions of what hydrolysis means (see here for some of that) really boil down to using protease enzymes and physical manipulation to break down the protein molecules in the collagen and make them smaller. Smaller protein molecules are easier to digest and absorb.
There has been a great deal of peer-reviewed scientific research about the benefits of hydrolyzed collagen. I cite some of that research directly in my article: How Long Does it Take for Collagen Supplements to Work?
This supplement is special because its effects are not limited to a specific part of the body. Many incredible effects have been demonstrated including stronger bones, lower blood pressure, greater flexibility, recovery from joint pain, faster healing, improved vision, and a healthier heart and arteries. I wrote an entire blog article on the health benefits of hydrolyzed collagen, and I could still write more!
There seems to be nothing this miracle supplement can’t do!
Tips on Buying the Best Collagen Supplement
There are a lot of brands of collagen on the market today. Different brands are suitable for different things. Unfortunately retail companies are getting extremely good at online marketing and many review sites are really just profiteers in disguise looking to direct money towards a product rather than provide genuine information. That’s why you’ll rarely read a negative word about any supplements.
Here are my honest reviews of some of the most popular collagen brands on the market. You will also find posts on this site with more in-depth reviews of collagen products such as Youtheory Collagen Reviews and Dr Axe Collagen Reviews.
About The Best Collagen Brands
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is a solid product with great mixability. At 20g of collagen per serving it meets or exceeds the recommended daily supplementation of collagen hydrolysate. Because it is such a reliable high quality product it is one of the more expensive brands of this supplement. With over two thousand reviews on amazon, this is one of the most well reviewed products in this category. The most common complaint is that it is not completely flavorless. It is worth repeating that no hydrolyzed collagen is completely without flavor, but the flavor is mild and easily hidden behind juice, coffee, or tea.
Dr. Axe Multi-Collagen Protein is one of the more expensive brands of collagen. In this case I believe the price is driven up by the Dr. Axe’s recognizable branding. Along with the usual types I, II, and III Dr. Axe’s brand of collagen contains type V and X. There are no studies which support taking supplemental collagen types V or X. That doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, but I believe the Dr. Axe collagen is just trying to differentiate itself as containing more types when there’s no known reason to be taking those.
Youtheory Collagen Advanced with Vitamin C capsules eliminates the need to mix a powder with anything which means that it doesn’t have to be ranked on flavor. On the other hand you need to take 6 capsules for a full serving, and that serving is only 6 grams of collagen. At 6 grams the serving size falls well below the recommended 10 gram daily serving. It is one of the most affordable collagen supplements on the market. The added vitamin C will aid in absorption. That makes this a fairly middle of the road choice for collagen supplementation.
The Youtheory powder supplement also has a serving size of 6 grams, which is 4 grams less than the average recommended daily serving size of a hydrolyzed collagen supplement. It is also a very affordable collagen powder, and contains vitamin C which is an important cofactor for collagen formation.
Doctor’s Best collagen capsules containing types 1 & 3 contains only 2 grams of collagen per 4 capsule serving. It has an extremely low price point but you would need to take 20 capsules every day to reach the average daily recommended serving size of 10 grams.
Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate is a medium priced collagen that comes in environmentally friendly packaging. This is the brand of collagen recommended by Tim Ferris and Dr. Rhonda Patrick. It is average quality and has good mix-ability and low flavor. It is one of the most popular brands on the market. Fair warning though this company has terrible customer service. My first tube came smashed up and dented and when I contacted them to complain they told me that they usually ship 6 at a time and that ordering only one at a time was the reason it was damaged in shipping.
Whichever brand of collagen you choose always make sure to check the nutrition information.
Tip: Do not purchase any protein powders manufactured in China, they have a bad history of sneaking chemicals into protein powders.
I also avoid buying any brands that list any “tryptophan” content in their amino acid profile. Hydrolyzed collagen does not contain tryptophan, and some less-than-reputable companies still add it to the label because they think it looks better. If they’ll lie about that, who knows what else they’re doing to their products. I figure it’s best to avoid them altogether.
How Much Collagen Should I Take?
I wrote about this extensively here.
Based on several scientific studies I recommend at least 10 grams daily, and probably even more. Multiple studies have noticed dose dependent results, meaning that the benefits increase as you take more.
I personally take 2 tablespoons in the morning and another 2 in the evening.
Two tablespoons is about 12 grams of powdered hydrolyzed collage, if it does not also contain vitamin C.
I get plenty of vitamin C from my diet and other supplements, so I prefer my collagen without added vitamin C.
How Long Does it Take for Collagen Supplements to Work?
In studies on skin moisture and elasticity benefits began to be measured at about 4 weeks.
In studies on joint mobility and relief from joint pain it took up to 5 months for people to begin feeling results.
So, the answer is that it depends on the person and it depends on which benefits you’re looking for. The first benefits you should notice will probably be in your skin after a few weeks of supplementation. The longer that you take it the better those benefits will be.
What is the Best Time to Take Collagen Powder?
Collagen becomes available in the blood stream within an hour of supplementation and the body sets to work immediately using it to repair various tissues. Collagen from dietary supplements is completely absorbed within about 12 hours, but it’s benefits can last for up to two weeks. For optimum daily supplementation you should take collagen once in the morning and then again in the evening.