There’s been a lot of hype around collagen supplements lately. They first crossed my radar in an article stating that they were good for “gut health.” And I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Last I heard, people were injecting collagen into their faces. Now they’re ingesting it? What’s going on here?’
Interest piqued, I decided to do some digging and get to the bottom of all the talk.
Long story short (if you want the long story, read on): Collagen, although a protein the body naturally produces and requires throughout life, when taken in supplement form over the long term is about as effective as a placebo.
Top 5 (suggested) Benefits of Collagen Supplements
- May ease joint pain
- May make skin look younger
- May help build muscle and burn fat
- May reduce cellulite (and this is the biggest MAY of all)
- May strengthen digestive tract lining
I overemphasize the “May” because as of now, all we have are a lot of anecdotes from consumers sharing how they use collagen but there is no proven causality between any health improvement and the supplements.
So What’s the Big Deal About Collagen?
Well, for starters, it’s a protein and proteins are crucial to the overall healthy functioning of our cells. They carry out a slew of actions within each cell such as bringing in nutrients, carrying out waste, and most importantly for our conversation – building muscle and connective tissues.
That’s where collagen comes in. Its job is creating fibers for muscle, cartilage, tendons, connective tissue and digestive lining.
The problem with how people are talking and thinking about collagen supplements is that they think, ‘If I add this protein powder to my smoothie every day, I’ll have better skin,’ as if when collagen enters the bloodstream it knows exactly where to go: ‘Kelly’s skin is less than radiant today, I’m going there!’
Sorry but that’s just not how it works.
When collagen gets broken down only a minuscule amount actually makes it into our blood and is utilized by our cells. In other words, you’re just not going to get the big bang for your buck. And those powders are not cheap.
Then What Can I Do Instead?
There are plenty of effective and PROVEN alternatives to collagen supplements that will get you the results you want.
- Bone Broth – This seems to be the winner among nutrition experts. According to fitness nutrition specialist and healthy Chef, Marcia Whitfield, “as there is little to no evidence on collagen, I wouldn’t waste my money. If people are looking for more protein which is collagen, I’d suggest making homemade bone broths from chicken, beef, and turkey bones.” She’s not alone in this perspective.
- L-arginine and L-glutamine are two proteins that are proven to give the results that those taking collagen supplements are after. L-glutamine is great for improving gut health. And L-arginine, among other things, increases blood flow (so, ahem, gentlemen) and has been prescribed for aiding erectile dysfunction.
- Avoid too much Sun exposure and smoking – Just doing these two things alone will help your skin tremendously. Because if you take collagen supplements and smoke a pack a day or love to sunbathe, you will see very little improvement.
- Eat a balanced diet – it was noted that people who responded best to collagen supplements were also the people who had the least amount of protein in their diets. So eat a healthy balance of animal protein, eggs, dairy and for the vegans – load up on legumes and green leafy vegetables.
- Exercise – I know. Not everyone likes to exercise and wouldn’t life be lovely if we could just take a pill and get the results of a daily 30-minute workout? Sure. But that’s just not life. To get (or keep) those strong muscles of yours, get a moderate amount of exercise with a bit of resistance training thrown in there and you will be well on your way to a stronger YOU.
Like so many things that come and go, collagen supplements are the new buzzword. But before you hand over that credit card think about if you really need them. Chances are if you just up your intake of healthy proteins and take a few precautions you’ll see the same benefits that collagen supplements may or may not give you.
© 2018 Tamara Jefferies.