What Is Collagen? Your Complete Guide to Collagen Peptides

What Is Collagen? Your Complete Guide to Collagen Peptides

  • Collagen is a structural protein that acts as the building block for your bones, teeth, muscles, skin, joints, and all other connective tissues.
  • At least 28 different types of collagen exist, but types I, II, and III form the bulk of the collagen in your body.
  • Collagen is loaded with benefits. It keeps skin young, strengthens joints, boosts weight loss, and more.
  • You can get more collagen from collagen foods and collagen supplements.
  • Pair your collagen supplement with vitamin C, which helps your body make more collagen.

It seems as if everyone is talking about collagen and its miraculous anti-aging effects — stronger joints, younger skin, and healthier gut. Yes please! But if you’re still wondering what the heck collagen is, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to get the lowdown on this hardworking protein, all the ways that it benefits your body, and how to get more collagen in your life. Your skin, bones, and gut will thank you.

Download the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap to learn about what and how much to eat

What is collagen?

Collagen is a structural protein that acts as the building block for your bones, teeth, muscles, skin, joints, and all other connective tissues. Think of it as the glue that holds your body together.  The most abundant protein in the body, collagen makes up more than one-third of your total protein. It’s rich in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline — the amino acids that help your body make new collagen.  

Types of collagen

At least 28 different types of collagen exist, but types I, II, and III form the bulk — between 80 and 90 percent — of the collagen in your body.[1][2] Types I and III provide structure to the skin, muscles, and ligaments, while type II is found in cartilage and the eye.[3]

What are collagen peptides?

Collagen types are not to be confused with collagen peptides, hydrolyzed collagen, and collagen protein powder. But what do these terms mean? In short, these are simply different names for the same thing. Collagen peptides means collagen that’s been hydrolyzed. The process of hydrolysis breaks down the amino acids in collagen into smaller molecules, making it easier for your body to absorb. Learn more here about collagen peptides and how collagen supplements work.

Related: What Is Hydrolyzed Collagen and Why Are People Adding It to Everything?

Benefits of collagen

Keeps skin young

man applying skin products in mirror

Collagen makes up the bulk of your skin, but your body makes less collagen as you get older. The result? Sagging skin and fine lines. Studies show that taking collagen supplements plumps skin and smoothes wrinkles. Learn more here about how collagen keeps your skin looking and feeling youthful. [link to collagen and skin story once live]

Strengthens bones and joints

Working out with stronger joints

Collagen peptides strengthen your joints, making them more resilient to injury. Research shows that taking hydrolyzed collagen (aka collagen protein powder) reduces joint pain and boosts the density of your cartilage, making joints more flexible. A 2008 study found that athletes who took hydrolyzed collagen for six months saw an improvement in joint pain.[4] Other studies have shown that collagen assists with back and knee pain.[5][6] Collagen also increases the amount of minerals — namely calcium — in your bones, and helps form new bones.[7]

Improves sleep

Glycine — an amino acid in collagen — helps you sleep better and more deeply. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it calms the nervous system. One study found that people with sleep troubles fell asleep quicker, slept deeper, and experienced less daytime drowsiness when given glycine before bed.[8] In another study, people reported feeling less fatigued and more clear-headed the morning after taking glycine.[9]

Boosts weight loss

woman standing on scale

Collagen can “turn your body into a fat-burning machine, even when you’re at rest,” says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, the former senior dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Glycine forms muscle by converting glucose into energy. Lean muscle tissue boosts your metabolism, since muscle burns more calories than fat. What’s more, collagen increases fullness so you eat fewer calories.[10]

Heals your gut

Woman holding hands over gut

Collagen repairs and strengthens your intestinal and stomach lining, easing leaky gut syndrome and making it easier for your body to absorb nutrients.[11][12]. Collagen can also soothe digestive issues like acid reflux and GERD thanks to glycine, which helps your body produce more stomach acid, aiding digestion.[13] Since the gut microbiome is connected to just about everything, a burst of collagen could help heal your gut and improve your overall health in the process.[14]

How to get more collagen in your diet

Eat more collagen-rich foods

Good dietary sources of collagen include:

Take a collagen peptide supplement

Scoop of collagen powder

Collagen protein powder (aka collagen peptides) is typically made from the ground-up skin, bones, and cartilage of cows and fish. Mix one or two scoops of collagen powder into your smoothie, Bulletproof Coffee, soup, or water. Choose a powder that comes from pasture-raised, hormone-free cows or wild-caught fish.

Related: How Do Collagen Supplements Work? What the Science Says

Eat vitamin-C-rich foods

12 Best Vegetables and Fruit to Eat Right Now_broccoli

Pair your collagen with vitamin C, which plays a key role in making more collagen in your body.[15][16] “Skin fibroblasts have an absolute dependence on vitamin C for the synthesis of collagen, and for the regulation of the collagen/elastin balance in the dermis,” wrote researchers in a 2017 literature review.

To get more vitamin C, eat plenty of lightly cooked vegetables like brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli. You can also supplement with extra vitamin C, between 1000 and 2000 mg a day.

Collagen is one of those rare things that actually deserves its anti-aging title. So sip on some bone broth or mix a collagen supplement into your smoothie, and marvel at how good you look — and feel.

Collagen FAQ

What’s the difference between collagen and gelatin?

Use gelatin for everything from breads to pies -- these keto and paleo gelatin recipes will show you how, while packing every bite with gut-healing protein.

Gelatin and collagen offer the same health benefits, because they’re essentially the same thing in different forms. Gelatin is unprocessed collagen that’s been heated. Collagen powder, however, is processed even further to break down its proteins into smaller pieces that can be dissolved in liquid. Unlike collagen powder, gelatin thickens once cooled. Use Bulletproof Collagelatin to make puddings, jellies and gummies, or to thicken soups and sauces.  

What supplements can I add to my collagen to boost the skin benefits?

No sugar needed: Here are 9 of the best keto green smoothie and green juice recipes packed with healthy fats and fiber (and none of the junk).

To benefit your skin even more, combine collagen with other skin-boosting ingredients. We already mentioned taking it with vitamin C. Adding a hyaluronic acid supplement to your collagen routine boosts the anti-aging effects of both.  Learn about the benefits of hyaluronic acid supplements here.

You can also mix collagen powder into your morning Bulletproof Coffee — the good fats from grass-fed ghee keep your skin plump and supple. Or try making this collagen-boosted green juice, chock-full of skin-quenching celery and cucumbers. To benefit your skin and improve your sleep, sip on this collagen charcoal beauty elixir. For more, check out these 13 collagen peptide recipes to make your skin glow.

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