What Is Collagen Protein? Your Complete Guide to Collagen Peptides
By: Alison Moodie
- Collagen is a structural protein that acts as a building block for healthy skin, bones, joints and 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.
- Your body naturally makes collagen, but production starts to slow down in your 20s.
- You can get more collagen from certain foods and collagen supplements, like hydrolyzed collagen protein — aka collagen protein powder or collagen peptides.
It seems as if everyone is talking about the benefits of collagen protein: glowing skin, flexible joints and strong bones. 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 protein in your life. Your body will thank you.
What is collagen protein?
Collagen is a structural protein that acts as a building block for your bones, teeth, muscles, skin, joints and 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.
What about collagen peptides?
You’ve probably encountered the terms “collagen peptides,” “hydrolyzed collagen,” and “collagen powder.” These terms are simply different names for the same thing: hydrolyzed collagen protein powder. Specifically, the term “collagen peptides” refers to collagen that has undergone a process called hydrolysis. This process breaks down the amino acids in collagen into smaller molecules, making it easier for your body to absorb. Learn more about how collagen supplements work.
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.   Types I and III provide structure to the skin, muscles and ligaments, while type II is found in cartilage and the eye.
Benefits of collagen
Supports youthful skin
Collagen makes up the bulk of your skin, but your body makes less collagen as you get older — starting in your 20s. The result? Sagging skin and fine lines. Studies show that taking collagen supplements can support plump skin and may reduce wrinkles. 
Strengthens bones and joints
Collagen peptides strengthen your joints, making them more resilient. Research shows that taking hydrolyzed collagen (aka collagen protein powder) reduces joint pain after exercise 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 after exercise. Other studies have shown that collagen helps comfort sore back and knees.  New evidence suggests that collagen even supports strong bones.
How to get more collagen in your diet
Eat more collagen-rich foods
Good dietary sources of collagen include:
- Bone broth (get the recipe for homemade collagen bone broth)
- Pork, salmon and chicken skins
- Non-muscle meats like tendon, tripe, oxtail and knuckle
- Egg yolk and eggshell membranes
Take a collagen peptide supplement
Collagen protein powder (aka collagen peptides) makes it easy to get more collagen in your diet. Just 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, like Bulletproof Collagen Protein.
Eat vitamin-C-rich foods
Pair your collagen with vitamin C, which plays a key role in making more collagen in your body. “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.
There’s an easy way to get more vitamin C in your diet: eat lightly cooked vegetables like Brussels sprouts, spinach and broccoli, as well as fresh berries. You can also supplement with extra vitamin C. For adults, the recommended daily amount is 65 to 90 mg a day, and the upper limit is 2,000 mg a day.
Collagen is one of those rare supplements that actually deserves its healthy aging title. So sip on some bone broth or mix collagen protein powder into your smoothie — it’s an easy upgrade to your daily routine.
Collagen protein FAQ
What’s the difference between collagen and gelatin?
Gelatin and collagen offer similar benefits because they’re essentially the same thing in different forms. Gelatin forms a jiggly gel when it’s dissolved in hot liquid and cooled. Bulletproof Collagen Protein is hydrolyzed a step further so it mixes easily into hot or cold liquids without gelling when it cools. Use Bulletproof Collagelatin to make puddings, jellies and gummies, or to thicken soups and sauces.
What supplements can I add to my collagen for skin benefits?
To benefit your skin even more, combine collagen with other skin-friendly ingredients. We already mentioned taking it with vitamin C. Adding a hyaluronic acid supplement to your daily collagen routine brings additional benefits to the healthy aging effects of both. Learn about the benefits of hyaluronic acid supplements.
For more, check out these 13 collagen peptide recipes to make your skin glow.
What does “hydrolyzed collagen” mean?
“Hydrolysis” sounds funky, but it just means breaking a hydrogen bond with water. The easiest way to think about this process is to think about all the steps involved with digestion. You break down your food into smaller parts by chewing it, and then it gets broken down into even smaller particles in your stomach so your body can use all the nutrients. Like digestion, hydrolysis converts collagen into smaller molecules. These molecules are easier to absorb into your body.
How do I pick the best collagen protein supplement?
You’ll find collagen protein powder in tons of different products, like powders and protein bars. But before you start chowing down on collagen charcoal beauty elixirs and collagen keto bread, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the collagen come from pasture-raised animals? When you buy products made from grass-fed animals, you support happy cows that spent most of their lives in pasture.
- Does it have any fillers? Look at the label to make sure it doesn’t include any unnecessary additives. The ingredients list on unflavored collagen peptides should only list hydrolyzed collagen powder — nothing else.
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