As I sit here writing, I’m drinking a glass of water mixed with collagen peptides. You may have seen this powdered supplement on your social media feed or heard about it from your cousin’s boyfriend’s sister. But if you still wonder what exactly it is, or why (and if!) it’s something you should consider, keep reading (discount code at the end)!
Collagen and Why It Matters
Let’s start at the beginning, with actual collagen. You’ve heard of it, the most abundant and important structural protein in the body, responsible for connecting and supporting bones, joints, tendons, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails. Pretty big deal. As we age (and I am talking starting in the 20s, which let’s be honest is hardly considered aging, right!?!), we begin to produce less, as evidenced in looser skin, wrinkles, joint pain and stiffness, and weaker bones. No escaping biology, people!
So what to do? Can we supplement? Collagen is formed by three very long amino acid chains twisted into a helix. It’s difficult to break down during digestion – which is why collagen itself as an oral supplement isn’t considered all that effective. And topical collagen found in beauty creams and lotions is actually too large to be effectively absorbed through the skin and put to work.
What Are Collagen Peptides?
Enter collagen peptides, which are just collagen that has been broken down into smaller pieces through a process called hydrolysis. These shorter collagen peptides (also known as hydrolyzed collagen) presumably are more easily absorbed into the bloodstream, while still containing important amino acids, most commonly proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. After absorption, collagen peptides move through the body to where they are needed, to repair and rebuild.
Collagen, by its very nature, is not a vegan product and is produced from various animal sources depending on the type. The most common (bovine) collagen peptides are produced using collagen from the bones, skin, and connective tissue of cows. Whereas our ancestors used and ate the whole animal, our modern diet focuses primarily on muscle meats, which have a different amino acid profile than collagen.
As a vegetarian, I’ve never tried bovine collagen and am not in any rush to, so I held off on this whole thing until I learned that there is also a marine version (yay!). (I do occasionally eat fish so I guess I am technically a “pescatarian” but this term always sounds like way too much info on my diet than anyone actually cares about.)
Marine collagen peptides are produced using the skin of the fish, although the type of fish used will vary by brand (i.e. wild caught Alaskan cod or red snapper). What sounds more delicious than that?! Ack. But the good news is that marine-derived collagen peptides are believed to be the most easily absorbed and bioavailable due to their smaller size. Fish for the win.
Okay So Why Should I Care?
Advocates of collagen peptides claim many benefits (and very little downside), including improved skin and hair, reduced cellulite, reduced joint pain, improved gut health, boost in metabolism and muscle mass, and stronger nails, hair and teeth. You’ll even hear about weight loss and improved athletic performance.
After working for many years in clinical research, I always look skeptically at claims and studies, and rarely think that there is a product that lives up to every single hyped benefit. I feel the same about collagen peptides. I don’t advocate them as some miracle cure for everything listed above. I can’t tell you for sure that you will definitely notice positive changes in your skin, hair and nails or improved athletic performance and better gut health after incorporating collagen peptides. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Just like in everything else, the concept of bio-individuality should be considered – we are all different, our diets, our genetics, our lifestyles. So the effects for one person who raves about them may be different than another, who may notice no changes.
But I CAN tell you the following:
1) Even if no other benefit, collage peptides are an easy source of protein, with almost 7g per (small) scoop and 25 calories. They dissolve in hot or cold water, so it’s really easy to throw a scoop or two into water, juice, coffee/tea, smoothie, yogurt, hummus, baked goods, etc. One scoop in my water twice a day adds 14g of easily digestible collagen protein, just from drinking water which I would do anyway.
2) I do believe that there’s sufficient research to show that it can help improve skin moisture, firmness and elasticity, and have noticed positive changes in my own skin since using consistently. And the claims of providing joint support and strengthening tendons, cartilage, etc. makes sense and are backed up by some research, although it’s something that would be harder to measure in your day to day unless you suffer from joint injury or pain.
3) I have 100% noticed positive changes in my hair. It used to come out when blow drying or showering, and now hardly does at all, so I can say it has unquestionably strengthened my hair. In my case, I haven’t eaten meat in many years, and really don’t eat many animal products with the exception of eggs and occasional cheese, so I think that the specific combination of amino acids in the peptides is something that perhaps was lacking in my diet.
4) Although I don’t have any personal experience with this, I am very interested in learning more about if and how collagen peptides (and gelatin, which is very similar in terms of benefits but different in practical use since it “gels” up) can help with gut health. I think the link between the gut and overall health is fascinating and we’ll be hearing more and more about this in the wellness arena.
Collagen peptides come in powder form, typically in a canister or bag with a scoop. If you decide to try them, look for one that is 100% protein powder, without added anti-caking or bulking agents, sugars or artificial flavorings. I recommend the marine version, which as I mentioned is considered to be more bioavailable and easily absorbed due to its smaller size.
The powders are advertised as odorless (agreed) and flavorless (*mostly*), therefore easily blended into smoothies, juices, oatmeal, recipes, etc. I just drink it mixed with water. In plain water, I definitely notice a (not fishy, just slightly unpleasant) taste, but if I wait a few minutes, the powder dissolves more and I swear the taste dissipates as well.
The other day my kids were watching as I added it to a glass of water and had lots of questions. They were grossed out when I mentioned it was made from fish, BUT when they agreed to take a sip, all three said it tasted “just like water”. This was after it had sat for a few minutes (see below). The glass of water in the middle just had peptides mixed in, and the one on the right had been sitting for five minutes. You may notice it seems clumpy when you first mix it in, but give it a few minutes!
Discount Code For You!
I can’t tell you if collagen peptides will be a great thing for you or not, but I CAN offer you a discount for your initial try if you decide to! The brand I’ve been using is Further Food, which you can buy directly from the website or online at Amazon. On their website, enter code FEEDMEGREENS10 for 10% off your first purchase.
Let me know what other questions you have and if you give them a try!