For a few years there have been products that claim to have 20g or more of protein in a little shot style container. Some come in test tubes, some come in plastic Jello-like containers, but all of them have collagen protein in them. I have been asked numerous times what I think about collagen as a protein source.
The newest product line up is Protein Gem, Protein Twist and Weight Gain shot by Protica.
Although these types of products are not new, I find it fascinating that people think protein from collagen is a sufficient source of protein. Some sources (Wiki) say that it is highly digestable:
Hydrolyzed collagen is a highly digestible protein, and an oral ingestion has been reported as having beneficial effects on joint & bone health, on skin health and for weight management and sports performance.[c
Whereas a Dr on a gastric bypass website says the polar opposite:
Collagen is hard to absorb unless you have a normal digestive layout. It isn’t absorbed 100% even for those with normal digestive routes.
And even a study at PubMed says 2 different things:
“Measured nitrogen content of the foods indicated that subjects consumed 0.81+/-0.02 g protein/kg/day and 0.85+/-0.05 g/kg/day for the whey and fortified collagen protein trials, respectively. Body weight decreased (P=0.02) after consumption of the whey supplement, with no significant changes in body weight or composition resulting from the consumption of the collagen supplement. Nitrogen excretion was higher during the whey supplement trial than during the collagen trial (P=0.047). Therefore, a concentrated, fortified, hydrolyzed collagen protein supplement maintained nitrogen balance and preserved lean body mass during 15 days of consumption of a relatively low-protein diet.”
I may be an idiot, but I don’t think I am reading that wrong. Nitrogen excretion is a sign of protein metabolism therefore Whey had a higher rate of protein metabolism than collagen, though the last statement says that collagen maintained nitrogen?
Protein is as protein does:
When we think of protein, we think of the availability of amino acids. Whey is high in Cysteine and other sulfur AA’s (also a complete AA source) where as collagen only has 8 of the 9 essential (20 total). Not bad, but not too good. Here is why:
When you train, you breakdown the muscle tissue. Growth does not happen in the gym, though damage does. The good damage, the kind that makes your body build back bigger and stronger than it was before you applied the stress. The body needs glycogen and amino acids to rebuild. We just think it needs protein, which in a round about case yes it does, but there is so much more physiologically speaking going on that its more detailed.
An excerpt from Wiki:
“Amino acids are critical to life, and have many functions in metabolism. One particularly important function is to serve as the building blocks of proteins, which are linear chains of amino acids. Amino acids can be linked together in varying sequences to form a vast variety of proteins. Twenty-two amino acids are naturally incorporated into polypeptides and are called proteinogenic or standard amino acids. Of these, 20 are encoded by the universal genetic code. Eight standard amino acids are called "essential" for humans because they cannot be created from other compounds by the human body, and so must be taken in as food.”
So when we eat protein, we break it down into amino acids and further into glucose. During exercise, you lose nitrogen (and throughout the day) so by eating protein you replenish the amino stores in the body. When we have a “positive nitrogen balance” it means the body is primed for growth. If we are in a “negative nitrogen balance” we say the body is catabolic. The only way to maintain a positive nitrogen balance around the clock is to feed the body around the clock. Smaller meals with more proteins; with starchy carbs in the am and fibrous carbs at night is a great rule of thumb when it comes to eating.
You need all available aminos to rebuild the body from the stresses you put on it. I think that in today’s market more companies are coming out with collagen products solely because of cost: China has a voracious hunger for dairy products, driving the cost of goods up, up and up. We have seen at least 3 price changes this year alone on the cost of what used to be a waste product of cheese making: Whey protein.
Though I could argue both ways that collagen at least has some nutritional value, but its not a good first choice of food, I will just say this: Eat real food first, then supplement the diet with what you lack. There are a ton of protein choices out there in food and supplement form. I would put collagen at the bottom of the ladder, my last choice, in fact I would rather take a soy protein over a collagen protein any day.
Until science says otherwise, stick with what you know.