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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
September 11, 2023
Collagen is the most abundant protein that the body produces, playing a significant role in the building of skin, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and other tissues. Due to its massive role in the body, it’s a no-brainer that collagen supplements would have health benefits.
Although we know collagen helps everyone from athletes to aging populations, a major debate remains in how to maximize the supplement's effects. So which form, collagen powder vs. pill, is the best?
In this article, we will examine the differences between collagen pills and powder to help you determine which form is best for you.
Table Of Contents
As we mentioned above, collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body, accounting for roughly 30% of our body’s proteins.
Collagen is made of amino acids in a unique triple-helix structure, including glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, known as the collagen helix. We need it for structural support in the skin, muscles, bones, tendons, and other connective tissues. Due to its unique make-up, collagen helps improve the elasticity and firmness of tissues, which contributes to their strength, structure, and density.
It also helps support and cushion the joints, maintain flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury, which is especially important for weight lifters. Finally, collagen can heal wounds by repairing tissues, support healthy hair and nail growth, and aid digestion by supporting the gut lining.
Unfortunately, collagen production breaks down as we age, so people need to consume exogenous sources in their diet. Foods like chicken, fish, and beef bone broth are all rich sources of collagen.
People take collagen supplements for all of the remarkable healing and growth-inducing properties listed above. However, collagen supplements can vary in quality, source, and bioavailability, affecting their effectiveness, so choosing a quality supplement is essential.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out our article: What Is Collagen? Everything You Need To Know.
There are 28 types of collagen in the body, although over 90% of all collagen is Type I. The five main types of collagen are:
Type I: Provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
Sourced from bovine (cow) or marine (fish) collagen
Type II: Elastic cartilage (joint support)
Sourced chicken or chicken cartilage
Type III: Found in skin, blood vessels, and organs
Sourced primarily from bovine collagen
Type IV: Found in the skin
Sourced from meat, broth, and high-protein foods
Type V: Found on the surface of cells and plays a role in cell adhesion. Also found in the cornea of the eyes and the placenta’s skin, hair, and tissue.
Sourced bovine, marine, and other various forms of cartilage
There are also various types of collagen supplements, including multi-collagen blends and hydrolyzed collagen peptides.
Oral Collagen: The most popular collagen dietary supplements are oral, including powder form and pills. Oral versions of collagen have many uses, including collagen peptide powders, bone broth, pills, and tablets.
Topical Treatments: Topical collagen products are made to work directly on the part of the body they are placed on. It helps with skin hydration, elasticity, and joint pain, so users apply it directly to the targeted area.
Collagen Peptide Powders (Hydrolyzed Collagen): Hydrolyzed collagen, also called collagen hydrolysate, is a processed form that breaks down the collagen into smaller collagen peptides. This process improves bioavailability because the body can absorb the peptides faster and more easily. These peptides are sourced from various forms such as chicken, marine, and bovine collagen.
Oral collagen, particularly collagen powder and pills, is the most popular type of collagen supplement, because it can reach deep layers of the skin. Other factors to consider when comparing collagen powder vs. pills are absorption, flavor, effectiveness, and key differences.
Regarding absorption, there are several factors to consider, such as the source and processing method. Studies show pure fish collagen from fish and seafood has the best bioavailability for all sources, including bovine. (2) As for the supplements, there isn’t clear scientific evidence to prove it, but the consensus is that collagen powder has better absorption than swallowing pills.
Hydrolyzed powder has smaller peptides that can be absorbed more easily. It also mixes easily with water or other liquids, which allows it to be easily absorbed into the body. Collagen pills have to pass through the digestive system before they enter the bloodstream, so they take longer to break down and be absorbed.
Most collagen supplements are flavorless, so they can easily be mixed into any drink or food item without affecting the taste. They also sell flavored versions if you prefer that. While collagen pills are flavorless, the gelatinous casing can be unpleasant to some, especially when taking several pills a day.
Various factors can affect the results of collagen powder or pills. Collagen powders have to be measured for each serving, so there could be variability in the dosing, whereas pills have an exact amount.
However, many users report that taking pills can cause an upset stomach and be uncomfortable. While collagen powder has better bioavailability, both types typically have the same ingredients, dosage, and price, so the decision comes down to personal preference.
The choice between collagen pills or powder largely depends on personal preferences, but there are a few key differences to consider. Some products may contain additional ingredients; for example, powders have a higher sodium content than pills.
Another critical thing to consider is your preferred dosing schedule. Collagen powders are usually taken once or twice a day, whereas collagen pills usually require users to swallow pills several times a day. Collagen powder is slightly more expensive but usually has more servings per bottle and better absorption, so it balances out.
If you prefer a convenient method for general health, pills might be the better option. If you prioritize better absorption and versatility or have a specific goal, collagen powder is the best choice.
Regardless of which form you use, collagen supplements have a wide range of uses and benefits. These benefits include improved skin elasticity and hydration, increased muscle mass, hair and nail health, joint health, and gut health.
One of the main reasons people use collagen supplements is to improve skin elasticity and hydration.
In one placebo-controlled study of 72 healthy women over 35, researchers looked at the effects of oral collagen on skin health. After twelve weeks, the collagen group significantly improved skin elasticity, hydration, roughness, and density. (3)
These results were in line with previous studies that proved collagen supplements help improve skin elasticity, hydration, and overall health.
Collagen is a protein, so it obviously has a substantial protein content per serving. The typical serving size of 14 grams of collagen peptide powder contains 12 grams of protein with zero carbohydrates, fats, or sugar.
To measure the effects of 12 weeks of collagen supplementation on muscle growth were measured, users in one study combined 15 grams of collagen peptides daily or a placebo with resistance training. The results showed that the collagen protein led to significant gains in strength and fat-free mass, consistent with similar studies. (4)
One of the main reasons that people take collagen supplements is for hair, skin, and nail health. Several studies have shown collagen helps strengthen, rebuild, and repair damaged hair, skin, and nails.
One study tested how effective oral collagen supplementation is for treating brittle nails. After 24 weeks, the results showed a 12% increase in nail growth rate, a 42% decrease in broken nail frequency, and 64% significant improvements in brittle nails. (5) Collagen is a common ingredient in several female beauty products that treat hair, skin, and nails.
If you are a female and want to learn specific purposes for you, check out our article: The 5 Best Collagen Benefits For Women.
Like hair and nails, several clinical trials show that collagen has benefits related to joint health and reducing joint pain.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study compared collagen supplementation to the standard chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine treatment for knee osteoarthritis symptoms. After 180 days, the results showed that the collagen group significantly improved physical function, pain, and stiffness compared to the placebo and glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate groups. (6)
Hydrolyzed collagen is the most effective type for joint health because it can reach the deepest tissues and has chondroprotective properties, meaning it protects cartilage. (7)
Collagen exists in the gastrointestinal tract, and several researchers believe it may support the gut lining. For example, collagen supplements have been shown to have several benefits related to gut health, including improved digestion.
A two-phase study tested the effects of daily collagen peptides on digestion in healthy women. After eight weeks, the results showed a daily supplementation of 20 grams of collagen peptides led to significantly improved gut health. Over 93% of the participants had a reduction in digestion issues, such as bloating. (8)
Collagen supplements are generally very safe with only a slight chance of side effects, especially when taken correctly. Any issues heavily depend on the dose, individual reaction, supplement quality, and purity, but potential side effects include:
Once you realize that a collagen supplement can improve your overall health, you have to consider which kind to use. The best collagen supplement available today is Primal Kitchen Collagen Peptides.
Each serving contains 11 grams of unflavored, high-quality bovine collagen peptides. A mixture of type I and III derived from South American cattle ranches, each jar contains 50 servings, and each serving gives you roughly 40 calories exclusively from 10 grams of protein. The powder has a very fine consistency, which helps it fully dissolve to avoid clumping or gritty residue. That means it mixes great with any liquid, food, and shakes, making it highly versatile.
Primal Kitchen Collagen is keto-certified, whole 30 diet approved, gluten-free, and contains zero soy, whey, or dairy. It follows the most strict regulatory guidelines, being tested for purity, heavy metals, and other contaminants. For the budget-savvy, Primal Kitchen also has a subscribe-and-save option to save an extra 10%.
These are some of the most common questions related to collagen capsules vs. powder.
Collagen is a complete protein, while collagen peptides are fragments of proteins. Regular collagen is more difficult to digest, whereas collagen peptides are made smaller to improve bioavailability.
Type I is the best type of collagen for skin health. It helps with skin elasticity, hydration, firmness, and wrinkle prevention.
No, collagen is a protein that is made of amino acids. It is the most prevalent protein in the body.
Users should notice results within the first few weeks, although it can take a few months for some people. It works the fastest for skin and joint health, whereas hair, nails, and muscle repair could take much longer.
Yes, most collagen powder supplements are recommended to be taken every day.
People who should not take collagen include children and people with allergies, medical conditions, digestive issues, or if they take medications.
Collagen is an essential protein that is important for maintaining overall health. It's been shown to provide gastrointestinal support, reduce signs of aging, build muscle, and support joint, bone, hair, skin, and nail health, among other benefits.
Oral forms of collagen have been shown to be the most effective because they can penetrate deeper into tissues than other forms. Of the oral forms, collagen powders and pills are very similar, so the decision comes down to personal preference.
Although collagen powders absorb better and faster than a pill, which has to pass through the intestines, collagen pills can be a convenient way to get an exact dosage of collagen with little fuss. Both types have applications, so the decision should be based on your preferences.
If you need help picking the best collagen supplement for your goals, check out our article on The 9 Best Collagen Supplements To Support Bones, Joints, and Skin.
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