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March 05, 2023
Whenever a supplement hits the market, one of the first questions asked is: "Can it help you lose weight?"
And as collagen continues to rise in popularity, it's no surprise that many people have begun asking whether it helps shed unwanted pounds, in addition to the benefits it was originally created for, including things like improving skin elasticity, hair growth, and reducing joint pain.
So, does it work? Can collagen improve your skin while shrinking your waistline?
Let's find out! This article is about to discuss everything we know about collagen and weight loss.
Table of Contents:
If you have ever thought about using collagen supplements to aid your weight loss journey, read this article first.
Commonly found in tendons and ligaments, collagen is a type of protein made up of 19 amino acids with a three-strand structure that forms a triple helix structure. The three main types of amino acids in collagen are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, which make up approximately 57% of the entire structure¹.
When compared to other tissue in the human body, collagen is firm and has minimal ability to bend and stretch. This allows it to provide stability to a wide array of tissues in the human body while still having the ability to be manipulated.
In addition, an adequate collagen supply is essential for joint health, making joint pain collagen supplements a popular choice for many people as they get older.
For those interested in learning more, check out our article that details everything you need to know about what collagen is.
Collagen is used to make connective tissue, and additionally, plays a role in various other areas, such as:
While collagen supplements have become extremely popular over the past years, the reality is that our body produces large amounts of collagen naturally, typically through eating some of our favorite muscle building foods, such as fish, soy, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and legumes.
In order for this to occur, you need to have sufficient amounts of the right compounds. This includes things like amino acids, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium.
A peptide is a term used to describe when just a few amino acids are joined together through peptide binds.
A collagen peptide is a string of collagen that has been broken down into smaller peptides. Collagen, on the other hand, is the entire strand of amino acids.
In other words, collagen is composed of a bunch of different collagen peptides. As a result, collagen is obviously much larger in size than its peptides.
However, in order for your body to utilize collagen for making connective tissues, it must be broken down into peptides first.
This brings us to the article's main topic: Should you use collagen for weight loss?
We're about to discuss this in much more detail, but the short answer is that research shows that collagen peptide supplements can help support your weight loss goals. The keyword here, however, is help, as collagen should not be the only thing you're counting on to help you slim down.
Let's look more closely at what research says about collagen and losing weight.
One unique quality of collagen supplementation is that it seems to reduce the size of fat cells and overall body weight, which is good news if you're hoping to take collagen for weight loss.
In 2019, researchers discovered that specific collagen peptides from a type of skate fish, a flat fish closely related to sharks, were able to promote a small decrease in body fat². Even though the change wasn't huge, they determined that collagen supplements still likely play a role in fat reduction.
In 2018, separate research had mice consume collagen from skate fish³. In this study, the mice were first intentionally fed a high-fat diet until reaching obesity.
Afterward, collagen peptides were introduced into their diet, resulting in a significant decrease in their body composition.
Researchers distinguished two mechanisms:
Additionally, a different study found more good news for taking collagen for weight loss, determining that collagen hydrolase was able to reduce the size of fat cells in estrogen deficiency-induced obese rats, while also preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss⁴.
Collagen for weight loss may also play a role in helping reduce body fat due to it being a protein. In fact, this is the main reason why a collagen supplement is good for weight loss.
However, this isn't just collagen protein specifically. Any type of protein, including protein-rich foods and high-protein diets, can help you lose weight⁵. This doesn't mean collagen doesn't play a role, just that really any protein source can help with weight loss.
As a whole, using high-protein diets is highly successful for weight reduction or weight management and works through several mechanisms.
When people ask: "Can collagen supplements help with weight loss efforts?" they're generally asking if there's something specific about collagen protein compared to protein in general.
And the answer to that question is no, collagen isn't more special than other proteins when it comes to weight loss. That said, collagen supplements can likely help with your weight loss journey due to it being a protein.
One unique quality of protein that can promote weight loss is that it has the highest TEF of all our macronutrients. TEF stands for the thermal effect of food and refers to the number of calories required to digest a food source.
Our bodies use calories for literally everything, including digestion.
Compared to carbs and fats, protein is the hardest for your body to break down and requires higher energy expenditure, which is one of the reasons consuming high protein low fat foods and veggie protein sources are such a good idea.
As a result, on average, your body burns about 20-30% of protein calories just to digest it⁶. Compare this to the TEF of carbs at 5-10%, or fat at only 0-3%.
As mentioned above, with TEF, your body takes longer to digest protein. In addition to burning more calories to break it down, it sits in your stomach longer.
As a result, you will feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time. This can help to curb hunger pains and cravings.
Theoretically, if you have a less unhealthy desire for food, you should be able to control your calorie intake easier.
Maintaining low-calorie intake is the main component of weight loss, so you will have a better and easier chance at success.
To be clear, collagen is not a good source of protein. It only has 19 amino acids making it an incomplete protein, and the amino acids it does have are skewed to the 3 previously mentioned.
But as long as it's not your main source of protein, it can still add to your amino acids. This may be particularly beneficial for those following a vegan bodybuilding diet as it can help fill in some of the "amino acid blanks."
In addition, during a caloric deficit, your body will want to break down various tissues to access more energy. While we want this to be from your fat cells, it can also break down muscle mass.
This occurs as many of your amino acids are able to be used to convert to glucose and, ultimately, energy.
As collagen supplies many of these amino acids, it can prevent your body from breaking down muscle mass.
Apart from possibly playing a role in weight loss, collagen supplements may also prove to be beneficial in several other areas. However, we need to keep in mind that similar to weight loss benefits, these aren't inherently because of something special about collagen.
Collagen's primary benefits are its role in reducing joint pain as well as improving skin and hair health.
We are not saying collagen supplements are not beneficial, but ideally, you should take it to improve one of the three things we just listed. And then look at any other perks as an added bonus.
In addition to increasing muscle mass, collagen peptides have also been found to increase muscle strength.
A 2015 study took two groups of untrained elderly men suffering from sarcopenia, the term describing the natural loss of muscle mass as we age, and required both groups to follow a similar resistance training program, with one group supplementing with collagen peptides and the other with a placebo⁷.
At the end of a 12-week training program, both groups were tested for change in muscle strength. The group that supplemented with the collagen peptides saw significant improvements over the placebo group. In addition, this group saw greater muscle growth and fat mass reduction.
In other words, the study shows that collagen supplements do, in fact, have properties that allow positive adaptations from resistance training.
However, taking this study to say it's "good" is reaching a bit too far, as it's important to keep in mind that untrained individuals typically see positive gains in the beginning anyway.
Similar to how collagen plays a role in mitigating muscle loss, consuming adequate amounts of collagen will inevitably increase the number of amino acids your muscles have access to.
While it's an incomplete protein, it can still contribute to your amino acid total, as long as it's not your only source. This can positively impact your ability to add muscle mass.
Looking for more collagen perks? Check out our article: 5 Best Collagen Benefits For Women!
In the same manner as its role in fat loss, we feel that collagen plays more of a supportive role rather than a primary role in things such as strength gains and building muscle.
All this means is that instead of taking collagen supplements for things like muscle growth or strength increases, you should take collagen supplements for improving things like:
Then, the excess amino acids will be shuttled to the other areas that need support, such as your muscles. In other words, collagen protein is like a cherry on top of your muscle-building and weight-loss goals.
It's unlikely you need a collagen supplement, as it is the predominant type of protein in the human body, and our body already has large supplies.
Having said that, if you're trying to improve skin elasticity or hair growth, supplementing certainly doesn't hurt.
This is particularly true the older you get, as natural supplies do start to dwindle with age.
When looking at collagen supplements, you have many to choose from. It can get a bit confusing, so we'll briefly cover the most common forms or types below.
Hydrolyzed collagen, also known as collagen hydrolysate, is one of the more common collagen supplements.
Hydrolyzed collagen is the same as whey hydrolysate in that it's been pre "digested" and broken down into smaller collagen peptides so that your body can digest it faster.
However, one thing you may need to consider with taking a hydrolyzed protein is that the TEF effects likely won't be as significant.
As the collagen protein has already been broken down into simple forms of collagen peptides, the energy expenditure required to break it down will be less.
Another decision you'll need to make is whether you want to take collagen supplements in liquid or powder form. You can even choose from free powder or collagen capsules.
The most important thing to remember is that collagen is all the same. Therefore, it's not as if one collagen is better than the other. The major differences come in price and convenience.
The most expensive form is typically liquid collagen supplements, as they're generally mixed with other flavors or supplements. In fact, liquid collagen contains powder collagen that has been dissolved in a mixture of other ingredients.
When it comes to powder form, the capsules will be more expensive as more steps are involved in enclosing powder in the capsules. The capsules are premeasured and easy to take with you, so they can be more convenient.
At the same time, you have less control over an exact serving as they have been measured already. In terms of efficacy, both will have similar levels assuming they both use hydrolyzed collagen.
In our opinion, we like cheap and effective, so we would suggest a quality collagen powder for weight loss unless you have a reason you really need or want capsules.
Liquid supplements tend to me more expensive, while also including other supplements you may or may not want.
Look for a high-quality collagen hydrolysate powder. And for best weight loss results, make sure you take this as a supplement to a proper workout split and a nutritionally sound, high-protein diet, like this weight loss meal plan.
As we just discussed, when answering "does collagen help weight loss" there don't seem to be any specific benefits that collagen protein provides over other protein sources.
In addition, most studies that examine a high-protein diet's effect on weight loss use other sources, typically animal protein. So even though we can say collagen likely adds to the weight loss benefits, we'd still recommend a high-protein diet rather than solely relying on collagen supplements.
Still, there are many other reasons to include a collagen supplement in your diet. Just because collagen may not be a magic bullet for weight loss, it does still appear to play a role in shedding unwanted pounds.
So, considering you get the other benefits mentioned, a little extra help with weight loss seems like a pretty cool bonus.
For guys interested in learning even more about collagen's benefits, check out our article: Is Collagen Good For Men?
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