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Collagen is a group of proteins that act as a vital structural component of the body, used for everything from maintaining skin and hair health to improving joint and ligament flexibility. We don’t get much collagen from our food as it is primarily found in the parts of plants and animals that we don’t eat, and it is hard for our body to break down and absorb. As a result, people take collagen supplements or add collagen additives to their diet to increase their collagen intake.
However, there is a common misconception that adding more collagen to your diet can cause weight gain. This is not the case, and in fact, it may indirectly help you lose weight.
Increasing the amount of collagen in your body improves your ability to develop lean muscle tissue.1 Simply consuming collagen won’t help you build muscle, but it can improve the results you get from working out. Developing more muscle tissue helps you lose fat, as muscle tissue requires more calories to maintain than fat. As a result, your body can burn off more calories you consume and convert body fat to calories. Building muscle can lead to weight gain in some cases, as muscle tissue weighs more than fat. However, this is not an unhealthy form of weight gain.
Collagen is a form of protein. Consuming proteins makes you feel fuller after eating and satiated for longer after a meal. As a result, collagen supplements can help prevent overeating by reducing your appetite between meals.
Collagen is an important component of the cartilage and ligaments in our joints. Collagen supplements can improve your mobility and reduce joint pain by helping to repair these tissues.2 Although improving joint mobility does not directly aid weight loss, stiffness in the joints or pain can be a major obstacle to exercise for many people. Tackling these issues can enable you to enjoy more exercise, making it easier to manage your weight and overall health.
Collagen is also an important compound for maintaining the strength and density of your bones. As people age, their natural collagen production decreases, leading to less dense bones that weigh less. Taking collagen supplements can restore your bone density, leading to an increase in your weight due to denser, and therefore heavier, bones.
The main side effect of taking collagen is reducing appetite or increased sense of fullness after meals, which can vary from person to person.
People with food allergies should pay attention to the source that collagen was extracted from, however. It is often extracted from foods that are common allergens, such as fish, shellfish, and eggs. Collagen supplements made using collagen extracted from these sources can cause an allergic reaction if you have allergies to these foods.
You can also increase your intake of collagen and collagen production boosters by adding these foods to your diet:
Chicken contains plenty of collagen. The stringy connective tissues that you see when you cut up raw chicken are made primarily of collagen. Chicken is often used as a source of collagen for supplements due to its high content.
Eggs do not contain collagen. However, the egg whites do contain large amounts of an amino acid called proline. This is one of the building blocks your body uses to produce collagen. Increasing your intake of proline can boost your body’s natural production of collagen.3
Any source of vitamin C, for example, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, can also help your body produce collagen. This is because vitamin C plays an important role in your body’s production of pro-collagen. Pro-collagen is a precursor to collagen that the body produces and later modifies to become collagen.
Garlic is rich in sulfur. The body uses sulfur to produce new collagen and help prevent the breakdown of collagen in the body. Overeating garlic can cause an upset stomach or heartburn, but making it part of your regular diet can help maintain your body’s collagen, among other health benefits.
Beans contain many amino acids used in collagen production and copper, which is also used by the body to produce collagen.
Bone broth is widely believed to be a great source of collagen. This is not the case, however. Boiling animal bones is an effective method of extracting many nutrients from them; however, research has shown that this process does not reliably extract a significant amount of collagen from the bones.4 That doesn’t make bone broth any less healthy and nutritious, but it is not a source of collagen.
It is important to note that while many foods contain collagen, this does not necessarily mean they will increase collagen levels in your body. This is because the body cannot use collagen directly from your food. First, it must be broken down into amino acids that the body can use to build its own collagen. Collagen is a difficult compound to break down, and so most of it passes through the digestive system without being absorbed by the body.
Since the body does not easily digest it, most collagen supplements do not contain collagen. Instead, they contain collagen hydrolysate or gelatin. These consist of the peptides that the body uses to make collagen and are much easier for the body to absorb than collagen.
As we age, the body produces less collagen. As a result, it is less able to replace collagen that is damaged. You can help reduce the production of products as well as reduce damage to collagen by avoiding these behaviors:
Too much sugar in your bloodstream interferes with your body’s ability to repair collagen.5 Watch your consumption of added sugar products and refined carbs, which quickly break down into sugar. Both of these can cause increased levels of sugar in the blood.
Ultraviolet radiation reduces collagen production. This is most noticeable on your skin, causing wrinkles and a loss of elasticity, but some UV rays can penetrate the skin and affect the underlying tissues, causing more widespread damage to collagen production, among other issues.
Smoking has many harmful effects, including reduced collagen production throughout the body. This leads to reduced wound healing and prematurely aging skin.
Taking collagen helps your body stay healthy in many ways and is responsible for far more than just skincare. Collagen supplements can help you reduce your body fat percentage when combined with regular exercise; however, they can result in slight numerical weight gain. This is healthy as it is caused by an increase in lean muscle tissue and bone density.