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What the heck are collagen supplements? Here’s everything you need to know.

Aug 20, 2018

 Vital Proteins | The Golden Girl Blog

I’m not sure if I can think of a bigger health trend that has smacked us upside the head faster than collagen. Collagen here, collagen there, everyone and their mom is carrying those little blue sticks in their purse and if you aren’t drinking collagen in your coffee is it REALLY EVEN COFFEE IN THE YEAR 2018?? ?

At first I resisted because if we’re being honest, it just weirded me out a little bit. But then I finally gave in and decided I needed to see what all the hype was about. I have received so many questions from you guys about it that this blog post basically just begged to be written.

So here we are.

Collagen Supplement Benefits:

What IS collagen, anyway?

Let’s get technical, shall we?

According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, “collagen is a strong, rope-like molecule that forms stretch-resistant fibers. The most abundant protein in our bodies, collagen accounts for about a quarter of our total protein mass. Among its many functions is giving strength to our tendonsligaments and bones and providing scaffolding for skin wounds to heal.”

So–why do we care? Over time, as we age, the rope-like “building blocks” or  “framework” or start to break down, and our body produces less collagen–affecting everything from our skin to our muscles, joints, internal organs and more–which is why we see wrinkles, get aches in our joints, and so on. Taking a supplement can help counter-act this breakdown.

Different types of collagen and collagen supplements:

There are several types of collagen that exist in our bodies, but the majority of them are types 1-3–which support tissue in hair, skin, nails, joints, ligaments and muscles.

Just as there are many types of collagen, there are also many types of collagen supplements in all different forms, but they all pretty much come from two main sources: animal hides–like cows and chickens–and collagen sourced from fish–referred to as “marine collagen.” (So, note, if you’re Vegan, this is not a supplement for you!)

Do collagen supplements work?

There is a lot of back and forth on this. Just like the idea of taking any other supplement. Some say yes, some say no. Since the idea of collagen supplementation is still new, not a ton of in-depth research has been done (none of it being long-term). However, preliminary trials have shown promising results:

The results of this 2015 double-blind scientific study concluded that an oral nutritional supplement of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, and essential vitamins and minerals, leads to a significant improvement in wrinkle depth as well as noticeable improvement in skin elasticity and hydration.

Additional studies have shown that it improved joint pain in athletes, and reduced knee pain in those with osteoarthritis.

There is also limited research that shows that collagen may help those with gut issues (i.e. “leaky gut”) which seemed to be a common response I got from you guys anecdotally!

Speaking of, perhaps the most compelling proof (for me at least) was hearing straight from the mouths of YOU GUYS! SO many of you reached out saying that you have had incredible experiences with collagen supplements overall–I’ll get to those as well as my personal thoughts on it further down in this post!

Are there any side effects?

Again, collagen supplements are very new, so there aren’t any studies on its long-term affects, but collagen seems to be a very safe supplement to take as long as it’s from a high-quality source The biggest risk factor according, to my research, is an allergy. For example, if you’re allergic to fish and you take a marine collagen supplement, this may cause some issues. It’s always best to ask your doctor before implementing any new supplements into your diet.

Other uses for collagen:

In this post, I’m really just focusing on collagen supplements, but you’ll find collagen based everything these days, from creams to face masks, lip masks and the like. Results on these seem to be very mixed. I can’t find any specific studies on it, but it’s widely thought that collagen is not effective topically (vs. consuming collagen in powder form) because the molecules are too big to be absorbed through the pores and sink deep into the skin.

 Vital Proteins - Matcha Collagen | The Golden Girl Blog

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Review:

Okay, HERE we get to the review part! I have been using Vital Proteins collagen supplements for a couple of months now (granted, I haven’t been that dedicated to using it everyday because we’ve been traveling so much, but I’m going to try a lot harder to be consistent with it now after reading all of your great reviews of it!) but I really love their products for several reasons (which I get into more below in depth, product by product).

A huge reason I love their products is the taste.

The unflavored peptides are truly undetectable (although if you don’t have enough liquid you will experience a thickness in texture, in which case, add more liquid), and the Matcha powder and Coconut creamer I really love. I cannot and will not ever consume anything that doesn’t taste good, so that’s like–requirement #1.

Additionally, Vital Proteins sources their collagen from VERY high quality sources: pasture-raised, grass-fed cows in Brazil and wild-caught, non-GMO Red Snapper off the coast of Hawaii.

They actually do a really good job of explaining their cattle source in detail on their website, which addresses the main issues I have with meat and dairy to begin with (and why I’ve cut back my consumption of them as a whole):

Our collagen is produced exclusively in Brazil.

The collagen is primarily derived from Nelore breed bovine hides. The cattle industry in Brazil is still based on grass systems, where the cattle are pasture raised. This constitutes an important advantage for Brazilian cattle.

Since the cattle were pasture-raised and grass fed, this eliminates the risk of rBGH in their feed. Brazil also has a law (Decree No 57 824 Article 4(4)) which prohibits the addition of hormones to feed. The hormone rBGH is typically injected into dairy cows to make them produce more milk. The Nelore breed is not a dairy producing cow and is strictly used as a beef breed. Based on these factors, the collagen is derived from bovine hide without the use of hormones like rBGH.

I would also continue to use their products even if I had ZERO interest in collagen supplementation and didn’t see any results from it. Let me say that again, there are FAR more benefits to these products aside from the “collagen” ones.

First, they are all a great source of protein–ranging from 9 grams to 20 grams–depending on the product. Second, the coconut creamer is a great source of healthy fat, which is essential in kicking off my morning on the right foot. The Matcha contains the health benefits of any other Matcha–a great source of antioxidants as well as a kick of caffeine. The beauty collagen contains probiotics.

Surprising, right?

This was not something I expected to find before I got my hands on the products!

Okay, now for the results part! 

 Vital Proteins | The Golden Girl Blog

My Personal Results:

Skin:

I can’t say I have been using them long enough or consistently enough to see major changes in my skin. I’m not going to tell you my wrinkles have disappeared, but I do typically struggle with dry patches on my skin in certain places and oilier patches in others, and that no longer happens. My skin is more balanced in that regard. I’m not sure what to chalk that up to–just an observation.

Joints: 

Where I first noticed the difference in taking the supplements was my joints. The difference was subtle, but about a month or so ago I realized “wow, my knees haven’t been as sore as they usually are”. And the only thing I can think to attribute that to was these supplements. (Granted, I have since done something to tweak my knee, so there’s that, but I’m hoping being more consistent taking the peptides everyday will help it feel better faster).

Hair:

I’m also a person with extremely thick hair, so I can’t really comment that it has made my hair thicker per-say (I haven’t really noticed a difference there) but over a year ago I started getting these weird little. I will call them “rat tails” in the back (like that hang down from my ponytail if it’s high up on my head. Way more noticeable than fly-aways). I’ve NEVER had issues with this before, and I have no idea what was causing them. My best guess is they’re from using my curling iron on a heat setting that is far too high (I now use it on a lower setting). Or I’m just an old bag, but I can’t be sure.

Anyway, it seemed like said rat tails were lingering around forever and not growing despite my attempts to avoid curling the underside of my hair as much as possible. I couldn’t get rid of them–but over the past month or so, I can tell they’ve gotten a LOT longer! They still don’t fit back in my ponytail but they’re almost there!

I was at first wondering if this was just a placebo–did I just miss that they were growing all along? So I texted Neal a photo to show him and he agreed. They are definitely longer ? (He hates my rat tails).

Proof:

the golden girl

YOUR results:

I was curious to see what your experiences were with collagen supplements. Those of you who responded all took Vital Proteins–just because I think the brand has become so popular it is basically interchangeable with the term “collagen”–kind of like “Kleenex” means the same thing as “tissue” these days, you feel me?

Here’s what I heard from you guys: 

“I have always had ridge-y brittle nails and now my nails, but now they’re so strong and healthy they grow like weeds!” –Eileen

“I’ve been using the blue Vital Proteins collagen for about 3 months and I love it. I mix it into my hot coffee every morning and it gives me energy and fills me up until I eat a late breakfast. Before adding it into coffee I would be starving all morning and overeat. I also have noticed my skin has improved with less breakouts and better texture and my hair has gotten thicker. Eyelashes too! No need for extensions (yay!)” –Brittany 

“The blue tub (collagen peptides) literally saved my life. I got pretty severe gastritis about a year ago and tried everything. Whole30 for two months, all natural diets, natural probiotics, prescription meds, etc. It only settled when I stopped my daily Nespressos/Starbucks and as an overachiever and Seattle-ite, quitting coffee seemed like a death sentence. I’d been curious about Vital Proteins for forever (I mean, they have pretty stellar marketing) but always thought it was too expensive. Then, the glorious blue tub finally came to Costco–in a giant size for only $45! They say take it in the morning on an empty stomach for best results.

I’ve been mixing it into oatmeal, breakfast smoothies, granola and almond milk, whatever breakfast I have for the last 3 months and I have only gotten one stomach ache (on vacation when I wasn’t taking it for over a week). I’m able to have coffee everyday (after breakfast) and overall, I’m a much happier person to not be keeling over in pain on a daily basis. It completely healed my stomach lining and I’m a full believe in it’s magical powers.” –Maja

I also expected some people to respond to my Insta stories inquiries for testimonials saying “it didn’t work” but I only got one, and it was this (which secretly, I still feel like is a positive?) 

“I did Vital Proteins for a bit (one tub til it was gone so maybe a month or so? Then I got another a couple months later, but didn’t really take it consistently) My hair stylist thought my hair felt thicker, but I was still unclear. She was convinced though!”–Ashley 

…So, there you have it!

Vital Proteins products

My favorite Vital Proteins products:

First, it’s important to note that all Vital Proteins products are gluten free, dairy free, no sugar added, Whole30 Approved, and paleo friendly! They are all a great source of amino acids.

Original Collagen Peptides

This is far and away their most popular product and the one the testimonials above reference. This supplement is completely tasteless and dissolves very easily, so it’s great to add to just about anything that is a liquid and makes it easy to take every day. It also has the highest amount of collagen–20 grams, but what I love even more about it is that it has 18 grams of protein. This is great because I avoid dairy based protein powders but I never found a plant-based protein powder I liked (they’re all so chalky and taste artificial to me), so this has essentially allowed me to replace my protein powder in smoothies. Note: They also sell this in a giant size at Costco in many areas!

Coconut Collagen Creamer

I think this is probably my favorite product overall. Even if you have no interest in the collagen benefits, it’s awesome for so many other reasons! First is the taste. It’s a really subtle hint of coconut that makes it delicious, but it isn’t overly creamy (think of your coffee with just a HINT of cream). Second, it has 9 grams of protein in it (which is more than an egg or one serving of peanut butter) as well as healthy fat, which is amazing if you are typically one to skip breakfast.

Note: it does take a minute or two to dissolve. Stir frequently and give it a second. However, I’ve found the best way to mix it is with a milk frother! Pour in a bit of coconut milk with it (or I’ve even dumped a shot of espresso in there with it and no milk) and turn the frother on to quickly dissolve it! Note, according to my experimentation, this does not dissolve well in cold liquids.

Collagen Peach Matcha

If you love matcha, you will love their matcha collagen! I got the peach flavor which is new, but I’ve heard great things about the regular flavor as well. Blair loves the regular flavor with steamed almond or coconut milk and cinnamon–I like the peach flavor blended with coconut milk and some frozen peaches! If you want it iced, I’ve found a blender is the best way to blend it.

Beauty Collagen:

This is the product I probably drink the least but it’s nice when I want a little pick me up in the afternoon and I don’t feel like matcha. I mix this with water and a big squeeze of lemon, and some frozen berries! It contains 12G collagen, 120 MG of hyaluronic acid (essential for glowing skin!) antioxidants and probiotics.

Working Collagen Peptides Into Your Diet:

There are so many ways to work collagen peptides into your diet–but the most popular ways are definitely blended into smoothies and into your morning coffee or tea! Vital Proteins has TONS of recipes on their blog though if you’re looking to get more creative!

Collagen Supplements

Have you had any personal experience taking collagen supplements? I’d love to hear about it! 

Thank you to Vital Proteins, a brand I absolutely love, for sponsoring this post! 

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