How Collagen Was Removed From Americans' Diet - Why to Bring It Back
Learn more about collagen protein and it’s vital roles in the body
- Collagen vs Meat Protein
- Collagen vs Whey Protein
- Which Protein Source Is Best?
- Benefits of Collagen Protein
- How to Include Collagen In Your Diet
Times have changed quite a bit over the hundreds of thousands of years humans have been evolving. While there are some similarities from our ancestors to us now, there are many more differences in how we live and eat today.
Before food was easily accessible from grocery stores and food markets, we once had to hunt, fish, farm, and gather all our own food for survival. When you were lucky enough to catch an animal to eat, you ate everything you could.
Fast forward to today, most Americans are picky about their cut of meat. Very selective, we eat around what we used to consume all the time. Instead of consuming the skin, connective tissue, fascia, bone, and other parts of the animal that are rich in collagen protein, we mainly eat simply ground beef or chicken breasts.
While these are definitely good sources of protein, not all proteins are the same. You may feel like you’re covering your bases by eating enough meat or supplementing with whey protein, but there are benefits to collagen protein that are often overlooked.
Am I going to suggest we go back in time and live as if we were cavemen, only eating what we hunt or what we sow? No.
It’s not necessary, and we don’t need to be that extreme. But being more mindful of our food choices and sources could come with benefits.
This goes for anyone looking to stay in shape and promote good health and wellness. After all, collagen is the most abundant protein in your body.
For the bodybuilders wondering, collagen protein could be a great addition to supplement your current protein sources for different amino acid profiles.
Collagen vs Meat Protein
How does collagen protein compare to protein from meat such as chicken breast or ground beef?
Every protein source is different, with different amino acid profiles.
Meat is typically high in the amino acid methionine but relatively low in glycine. Methionine is an essential amino acid your body needs to function and cannot produce on its own, which is why you need to seek it out through your diet.
Collagen on the other hand, is particularly high in glycine. While your body can produce some on it’s own, it cannot produce enough to support basic metabolic processes. This is why you also need to seek it out through your diet, you cannot rely on your own body’s production of it.
The relationship between methionine and glycine is unclear according to the latest research studying these amino acids and how they affect the body. However, it is thought that having a balance between the two is better than consuming too much of one kind.
According to Mark Sisson; fitness author, food blogger, and former professional athlete, glycine helps balance out our meat intake.
“The more meat we eat, the more glycine our bodies utilize. This has been shown in rodent studies. Rats on high methionine (the amino acid most prevalent in muscle meat) diets die earlier than rats on low methionine diets. Keeping the methionine high while adding glycine, though, abolishes the reduced longevity. In human terms, this would be like continuing to eat muscle meat while adding in collagen or gelatinous meats.”
Collagen vs Whey Protein
Whey protein, which is often used as a supplement for more protein in the diet, is great because it is a complete protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is particularly high in leucine, which is known for its muscle protein synthesis abilities. It is also high in valine and isoleucine.
Collagen on the other hand, is not considered a complete protein as it does not contain all essential amino acids. It is however, high in a different range of amino acids than whey which means it has different benefits that are often overlooked.
Collagen is known to be high in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, which are particularly good at aiding in the health of your connective tissues, hair, skin, and nails.
Which Protein Source Is Best?
When it comes to nutrition, everyone has their own opinion. Everyone has different bodies and different goals.
To me, unless you have other health conditions preventing you otherwise, I would suggest including a range of different, high quality protein sources for the best results. This way, you are aiming to reach a nutritional balance. Again, we all have different reasons for choosing our food sources.
Athletes may be quick to think that whey protein is the only protein supplement they need, but there are overlooked benefits to including collagen protein in your diet as well. It can aid in muscle growth as well as prevent joint injuries, which any athlete will come to face at some point in their fitness journey.
Benefits of Collagen Protein
In the health industry, collagen has been long overlooked until recently where it is now surfacing as the next superfood. To believe the hype or not?
While the benefits can often be exaggerated, it is a protein that does deserve the recognition is has been getting.
As mentioned earlier, collagen used to be a protein we had plenty of in our diet. Millions of years, up until the last few hundred, did we start becoming more disconnected from our food and isolating out the collagen rich portions of animal proteins. There are definitely benefits to putting it back into our diets.
- Diet Variety
We often get used to eating a lot of the same thing. Which can be fine, so long as they are healthy sources. But even when they are healthy sources, adding in some variety in your diet can help give your body nutrients it is often missing out on.
2. Cosmetic Reasons
As we age, even as soon as 25 years old, our ability to produce collagen on our own can start to decrease. Supplementation can help aid in the health of many bodily structures from our skin, hair, and nails.
Brianna Elliot, RD, wrote an article on Heathline.com about the top 6 reasons to take collagen supplements. She pointed out:
“Several studies have shown that collagen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness (5, 6, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
In one study, women who took a supplement containing 2.5–5 grams of collagen for 8 weeks experienced less skin dryness and a significant increase in skin elasticity compared with those who did not take the supplement (7Trusted Source).”
More studies are needed, but some show to increase the strength in your hair and nails as well. This may be due to collagen supplements stimulating the body to produce more of it’s own collagen, or simply giving the body more collagen to utilize when repairing tissue.
3. Aids in Body Structure/Function
When trying to promote our health, we often look to increase our muscle mass and lose body fat. These are great, but often overlooked are all the parts in between. We also need to be aware of our body’s foundation.
Referencing back to Mark Sisson but from a different article, he points this out:
“If whey has been the gold standard for the muscle building amino acid profile for 30 years, collagen is the gold standard for supporting collagen-based structures in the body (fascia, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, skin, hair, nails).
We don’t get much collagenous material in a normal diet these days, and meat proteins and/or plant proteins and/or milk, eggs, etc. don’t have the collagen peptides nor the ideal ratio of glycine, hydroxyproline, and other amino acids found abundantly in collagen.”
What this means is collagen protein, while also able to help in muscle mass growth as well, is especially good at helping with connective tissues. Collagen is known to help relieve joint pain.
If you’re looking to build more muscle, you need to ensure you have a strong foundation to build upon. Collagen is known as the glue that holds the body together.
“It’s one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth.
You can think of it as the “glue” that holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word “kólla,” which means glue.”
How to Include Collagen In Your Diet
The way you choose to supplement collagen comes down to personal preference.
You could consume it in a powder like any other protein powder. Mixed with water, favorite beverage, or mixed in with a smoothie.
Bone broth or gelatin are other ways people like to consume collagen.
Protein bars containing collagen can be an easy way to include collagen in your diet, especially if you are new to supplementation and want other ingredients to help get used to the taste.
Collagen is usually easier to palate than other proteins like whey, which have a much stronger distinct “protein” taste to them. It has a much milder taste than other proteins.
Topical collagen products are not an effective way to give your body more collagen or stimulate collagen production — it doesn’t absorb through the skin very well. It is more effective to digest collagen, it works much better from the inside out rather than the other way around.
While collagen products are becoming more popular and being marketed as “superfood” status, there is still some evidence to show we used to consume much more collagen in our diets up until recently in the grand scheme of human evolution.
If looking to include more healthy protein sources in your diet to help your body function and grow, consider learning more about collagen and ways to include more of it that best suits you.