Just a little disclosure: I am not a doctor or medical professional of any kind – I’m just some girl on the internet! This blog post is all about my own personal experience with collagen supplements and the research that I have done along the way. Trust your body, talk to your doctor, and find what works for you!
Hello friends! Today I want to talk to you about something that has become part of my daily routine: collagen.
I was initially exposed to the idea of collagen via Lee from America, a blogger and instagrammer, and after doing my own research on it I decided to incorporate it into my diet. This was back before I reintegrated eggs and salmon, so in a way collagen was my first step away from a strictly plant-based diet and towards a way of eating that is based on my body and my needs.
Let me back up a little bit though and talk about what the heck collagen is in the first place.
What’s the Big Deal?
According to Vital Proteins, “Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and helps give structure to our hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments and tendons in our body.” As we age the amount of collagen that our body produces decreases and this typically begins around when we turn 25.
The best source of collagen in our diets is found in animal products – specifically bone broths, fish, and lean meats – so if you don’t eat them you should consider a supplement. That being said there are plenty of plant-based ways to increase your collagen intake if supplements aren’t for you! From my understanding dark leafy greens, vegetables rich in Vitamin-A, and berries all restore the collagen in our bodies that has been damaged and promote collagen production. I personally try to do a mixture of both; I take the supplements to get concentrated collagen into my system and then follow it up with my normal diet full of fruits and vegetables to get the full benefits.
Speaking of benefits, what exactly are they?
Since collagen is a protein found within our bones it makes sense that the main benefit of collagen supplements is joint health. That being said collagen also helps keep your skin tight and glowing, reduces the appearance of cellulite, and has the potential to improve digestion. For a more in-depth list of the benefits of collagen check out this article by Sproos.
At first I was wary of a product that claimed to make my skin, hair, and nails stronger and healthier. I contemplated the possibility that it was all just a placebo, and I still have that nagging suspicion at the back of my mind. Does it actually work? Who knows. Is it a placebo? Maybe – actually, probably. But ya know what; I don’t really care. I try to live by the philosophy that if something works for you and makes you happy then you should go for it. I’d like to think that my hair and skin have gotten better since I started taking collagen, and that belief is a good enough reason for me to continue buying it.
That being said collagen supplements aren’t for everyone. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding be sure to consult with your doctor before you incorporate collagen into your daily routine.
Types of Collagen
If you decide to look into collagen supplements you might be a bit taken aback by how many different types there are – I know I was! There are numerous brands out there that sell collagen (which I’ll get into later) but there are also different forms of the supplement itself. You can buy collagen peptides, gelatin, liquid collagen, or collagen pills.
It’s a bit overwhelming, I know.
In order to fully understand the differences between the various forms you have to look at collagen from a microscopic level. According to Further Food,
“Collagen peptides are more bioavailable – they are better absorbed into the bloodstream because they are much shorter chains of amino acids than collagen and gelatin. Because they’re shorter, collagen peptides are more readily broken down into a form that can enter the bloodstream upon digestion.”
Since we’re talking about collagen peptides I’ll go ahead and let you know that there are two different varieties: grass fed peptides and marine peptides. The difference between them is pretty self-explanatory in that one is derived from beef and the other is from fish, and aside from the fact that marine peptides often contain less protein there isn’t much that distinguishes the two. Whether you should buy one as opposed to the other is purely an issue of personal preference.
However, peptides aren’t the only way to incorporate collagen into your diet! You can also buy collagen pills or pre-made bottles of liquid collagen. Gelatin is another alternative; it has a gel consistency and can easily be added to desserts or soups, but might be a bit harder to find. Again this all comes down to personal preference so explore what different forms are out there until you find what’s right for you. I prefer collagen peptides because I can choose how to consume them – I can either add a scoop to my coffee or toss some into a smoothie – and because the shorter chain of amino acids allows my body to break it down faster. Also I’m not a huge fan of pills, but that’s just me.
Brands I’ve Tried
I only recently started taking collagen in my coffee every morning but I’ve been able to try a lot of different brands in a short period of time. Every time I empty a container I experiment with a new company in order to find which one works best for me. Here are a few brands that I’ve tried so far:
Vital Proteins was the first company I tried because I had heard nothing but rave reviews from anyone on social media who used it. It was a good introduction to collagen peptides and I didn’t notice any side effects like bloating or heartburn; my body adjusted pretty seamlessly to the change in my diet. When I added the collagen to my coffee it dissolved instantly and I couldn’t even taste it! Each serving has a whopping 18 grams of protein but unfortunately a serving is two scoops, which means a single container only lasts about 15 days. For that reason I don’t think I’ll make Vital Proteins my default when buying collagen peptides, but I am intrigued by their other products like their collagen creamer packets.
The amount of protein in a serving is a huge determining factor for me when I look at different brands because I want a multi-purpose powder that gives me collagen and protein all in one. That being said, if protein isn’t as important to you then you should consider Vital Proteins’ line of beauty collagen peptides; they only have 11 grams of protein and come in fun flavors like lavender lemon and tropical hibiscus.
When my container of Vital Proteins collagen peptides ran out I was determined to get more bang for my buck with my second container. I spent about 20 minutes in the aisle at Greenwise Market comparing serving sizes, servings per container, and the amount of protein and collagen per serving. In the end I walked away with a canister of Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Collagen, and man oh man was that a bad decision.
The fact that the flavor was called “pure” should have been a warning sign that it would taste terrible, but at the time all I saw was the single scoop serving size and the 30 scoops per container. It was an actual struggle to use all of this collagen, that’s how bad it was. Unlike the Vital Proteins collagen, Ancient Nutrition’s took five minutes of stirring before it dissolved into my coffee and even then there were often clumps of brown collagen that refused to liquify and instead floated around the top of the mug and taunted me. Don’t even get me started on the taste: imagine sucking on a bone straight out of an animal carcass and you’ve got a general idea of what it tasted like. I made the horrible mistake of adding a scoop to a smoothie one morning thinking that by some miracle it would diffuse better in a frozen drink as opposed to a steaming one – the results were terrible and I only ate it so I wouldn’t waste an otherwise perfectly good breakfast.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the positives to Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Collagen. In the event that I managed to make it fully dissolve it into my morning coffee it added a rich nutty flavor that I gradually came to enjoy. Also after some digging around I discovered that the same brand makes chocolate and vanilla flavored collagen, as well as collagen with extra protein. Looking back, I’m sure the fact that what I bought was “bone broth” specific was probably why I had such a horrible experience. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving Ancient Nutrition a second chance in the future, but I need some time to recover before I even come close to the brand again.
I finally finished the Ancient Nutrition collagen after what felt like was an eternity and was once more on the hunt for a new brand. Back when I first went vegan almost three years ago, I started a free trial with Thrive Market to buy various powders and nuts and spices, and then I promptly forgot about Thrive Market until the end of January 2019. My friend Yomibee (aka my go-to natural deodorant hookup) shared her referral code for 25% off your first order with Thrive Market and I decided to give it another go – with my FSU email of course.
Thrive Market has amazing deals on healthy, organic food and delivers it all right to your door! The only catch is you have to pay a yearly membership fee of $59.95. I avoided the fee by starting a free trial and stocking up on discounted supplements during the 30 days, but if you frequently buy protein powders or healthy organic snacks then you should consider getting the full membership. For every paid membership, Thrive Market gives a free membership to a family in need, which is pretty awesome. I’ll link Yomibee’s discount code here if you want to try a free trial for yourself and save big.
Anyway, on to the collagen peptides. Thrive’s grass-fed collagen has 10 grams of protein per serving, and with only one scoop per serving there’s enough collagen for almost two months in a single bag! Each scoop seamlessly dissolved into my coffee and was completely flavorless, which had me overjoyed after the whole Ancient Nutrition fiasco. I’m a huge fan of Thrive Market’s collagen peptides but I’m not crazy enough about them to pay $59.95 a year so I can order them.
I added a container of Primal Kitchen‘s unflavored collagen peptides to my Thrive Market order because I was curious about how it would compare to the other brands I’ve tried. With 10 grams of protein per serving and 41 servings per container Primal Kitchen is pretty high on my list, but I’m not sure if its available at the grocery stores near me. Similarly to the Vital Proteins collagen and Thrive Market collagen, Primal Kitchen’s dissolved easily and was flavorless.
What I liked most about Primal Kitchen is the fact that they sell single serving on-the-go collagen packets that would be perfect for adding to camp coffee, as well as “primal fuel packets” that are basically single serving collagen creamer packets available in two flavors: vanilla coconut and chocolate coconut.
Here’s my final report on the various collagen peptide brands on the market: Vital Proteins has the most collagen per serving since a single serving is two scoops, but this means you’d have to buy two containers a month. The best bang for your buck is the Thrive Market collagen since it has the most collagen and protein per serving as well as the most servings per bag, but the only way to get it is with a free trial or a membership. I haven’t done the math yet to see if the overall savings justify a yearly membership, but I might go down that path and split a membership with John if he decides to buy his protein powder there as well.
I personally enjoy adding collagen to my coffee every morning (which you could easily substitute with any hot beverage) but you can also add it to a smoothie or a bowl of soup. Once I started working at Lucky Goat Coffee and was able to drink unlimited coffee for free during my shifts, my overall coffee intake at home went down. On days that I have to work I typically add collagen to a smoothie or just mix it with a small glass of almond milk. If you’re not to crazy about drinking your collagen then you should check out Wild Friends’ collagen infused peanut butter. Follow this link and get $2 off a jar!
That being said I stand by the fact that the best way to add something to your diet – whether it’s collagen or anything else – is to get it directly from the source. If you eat meat then that means eating fish or lean, grass-fed beef, and if you are plant-based then a healthy diet of fruits and veggies should be all you need.
If you’re like me and you’re privileged enough to add collagen peptides to your coffee each morning, recognize that privilege.
And lastly, do what works for you. That’ll mean something different to each of us, and that’s okay. Listen to your body.
I hope this was blog post helpful, and if you have a story about collagen or supplements that you would like to share please comment down below.
Stay healthy, friends.
Was this helpful? Have feedback for me? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos in this post were taken by me. Header photo by John Miller.