One of the hottest questions in the world of fitness nutrition right now is “does collagen make you gain weight”?
Protein supplements have long been one of the most popular products among fitness enthusiasts, as well as those looking to achieve optimal health through their diet.
However, most people won’t have much of an understanding of what each product actually contains beyond the word protein, such as the type of protein or whether or not it is sugar free.
Various types of protein supplement are available that offer different benefits and collagen is one that is gaining notoriety at a rapid rate.
Long since advertised in beauty products, its inclusion as part of the human diet will seem a little unexpected to many.
Much like any new supplement, there is a range of information available about collagen, with wildly differing levels of accuracy.
While most sources acknowledge the benefits of using collagen, others also point to potential drawbacks to its consumption as well.
That’s why, in today’s article, I want to give you a better idea of exactly what collagen is, what it can do, and answer the question you are dying to know, which is whether or not collagen will make you gain weight.
What Is Collagen
Collagen is a type of naturally occurring protein that is one of the most abundant in the human body, believed to account for roughly a third of all proteins found within our system.
The human body makes collagen during the creation of vitamin C. Vitamin C is produced when two amino acids, known as glycine and proline, are combined.
A by-product of this process is called procollagen, which our systems then metabolise and convert into collagen.
Collagen can be split into four subcategories, which are classified as collagen type I to collagen type IV.
Each different type of collagen plays its own role in the human body, with functions ranging from maintenance of health to the binding of numerous internal organs.
While collagen plays a large number of roles in our system, its primary function is to act as a form of natural glue.
This glue helps to bind many of the cells and compounds naturally found within the human body together.
As a result of its wide ranging and important functions, collagen supplements have recently seen a dramatic increase in interest and demand.
The Role Of Collagen In The Human Body
Collagen is found in various parts of the body, including the bones, hair, ligaments, nails, skin, joint cartilage, tendons, and tendinous muscle.
While gluing cells and compounds together is the best-known function of collagen, its other essential action within the body is almost equally as important.
This is because collagen has also been found to be heavily involved in the process of metabolism.
As a result, people with higher levels of collagen in their system will be able to break down other nutrients more efficiently, leading to them being able to be better utilised by our body.
This means collagen supplements are capable of providing multiple health benefits and explains why they have become a topic of interest for people and studies interested in the best potential weight loss strategies.
How Collagen Is Metabolized And Used In The Body
Collagen is absorbed by the body in the same way as any nutrient.
Whether it is obtained from food that is digested in the gut or produced naturally, it is then transported around the body in the blood and absorbed by the cells, muscles, and organs where it is required.
How efficiently collagen is metabolised and used will depend on the quantities of a number of other chemicals and nutrients in your system, as well as a range of other lifestyle choices and factors.
For example, there are certain vitamins and nutrients that have been found to make the body’s natural collagen production more efficient.
These include glycine, proline, and vitamin C, all of which are involved in the production of procollagen, as well as copper.
Among the biggest contributors to the poor production and utilisation of natural collagen are lifestyle choices such as diets that are high in refined carbohydrates and processed sugars, excessive exposure to UV rays, and smoking.
Another big negative to the effective utilisation of collagen that is beyond our control is our age. As you get older, natural levels of collagen gradually begin to decline.
Once you reach the age of 70, the average person has around half of the natural collagen levels they would have when they were a child.
This can lead to a number of health related problems, as well as a lowered metabolism and a weakening of many of the cells and organs that collagen is directly responsible for the upkeep of.
What Are The Uses For Collagen Supplements?
Collagen supplements have two main groups of prospective clients; older people whose natural collagen production has declined over time and those who are looking to utilise the benefits that it offers in the human body beyond what is possible though natural production.
Collagen supplements contain collagen peptides, which increase the concentration of collagen within the body.
Unfortunately, as a newer supplement, studies into the full range of benefits it can produce are still somewhat limited.
However, there are three advantages of collagen supplements that have been extensively studied and proven by multiple sources.
The first of these benefits is the ability of collagen to stimulate an increase in muscle growth. Much like most other proteins, its ability to repair damaged muscle fibres helps them to repair and grow back bigger and stronger.
This makes collagen supplements particularly useful for those involved in weight training programs, as it will help to both increase the production of lean muscle mass, as well as enhance your gains in physical strength.
The second proven benefit is its ability to assist people living with arthritis, an autoimmune and inflammatory disease.
Enhanced collagen levels have been shown to help slow the progression of the disease and limit the wearing away of cartilage between the joints.
This will help to limit pain and allow people afflicted with the condition to continue living a normal life for as long as possible.
It is worth noting though that many of these studies have been done on animals, so more human trials are needed before this can be considered 100 percent conclusive.
The final proven benefit, and one that has perhaps been known the longest, is the ability of collagen to help improve the health of hair and skin.
This is the reason that it has long been an advertised ingredient in cosmetics like shampoos and moisturisers.
Collagen has the ability to increase elasticity in the skin and hair, which will help to stop it drying, breaking, cracking, or becoming tight.
This is particularly useful for older people or those with malnutrition, as both groups are known to develop some or all of these issues as time goes on.
What Are The Best Sources Of Collagen?
Those looking to boost their collagen intake have two options, diet or supplements.
The diet route is obviously more natural and can be done by making simple changes, without the need for any additional products.
Some of the best foods for boosting your collagen intake include chicken, fish, and egg whites, while citrus fruits, berries, red and yellow vegetables, white tea, and garlic can all help to differing degrees.
However, supplements tend to be a much more effective option, as none of the collagen is digested and burned off in the gut. This means you get exactly the intake of collagen you are expecting, which often isn’t the case with food.
The best collagen supplements are those that feature hydrolysed collagen peptides, as this means the collagen has already been broken down into small particles, which your body can easily absorb and make use of without digesting.
Most collagen supplements come in the form of a powder that needs to be mixed into a drink.
However, unlike most protein powers, collagen powder is usually flavourless and has no real texture, so can be easily mixed into any drink of your choosing.
That said, flavoured varieties are available, as are capsules, so you have a number of effective sources available to make use of.
Are Collagen Supplements Vegan Friendly?
While there are some sources of collagen that are vegan, such as certain fruits and vegetables, these are usually considerably lower than those derived from animals.
As a result, the vast majority of collagen supplements are made from bovine connective tissues and fish, while eggs and products obtained from pigs are also used.
So, while you may occasionally find a vegan option, it is best to work on the understanding that collagen supplements generally aren’t vegan.
Collagen And Body Weight
There have been numerous studies conducted into the effect that collagen can have on weight when consumed.
The vast majority of these studies have determined that, not only will collagen not cause you to gain weight, but it actually has anti-obesity qualities that can help you lose weight instead.
The main reason for this is that collagen is known to stimulate the human metabolism.
By increasing your metabolism, you will speed up the rate at which your body digests food or burns fat. This means it is an ideal choice for anyone who is looking to burn fat or lose weight.
However, it is important to note that how you obtain your collagen can have an effect on the amount of weight loss you will see.
For example, if you consume a collagen supplement in a shake or drink that is high in calories or consume foods like eggs that are equally high in both collagen and fat, you could potentially miss out on much of the anti-obesity potential collagen has been proven to offer.
As a result, you need to pay close attention to the number of calories you are adding to your diet. Otherwise, your efforts may be in vain.
Does Collagen Cause Water Retention?
One of the main reasons that weight gain became an issue attached to collagen supplementation is because there have been concerns raised about a potential connection between collagen supplements and water retention, which can often be mistaken for gaining weight.
Fortunately, much like with weight loss, collagen is highly unlikely to result in any water retention.
In fact, it again may also be great for reducing the amount of water that is retained, meaning it can help with the issue, as opposed to hindering it.
It does this as collagen helps to maintain, repair, and support the wellbeing of capillaries throughout the body.
When capillaries get damaged, the body has a tendency to store more water to try and protect itself while it repairs.
By supplementing with collagen and keeping the capillaries well maintained, it can prevent any issues from arising and avoid any unnecessary weight gain as a result of water retention.
Collagen Side Effects
While collagen has been deemed safe for the vast majority of people, it is still important to consume it in the recommended doses.
It is also important to speak to a medical professional before you start using collagen if you have any existing medical conditions or are taking chronic pain medication.
However, there are a handful of side effects that have been recorded with a relatively high frequency.
The main side effects of note are an unpleasant taste lingering in the mouth, a heavy, bloated feeling, and potentially heartburn.
That said, most people also report that these side effects are extremely mild and temporary, so they shouldn’t put you off of using collagen, as the benefits usually far outweigh the risks.
How Long Does It Take For Collagen To Work?
How long collagen takes to work will vary from person to person, and also depends on what results you are hoping to achieve.
Some users have reported seeing improvements in the health and appearance of their hair and skin in as little as 3 days, while most will notice some difference in the first two weeks.
However, in order to experience the full range of benefits to their maximum, you need to take the recommended dose of collagen for between four and twelve weeks.
The Pros & Cons Of Collagen Vs Other Types Of Protein Supplements
- Improves health and appearance of skin and hair
- Boosts metabolism
- Helps with weight loss and water retention
- Can increase strength and lean muscle mass
- Slows the progression of arthritis
- Can be obtained through both diet and supplementation
- Reduces the signs of aging
- Supplements aren’t vegan
- Needs to be used for an extended period to see maximum results
- Can cause side effects like bloating, heartburn, and an unpleasant taste
Collagen is a great supplement that can provide a number of wonderful health benefits to keep users feeling young and fit.
While its sources aren’t ideal for vegans and some people will be put off by the handful of side effects, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks for most people.
The questions surrounding its potential to cause weight gain have also not only been conclusively answered, but the studies have also shown collagen actually helps with weight loss, as opposed to causing weight gain.
So, if weight gain was the only thing putting you off from giving collagen a go for yourself, there should now be nothing left in your way that stops you taking advantage of all the benefits collagen supplementation can offer.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost