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Collagen is an important component of the human body.
Here at Strongest we regularly are asked which is more effective for strength and fitness training.
Animal collagen or plant collagen?
To answer that question and ensure that our vegan weight lifting influencers stay happy, we need to take a close look at what collagen is and what it’s used for.
Plus, we’ll examine the key differences between animal-derived collagen and plant-derived collagen.
Collagen is just a protein. There are many proteins that we eat every day, what makes collagen special?
Collagen is an unusual protein. Most of the important proteins in our bodies are made up of approximately 20 different amino acids.
Collagen is made up of only four: alanine, glycine, hydroxyproline and proline.
In proteins the amino acids bond together via peptide bonds and in order for our bodies to use the protein – they must break down these bonds.
Because collagen has very few peptide bonds, it’s particularly easy for your body to break it down.
Because it’s easy to break down, collagen is really easy to use in our bodies.
It helps to make our hair, nails, bones, skin and the connective tissues between bones (such as tendons and ligaments) healthy.
When our diet is rich in collagen, we look and feel good and when we lack collagen, we can look older and ache more.
Animals, like humans, use collagen in the same way we do. It’s found in nails, bones, hair and connective tissue and skin.
And animal collagen is made, mainly, by extracting that collagen from animal bones and their cartilage.
However, the extraction process results in some of the collagen being broken down and it means that you have to add amino acids during the process to deliver “complete protein” at the end.
Plant collagen isn’t really collagen at all.
Instead, it incorporates the plant products which encourage your body to build its own collagen.
This, proponents contend, is a better way to take in collagen than animal collagen.
It works directly with your natural systems, they say, and produces no waste (eating animal collagen requires your body to break it down and then rebuild it as human collagen, this is a wasteful process).
This is a great question and the right answer is… “more research is required”.
It’s not clearly understood if consuming animal collagen actually promotes the development of human collagen or not.
It sounds like it should, but it’s not been proven.
And while, in theory, the plant collagen supplements ought to work (the science behind them is sound) – the proof of their efficacy in creating collagen isn’t there, yet.
The funny thing is, this doesn’t matter.
While there may be doubts over the exact mechanism of collagen production, there is no doubt that taking collagen supplements has benefits for your body.
This is in contrast to say, probiotic supplements, where many benefits are asserted but the evidence is still not clear as to whether this is the case or not.
As you might expect, we encourage people to try plant-based collagen supplements to begin with and if you don’t see gains from doing so, and it doesn’t contradict your moral/ethical code, you might then try animal-based supplements.
There’s no doubt at all that taking collagen is beneficial, it’s just a question of finding the right supplements for you.