If you’ve been following the keto diet or researching it online, chances are you’ve heard people singing the praises of collagen peptides. Whether you’ve already added this popular supplement to your routine or are considering doing so, you’re probably wondering if collagen counts toward your daily macronutrient targets for protein.
That’s an important question! After all, if you want to be successful on the keto diet, tracking macronutrients (macros) is key. In fact, all of the incredible benefits of keto—fat loss, improved energy, reduced cravings, and better focus—depend on sticking to your macros.
So, what’s the verdict? Does collagen count toward protein on keto? We’ll be answering that question and many others in this article. Read on.
What Is Collagen?
First things first, let’s cover some basics—what exactly is collagen? Collagen is the most abundant type of protein in the human body and is primarily found in our hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments, and tendons.[*] Collagen acts as a glue, quite literally holding the body together.
Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but we can further promote internal collagen production by taking a high-quality collagen supplement.
Is Collagen Keto?
Yes! Collagen is keto because it’s a protein powder that doesn’t contain any carbs, it’s 0g carbs and 0g of sugar per 100g! If you use a clean and pure collagen supplement (like Hunter & Gather Collagen Peptides) the only ingredient should be collagen. Hunter & Gather collagen comes from either wild-caught White Fish (Marine Collagen) or Pasture Raised EU Cattle (Bovine Collagen).
Does Collagen Count Toward Protein on Keto?
Now that you’re better acquainted with collagen, let’s answer your burning question: does collagen count toward protein on keto?
While collagen offers several benefits to the body (we’ll get to those in a bit), we would not recommend counting it as part of your daily protein intake.
Why? Despite all of its amazing benefits, collagen has a different type of amino acid profile than other proteins. Compared to meat, egg, or whey protein, collagen doesn’t contain as high amounts of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Collagen also lacks the essential amino acid, tryptophan, making it an incomplete protein.[*]
The Importance of Non-Collagen Complete Protein
Why does the lack of BCAAs and tryptophan rule collagen out as a proper source of dietary protein? Allow us to explain.
There are nine amino acids that are considered “essential,” as they cannot be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet. These include the three BCAAs, tryptophan, and five other amino acids.
Although collagen contains eight of the nine essential amino acids, these amino acids aren’t equally balanced. Collagen is chock full of a few beneficial amino acids that are often lacking in our modern diets, namely glycine, proline, alanine, and hydroxyproline, however, it contains very low amounts of the three BCAAs.[*] As mentioned above, it also doesn’t contain any tryptophan.
Not getting adequate BCAAs and tryptophan is a big deal. These amino acids aid in many important bodily processes. BCAAs play a key role in muscle growth, muscle recovery, energy production, prevention of muscle wasting, and fat loss, while tryptophan is needed for the production and maintenance of the body’s proteins, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters like serotonin.[*][*]
If you use collagen as a main source of protein, you won’t be getting adequate amounts of muscle-building BCAAs or tryptophan. As such, it’s crucial to include a number of complete proteins in your meals, such as meat, fish, and eggs (which have plentiful BCAAs and tryptophan), in addition to supplementing with collagen.
What Are the Benefits of Collagen?
So, if collagen isn’t a good source of dietary protein, why is it so popular in the keto and paleo worlds? There are several reasons!
Collagen supplements provide the raw materials for internal collagen production which, in turn, opens the door to many benefits. Let’s explore a few of the top ones:
#1: Improved Skin Health
As the main protein that structures your skin, collagen plays a vital role in keeping your skin firm, elastic, and supple. As you age, however, your skin’s inner layer loses collagen, leading to wrinkles, fine lines, and drooping skin.
While more long-term studies are needed, some promising research suggests that taking a collagen supplement can improve skin elasticity and appearance.[*][*]
#2: Improved Joint Health
Joint pain is an uncomfortable and sometimes disabling symptom that can affect both younger and older individuals. Several studies have demonstrated that taking a collagen supplement can help ease pain and movement restrictions associated with conditions like back pain, osteoarthritis, and activity-related joint pain.[*][*][*]
While taking a collagen supplement won’t stop the aging process, research shows that it may support healthy aging by promoting internal collagen production, which normally declines with age.[*][*]
#4: Improved Gut Health
While it’s too early to claim that collagen can heal your gut, there is some evidence that suggests it could help.
Collagen plays an important role in building and maintaining healthy connective tissue in the gut.[*] Additionally, research shows that those with digestive conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), have lower collagen levels in their blood.[*]
These facts have led many people to consume collagen protein or collagen-rich bone broth to restore their gut barrier—and according to countless online testimonials, with great success.
What to Look for in a Collagen Supplement
So, how can you reap all of these potential benefits for yourself? The easiest way is to add a high-quality collagen supplement to your daily routine.
Opt for a collagen supplement that’s labeled as “collagen peptides,” “hydrolyzed collagen,” “hydrolyzed collagen peptides,” or “collagen hydrolysate.” These terms are interchangeable, however, they differ from regular collagen in that they're more bioavailable, meaning the body better absorbs them.
Depending on your preferences, you can take either bovine-based collagen peptide powder or marine-based collagen peptide powder.
As with any supplement, quality is key, so choose a product that is laboratory tested for contaminants, sourced from high-quality animal sources, such as pasture-raised cattle or wild-caught fish, and free of ingredients like added grains, dairy, sugar, artificial flavours, and GMOs. And in case you were wondering, Hunter & Gather collagen checks all these boxes!
The Bottom Line about Collagen Protein on Keto
When taking a collagen supplement, don’t think of it as adding extra protein to your meals (although it will, to a small degree). Instead, think of it as adding a valuable source of scarce amino acids on top of your complete protein sources. There is also no need to track the collagen as part of your daily protein macros either.
Reaping the skin, joint, and gut health benefits of collagen is as easy as adding a serving of high-quality collagen powder to any beverage. With regular use, collagen peptides have the potential to help you look and feel your absolute best.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.