We all want to look and feel our best, whether we're high-performance athletes or simply trying to slow the aging process as we get older. Whether you're looking to reduce or mitigate joint pain, build muscle by adding protein into your diet or simply looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, a well-formulated collagen drink might be the best way to go.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and is a key ingredient in the production of healthy skin, connective tissue (like skin, cartilage, joints and tendons), muscles and organs . As we age, our collagen levels slowly decline, giving way to signs of aging.
So it would make sense that to stave off this decline, you'd want to eat a lot of collagen. But what's the best way to consume it to get the most bang for your buck? Let's explore the role of collagen in your body and your diet, and the best sources for optimal results.
Collagen and Anti-Aging
The global anti-aging industry is a multibillion-pound industry, with a huge focus on skin health . For women especially, the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, as well as a loss of skin elasticity, can be demoralising, so finding ways to keep our skin glowing is top of mind as we age. Of course, men experience this too, but Western culture puts especially high pressure on women to remain smooth, tight and ageless over time, while men aren't held to the same standard.
Collagen — a major component of the skin matrix — is one of the ingredients skincare experts claim can help reduce signs of aging like wrinkles and skin sag. Other nutrients often associated with collagen include elastin and hyaluronic acid, all three of which promote skin hydration. But collagen cells are actually too fibrous and large to penetrate the skin, so using topical collagen products is likely a waste of money .
Eating and supplementing it, however, can actually bring some health and beauty benefits to the table, as long as you're using top-quality collagen supplements. And these benefits go beyond the beauty industry by addressing arguably more important signs of aging: joint pain and deterioration that slows us down, along with gut health that can impact our immune system.
Food Sources of Collagen
Food sources of collagen are generally dishes that include cooked down animal tissue, especially bones, muscle and cartilage. Organ meat is also a source of collagen, although not the most potent. You can get collagen from land animals (porcine, poultry or bovine collagen) or you can get it from sea animals (marine collagen).
If you've ever roasted a chicken and then put it in the refrigerator overnight, you might have noticed that there's a little pool of gelatin at the base of the carcass. That gelatin is a more bioavailable form of collagen, so heat that up with your next meal and drink it down.
Or you can intentionally create that gelatin by making bone broth at home. To make bone broth, you simmer bones in water with a little acid like apple cider vinegar for six to 24 hours. This works with the bones of any of the animals we mentioned above, and works especially well if you focus on parts that contain joints, like beef knuckles and chicken feet. Your finished product is a warm and delicious collagen drink that you can sip in the morning or add to soups stews.
Collagen Supplements and Powders
Good-quality collagen supplements and powders are made with hydrolysed collagen peptides (also called collagen hydrolysate), which have been processed to make collagen more bioavailable in your body and easier to break down — similar to the long-simmer cooking process we mentioned above . Once the process is complete, the end product is then powdered and either put in a capsule or left as a loose powder that you can add to either cold or warm beverages.
There are 28 different types of collagen in your body, but the primary form you'll find in 90% of the human body is type I collagen. Type I collagen is key in producing healthy skin, hair, bones (including teeth), tendons, ligaments and organ tissue . A good supplement is made from type I or type II collagen.
Interesting fact: gram for gram, type I collagen is stronger than steel !
How Collagen Drinks Work
When you drink collagen, your body breaks it down into the individual amino acids that make it up, and it sends the various components where they need to go. So drinking collagen doesn't necessarily mean that the same exact collagen molecule in your cup is going directly to your skin or your joints. Rather, drinking collagen helps boost collagen production within your body.
Vitamin C and retinol (vitamin A) are also a key component in the production of collagen, so eating foods that contain those nutrients may also be a good idea .
Type I and type II collagen are primarily made up of three amino acids :
- Glycine — offers anti-inflammatory effects and helps support a healthy nervous system and cellular health. It's also a key ingredient in the creation of creatine for energy and may help with sleep problems .
- Proline — promotes wound healing and healthy immune response as well as offering potent antioxidant properties and playing a key role in creating other protein structures .
- Hydroxyproline — a metabolite of proline, it helps stabilise collagen and also contributes to the synthesis of other amino acids like glutamine .
While these amino acids aren't essential (your body can make them), boosting these building blocks of collagen through supplementation will promote collagen synthesis in your body. This means more ingredients for healthy and plump skin cells from the inside out.
Our Favourite Collagen Drinks
Drinking collagen is a great way to give your body the nutrients it needs for healthy hair, skin and nails, as well as healthy bones, joints and muscles. Here are some of our favourite ways to drink collagen.
Berries and Cream Smoothie
This smoothie is packed with vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and of course, collagen.
Orange Sunrise Carrot & Ginger Juice
This fresh-squeezed treat helps reduce oxidative stress with a powerhouse of antioxidants, including beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A).
Our twist on a keto staple, stir your favourite collagen into hot coffee, then add ghee and MCT oil and use a handheld frother to emulsify the fat into the coffee. Enjoy warm or over ice.
Your Daily Dose of Collagen
Collagen is a wonderful addition to a healthy diet with loads of benefits for your whole body, inside and out. As we get older, our collagen production decreases, so supplementing it with bone broth, hydrolysed marine collagen or bovine collagen is a great way to ensure that you're boosting your body's ability to make its own supply.
For more ideas on how to incorporate collagen into smoothies and other recipes, head over to the Hunter & Gather blog.
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.