Collagen is one of the most important proteins in your body – but you are probably neglecting it!
We’re going to ask, ‘does collagen make you gain weight?’, and all the other important questions about the single most abundant protein in your body – which is in everything from muscles to bones to skin.
Let’s start by getting familiar with collagen and its role so it all makes sense when we get into how you can use collagen to gain weight…
What Does Collagen Do?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, where it provides the tough and elastic structures that hold you together.
It’s mostly found in muscles and where they meet with joints, but also provides the scaffolding and connective tissues that let you move, like in fascia or ligaments.
Collagen is also crucially important in bones, where it’s one of the main tissues. You’ll also find collagen in the skin, which provides elasticity and toughness.
Collagen is a powerful choice in your diet where it provides one of the most effective forms of dietary protein. It supports both fat loss and muscle gain, as one of the most potent protein sources for improving nutrient partitioning and driving more muscle protein synthesis (1).
Sources: Where Does Collagen Come From?
Collagen comes from meats in the diet, as well as from animal-derived supplements like bovine collagen and marine collagen.
These are made from cow and seafood respectively, with the latter being more easily absorbed but the former having a slightly closer design to human collagen (as it comes from mammals).
Collagen is typically consumed in the form of supplements because you’d have to eat connective tissues, otherwise. Collagen peptides are the best choice, with the highest rate of absorption and the most effective scientific research confirming the potent effects.
You cannot currently get a comparable vegan collagen supplement alternative, as the animal-derived nature of collagen is the reason it’s so effective.
Some high quality bone broth powders also contain collagen at a high level, though this does usually seem like after-the-fact fortification. Gelatin is also one of the most effective forms of edible collagen that isn’t technically a supplement.
Combination With Vitamin C
The combination of collagen or gelatin with vitamin C is scientifically proven to drastically improve the collagen production in your body.
While Gelatin and Collagen are the raw materials – the proteins – needed to build collagen internally, vitamin C controls the rate of signaling your body uses to build those tissues.
If you’re deficient in vitamin C, on the other hand, you’re not going to get the best results from your collagen supplementation.
Take collagen and vitamin C together to get the best results, studies in gelatin and collagen show up to double the benefit from co-ingestion, compared to just supplementing collagen peptides or gelatin.
Does Collagen Make You Gain Weight?
Collagen will not make you gain weight – but it can improve the quality of your weight gain. It helps you gain muscle rather than fat, and it helps you lose weight (specifically fat) more effectively during a calorie deficit.
Collagen is just a type of protein and doesn’t offer you a huge amount of calories. It’s not going to decide if you gain weight or not, but it ensures that what you do gain will be better.
The more collagen you use, the more weight gain is likely to be muscle.
Collagen supports better nutrient partitioning, better signaling for protein synthesis, and it’s massively protective of muscles when losing weight. These all combine to make collagen a super high performing supplement for any fitness goal or diet.
The improvement of muscle gain during weight gain, and fat loss during weight loss, are perfect for high quality change to body composition.
This makes it a popular choice among elite athletes for better recovery, better physique quality, and maximal joint health.
Benefits Of Collagen
Collagen benefits include firmer skin, better fat loss, improved muscular recovery, joint and connective tissue health, and more.
Let’s take a quick look at the most important benefits you can get – and you’ll see just why the versatility of collagen supplements is so impressive!
- Better weight loss: collagen supports fat loss when you’re losing weight to get you a better final result. This also protects muscle mass so you stay strong and lean along the way.
- Better weight gain: weight gain is more likely to be muscle when you use collagen, improving the total quality of your weight gain and bumping up your protein intake.
- Connective health: collagen directly supports connective tissues like tendons and fascia which are otherwise under-supported in most diets and supplements (2).
- Joints and bones: the role of collagen in bones, connective tissues, and muscles makes it one of the best ways to support your joints – for exercise and aging alike.
- Appetite control: collagen can help support appetite control during weight loss, where it helps people reduce hunger in low-calorie diets, but isn’t too filling for weight gain diets!
- Metabolic health: collagen is a very metabolically healthy protein option that supports regular digestion, energy uptake, and proper protein folding in the body
- Skin health: collagen is the most abundant protein in skin where it supports the complexion, health, and regulatory systems – making it great for skincare and health applications.
These are just the basic benefits of collagen, without going into the highly specific changes that happen in your body’s protein folding and tissue production.
It’s a super powerful single protein that you should be getting more of and is one of few supplements to add benefits on top of a well-rounded and balanced diet.
Best Sources Of Collagen
The best sources of collagen are marine collagen supplements, though bovine collagen supplements are similarly effective. These are better than most food sources or non-direct supplements which typically offer a reduced quality or quantity of collagen.
You can also get collagen from bone broth and some bone broth supplement powders.
However, you may as well use real bone broth and simply supplement collagen separately, providing the best benefits of both in their most concentrated and effective sources for each nutrient.
The best foods for collagen in the diet without supplementation are meats, seafood, and gelatin. (On the same note, checkout the article here on how to use chicken for weight gain)
These are all animal products because collagen is not a major component of plants – and thus plant foods – making it very difficult for vegans and vegetarians to get enough.
Collagen can be recombined from other proteins in the body, but this is typically less effective and requires a longer series of biological reactions.
This makes it less efficient and increases the risk of those proteins being used for something else somewhere in the body, instead of collagen.
Meats with more connective tissues are obviously higher in collagen: you can just eat the things you want to produce more of!
Make sure it’s combined with plant foods and especially those rich in vitamin C, which is the rate-controller for rebuilding collagen inside the body.
How To Use Collagen For Weight Gain
You use collagen for weight gain the same way you’d use it for any other purpose: 1-2 scoops per day, typically mixed into a coffee or warm water. Collagen is not a huge macronutrient-level change, it’s a type of protein that fits into an already-balanced weight gain diet.
You should take collagen the same way that you might take a greens powder, for example: as an adjunct to a good diet that is already built for the purpose.
You won’t get many calories from collagen and you can use it to replace whey protein – but it’s far more expensive per gram.
Collagen is typically taken 1-2 times a day in combination with vitamin c, or can be blended into other weight gain protein shakes or smoothies to make it more palatable and stack habits for more regular intake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Collagen Cause Weight Gain Or Bloating?
No – collagen won’t cause short term weight gain or bloating for most people. It’s possible that you would experience personal nutrient intolerances but these are very rare and the average person will either not experience bloating with collagen, or reduce water retention and bloating.
Collagen is a fundamental part of the human diet and it is one of the best proteins for your health and wellbeing.
Especially when combined with a diet rich in vitamin C and high-quality vegetables, collagen is safe and shouldn’t provide any serious side-effects.
Does Collagen Help With Belly Fat?
Yes, collagen is one of the best protein sources for reducing fat mass according to the science. Studies on collagen peptides, specifically, showed the ability to burn more fat while on a weight loss diet and gain less fat mass on a weight gain diet.
These are downstream from some general protein benefits, as a high protein diet also helps reduce body fat – and thus belly fat.
You can’t spot-reduce fat, it all burns up from the whole body, but the improved rate of fat loss and muscle protection of collagen make it perfect to support a weight loss diet.
What Are The Side Effects Of Collagen?
Collagen typically does not have side effects in healthy people without any personal nutrient intolerances. It’s is a protein source that humans are very well adapted to eat, and it is one of the most digestible and healthy options.
Collagen peptides, in particular, are healthy and digestible with easy combinations with other nutrients.
The most commonly reported side effects associated with collagen peptide supplementation include higher calcium levels, allergic reactions, and lower appetite.
These are relatively rare and you should discuss any allergies or intolerances with your doctor, as well as consulting before any course of supplementation just to be safe.
Is Collagen Good For Weight Loss?
Collagen peptides are one of the best sources of protein and specific recovery support for weight loss. It’s a protein source, which means it has a high thermic effect and supports better metabolism.
As mentioned above, it can also lower appetite when on lower-calorie diets to make weight loss easier.
Collagen peptides are also great for weight loss quality: they help protect your muscle mass and shift the weight loss towards fat-burning.
This leaves you with a leaner physique with more muscle and helps accelerate fat loss (since it’s more of your total weight loss).
This is one of the best combined sets of benefits around, and it’s why high protein diets and those with more BCAAs in them are more effective for weight loss.
Should I Take Collagen Everyday?
If you’re using collagen supplements, you should take them every day – there are no benefits to alternating them on and off. Your body needs a consistent supply to get the best results and regular, daily or every-other-daily use are both acceptable.
Remember that your muscles and joints are on recovery timelines of at least 36 hours, and sometimes much longer.
Daily collagen intake keeps this process effective throughout, and you could be sabotaging your recovery and growth if you don’t use your collagen daily.
You don’t need collagen at all, and you may not see significant problems in not using every day.
However, if you commit to a course of supplementation you should focus on consistency and daily averages, which add up over the weeks and months to form your total results.
What Type Of Collagen Is Best For Weight Loss?
The best type of collagen for weight loss is collagen peptides, typically from marine collagen, but there are good arguments for bovine collagen, too.
Any form of collagen peptide supplement that is fortified with vitamin C is also far more potent since these two compounds are more effective together.
Collagen isn’t going to make a huge difference to your weight loss diet but it does support a good calorie deficit. Make sure that your total dietary protein is high and your calorie deficit is around 10-20% of your maintenance.
Collagen peptides from bovine collagen and marine collagen are both good, just look out for added vitamin C for the absolute best weight loss support.
Is Collagen Worth Taking?
Yes – collagen is absolutely worth taking as one of the most effective recovery aids on the market, with a ton of scientific backing, and with one of very few supplements to directly support joints. It’s an underrated but super powerful choice that’s popular with elite athletes for these reasons.
Collagen is definitely going to justify its intake with a small amount of calories and protein, but pronounced benefits on top of a well-balanced diet that is sufficient in vitamin C.
The rest of your diet needs to be in place first, but it’s a good choice if you’ve got the rest right!
What Happens When You Take Collagen For A Month?
During a month of taking collagen, you’ll see improved muscle gain (or protection) and less fat mass – either from gaining less fat or burning more fat. These are modest effects but they’re very useful for just about any fitness goal.
You still need to put in the dietary, exercise, and sleep habits to make these work. However, collagen will also significantly improve the recovery of your joints, support better bone health, and even help keep your skin strong and healthy.
These add up quickly – versatility is one of the reasons that collagen peptide supplements get more popular over time, and are favored by Olympic level athletes over most forms of protein.
Collagen can support healthy weight gain and improve your results, reducing fat mass gains but boosting your muscle recovery. It’s also a great way to give some direct support to your skin, joints, and connective tissues – all of which are neglected during most diets.
The effort put into just a little collagen and vitamin C supplementation can be seriously powerful when it comes to the long-term results of diet and exercise.
Smart use makes the absolute most of your time in training, while keeping you healthy, lean, and ready to improve as fast as possible.
Collagen supplementation is a bit niche, and not as popular as whey protein. However, it’s a better product gram-for-gram and offers some of the most important but overlooked benefits, giving you the edge in the areas that really count.
You Might Like:
- Transparent Labs Collagen Review – 2023
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- Does Pre Workout Make You Gain Weight?
- Can You Gain Weight with Whey Protein?
- Does Chicken Make You Gain Weight?
Rohan Arora is a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist and has been actively involved in sports and fitness for over 8 years. He now leads the team of fitness specialists and personal trainers who help people around the world with personalized workout and nutrition plans, along with providing the right information on sports supplements.