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Collagen powder vs. protein powder: What’s the difference?

I want to love protein powder in my smoothies, and I’m sure it’s a matter of finding the right one. But right now, the taste and texture aren’t for me. Instead, I started opting for collagen, a tasteless, texture-less form of protein — albeit not a complete source like most protein powders — more on that below.

To understand a little more about the differences between protein powder and collagen powder, we got some insights from the smoothie expert herself, Kelly Leveque.

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Protein Powder vs. Collagen Powder

According to Kelly, the main difference between protein powders and collagen powders is that “collagen is an incomplete protein. It means that it doesn’t have all of the essential amino acids [whereas] all protein powders are complete proteins.” You can think of amino acids as the building blocks of protein. In comparison, collagen powders contain specific amino acids like glycine and proline. “Great for rebuilding and synthesizing collagen internally,” Kelly says, “a lot of the protein powders on the market [made from pea or whey] are blended to create a complete protein. They have all the essential amino acids.”

Why Use Collagen Powder

“Getting these amino acids into our diet is healthy for us. They help us build more collagen to heal joints and ligaments.” Kelly says, “Most of us aren’t getting a lot of glycine or proline or other collagen amino acids. Which we need to create collagen in our bodies because we’re not eating animals head to tail. We are eating chicken breast, ground beef, and fish fillet. We are not getting the skin, the bones, the ligaments, the tendons. No one’s eating organ meats anymore.”

She continues, “it takes 10 grams of glycine to synthesize new collagen internally, on average. It is not an essential amino acid we produce inside our bodies. We do synthesize it, but on average, only three grams of glycine a day. Therefore when you think about synthesizing new collagen in your body, like rebuilding new strands of collagen. You need more than what you’re getting.”

When to Choose Collagen and When to Choose Protein Powder

Kelly always tells her clients, “if you eat grass-fed beef for lunch and salmon for dinner. You can get away with having collagen as your protein for breakfast without needing it to be the complete protein because you’re rounding out your amino acid profile. If someone wants to build muscle mass, I want them to have their branch chain amino acids (BCAAs). These are the essential muscle-building amino acids [found] in collagen. You’ll have real athletes and trainers, say. If you put collagen in your smoothie, you’re not going to get the results. Well, it depends on how active you are. Suppose you’re doing a yoga class or a 30-minute Pilates class.

In that case, you probably don’t need all those amino acids because you’re not doing the ripping and tearing down of your body. You don’t need all that rebuilding, if you find that you get hungry, you could do a whey or vegetable protein with collagen and double up, then you get all the amino acids. But it’s a choose your own adventure type thing.”

To learn more about Kelly, check out our interview with her here, and be sure to head to her website for nutrition tips and recipes.

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Well Daily is an online collaborative wellness community aimed at providing accessible, thoughtful and inspiring content. Our philosophy is that eating well and feeling good should be simple, so we share advice, tips and recipes that you can actually use in your day-to-day life, along with new insights on health and wellness trends, and our favourite healthy restaurants and fitness spaces.

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