All of Your Collagen Questions...Answered!

In the previous post in this series, we went over the basics of collagen, clueing you in on how it can improve your joint health and injury recovery, which food and supplement sources are best, and how much to take and when. Now let’s bust some collagen myths, look at the latest varieties, and help you avoid the mistakes I often see runners and other athletes making.

Can I supplement collagen for my protein powder?

Quite a few clients have told me that they’ve started taking collagen instead of their regular protein supplement. The trouble with doing so is that unlike whey, it’s an incomplete protein, which means it doesn’t contain all nine amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own. Collagen is abundant in three aminos – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline – but is low in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), like leucine, that is needed to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and doesn’t contain tryptophan. This is why it can complement a protein supplement but shouldn’t replace it. A study published in Nutrients suggested that you can count 36 percent of the protein in collagen toward your daily total <roughly one-third>, so if your supplement contains 20 grams per serving, that’s 7 grams to include in your macro count.

Are vegan collagen supplements legit?

While plant protein offers a viable alternative to whey, there’s no such thing as vegetarian or vegan collagen because it’s only found in animal flesh that contains connective tissue. In theory, your body can make collagen if provided with all the right building blocks, but supplemental, animal-based protein is what increases collagen synthesis most efficiently in humans. That being said, certain plant foods contain sources that assist in collagen production. Often marketed as “collagen boosters,” these can include amino acids like lysine, proline, and hydroxyproline, minerals such as copper, manganese, and zinc, and, as we mentioned earlier, vitamin C.

Is it true that I shouldn't mix collagen & coffee?

Recently, several collagen vendors have started recommending that you shouldn’t put their products in coffee, even though the hot liquid helps the powder dissolve. It’s true that one Polish study found while experimenting with human cells in a petri dish that caffeine inhibited collagen biosynthesis. However, it didn’t stop collagen uptake and because of a lack of human based research, there’s no evidence that the same thing would happen in your body. Other studies have only been conducted on rodents, and it’s unwise to try and project how or if they translate to humans. So for now, I believe it’s still effective to add collagen to your coffee, especially if that’s how you prefer your pre-run caffeine intake & need to take your collagen.

Are collagen gummies & creamers effective?

While powder remains the most popular kind of collagen supplement companies have begun offering other forms. Collagen gummies make it a little difficult to ingest enough collagen to meet the effective dose, as the per serving dose is usually lower than a scoop of powder, at around 2.5 grams per four gummies. This means you’d need to munch up 16 to get a clinically effective amount. Collagen creamers are handy for adding flavor and collagen to coffee or tea, but the same thing goes. As they typically provide five grams of collagen, you’ll need to double the serving size to get enough.

What's new & next in collagen supplementation?

Several companies are experimenting with genetically modified yeast and bacteria to produce lab-grown collagen that’s technically free of animal products, although this is still in the developmental phase and as it uses microbes, might not be truly vegan. A few companies are offering a new kind of collagen made from fermented eggshell membrane (the part between the shell and the white inside). It can be hard to tell how much actual collagen is in a proprietary blend that can also include prebiotics and probiotics, but two studies that tested its efficacy found that eggshell collagen supplementation reduced pain and increased flexibility after both seven and 30 days.

What are the most common mistakes athletes make with collagen supplements?

Timing: Taking it outside the recommended 45-to-60-minute window before exercise

Amount:  Getting less than the 10 to 15 grams needed to stimulate collagen synthesis 

Using as a protein supplement: Collagen is an incomplete protein and doesn’t contain enough leucine which is necessary for muscle protein synthesis. 

What are some key takeaways when it comes to collagen?

To make the most of collagen’s injury-healing, joint health-promoting benefits, make sure you: 

Complement collagen-rich foods with a supplement. Most people don’t get enough from their diet and studies suggest we could all benefit from 2.5 to 15 grams per day. 

If you’re an aging athlete, suffer from joint pain/cartilage loss, or struggle with connective and soft tissue injuries, a collagen supplement from a trusted brand like Informed Sport or NSF Certified for Sport® may be beneficial.

Be consistent. Find a way to incorporate collagen regularly before you train. 

Give it time. Most studies show it takes around six months to realize the full benefits of collagen supplementation.

For even more in-depth collagen info, check out episode 47 of the Fuel for the Sole podcast. Need help with choosing collagen, other supplements, and dialing in your nutrition? Reach out and let’s talk.

1.Cristiana Paul et al, “Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance,” Nutrients, May 2019, available online at 2. Kevin J Ruff et al, “Eggshell Membrane: A Possible New Natural Therapeutic for Joint and Connective Tissue Disorders. Results from Two Open-Label Human Clinical Studies,” Clinical Interventions in Aging, June 2009, available online at 3. Magdalena Donejko et al, “Influence of Caffeine and Hyaluronic Acid on Collagen Biosynthesis in Human Skin Fibroblasts,” Drug Design, Development, and Therapy, October 2014, available online at

Disclaimer: The content in our blog articles provides generalized nutrition guidance. The information above may not apply to everyone. For personalized recommendations, please reach out to your sports dietitian. Individuals who may chose to implement nutrition changes agree that Featherstone Nutrition is not responsible for any injury, damage or loss related to those changes or participation.