Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC is a clinician, Naturopathic Practitioner, clinical researcher, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he speaks at conferences around the globe.
Find Out How a Collagen Supplement Can Help Males Be Fitter and Healthier
Collagen is a type of protein that acts as structural “cement” for many body tissues. Its benefits go further than just skin health.
Four key collagen benefits for men are better exercise performance, healthier joints, strong bones, and cardiovascular health improvements.
You can get collagen from food sources such as bone broth, but collagen supplements are more effective.
Because it mixes so easily into coffee or water, collagen is also an easy way to bump up protein intake.
Look for hydrolyzed collagen supplements, which are better absorbed. Marine collagen is a good option.
Most of us are familiar with collagen being used as a skincare supplement, largely by women. But males can benefit from collagen too, and its uses extend far further than just fighting wrinkles.
In this article we’ll focus on collagen benefits for men, and also show that there are many more reasons to consume collagen supplements than just cosmetic uses.
What’s Special About Collagen Protein?
We all eat various types of proteins everyday, so why does collagen get so much attention?
The main reason is collagen’s role as a structural protein vital for the health of connective tissues. As the most abundant protein in the human body, it’s an important building block in skin, hair, ligaments, bones, blood vessels, and other body tissues.
Like all proteins we consume, collagen is made up of amino acids. However the specific mix of aminos in collagen (largely lysine, glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine) means collagen is particularly rigid and resistant to stretching [1, 2]. This makes it very effective for giving structural support to body tissues, and promoting skin elasticity and healthy hair [3, 4].
There are actually three main types of collagen you’re likely to come across: types I, II, and III, found in different body structures.
Tissue or Organ Found
Skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments
Muscle, blood vessels
You can find all three types in supplements, though type I and type III are most common, reflecting their relatively higher concentrations in the body.
Why Collagen Supplements Are Better Than Food
It’s possible to get collagen by eating foods such as bone broth or meats that contain lots of connective tissue (e.g. pot roast, brisket, chuck steak) .
Another option is to include foods that contain amino acids needed to produce collagen (fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, legumes, soy). Foods high in zinc (shellfish, legumes, meats, nuts, seeds, whole grains) and foods high in vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, bell peppers, tomatoes) help in the collagen synthesis process.
However, while diet is important, collagen supplements appear to be superior to bone broth for increasing levels of collagen amino acids .
Studies investigating collagen benefits for men, and health benefits generally, also have often used 15 grams or more of collagen per day (range 2.5 g to 20 g), which is an amount that’s difficult to obtain from diet alone .
Supplements are therefore best for those who want to achieve therapeutic effects from collagen. They’re also useful for those who have a protein deficiency or could benefit from extra protein for appetite control or improved body composition. Collagen is easier to use than many protein powders, mixing easily into fluids like coffee or water.
Collagen should be mixed with other proteins however, as it’s lacking the amino acid tryptophan, and not a complete protein for meal replacement .
4 Collagen Benefits for Men
Collagen supplements, taken consistently, may help improve men’s health in various ways. The main collagen benefits for men are improvements to athletic performance, musculoskeletal health, joint health, and heart health. Let’s take a look at these one by one.
1. Improved Athletic Performance and Recovery
Combining collagen supplementation with physical activity can bring more benefits than training alone, according to research. For example, randomized controlled trials have shown that:
Resistance training teamed with collagen supplementation improves men’s body composition and muscle strength more than resistance training with placebo .
Healthy male athletes can benefit from consuming collagen just prior to exercise. When men took 20 g of collagen one hour before an intense workout, their ability to quickly generate muscle force during exercise was improved .
Collagen supplementation may improve recovery after exercise. In one study with male subjects, 20 g of collagen daily reduced muscle soreness and improved recovery time 48 hours after exercising . Another found that collagen reduces the usual decline in performance that occurs 24 hours after intense exercise .
2. Improved Bone Health
Stronger bones is another potential collagen benefit for men. The research isn’t gender specific here and actually tends to focus more on women, who are at higher risk when it comes to osteoporosis. Nevertheless, bone loss is also one of the signs of aging in males, and there’s every reason to believe men can benefit from collagen for their bones, just as women can.
Research indicates that taking collagen daily can:
Increase the density of bone: In one study, spine and femur (thigh bone) density were significantly increased in those taking 5 g per day of specific collagen peptides [12, 13].
Improve bone metabolism, as measured by a decrease in markers of bone turnover .
One study also found there are benefits for tendon health (tendons attach muscle to bone). Taking collagen helped improve tendon injury rehabilitation (when combined with strengthening exercises) in patients with achilles tendinopathy. The results showed that collagen supplementation significantly improved tendon pain and function scores .
3. Better Joint Health
Some of the strongest evidence for use of collagen comes from studying its effects on osteoarthritis:
A 2019 review of good-quality studies examined the effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis (OA), and concluded that collagen supplementation significantly reduced OA symptoms, including stiffness and perceived joint pain .
The authors of another systematic review and meta-analysis state that the effect of collagen hydrolysate on pain is similar to that of acetaminophen in osteoarthritis patients .
One study also showed a moderate improvement in physical function of the joint after short-term use of collagen, though others have not shown this .
Research suggests that collagen may also ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune condition rather than the wear-and-tear type of arthritis), but not as effectively as the drug methotrexate .
For younger, active men with knee pain issues, collagen taken at a dosage of 5 g of specific collagen peptides significantly reduced knee pain during activity, though knee pain at rest and during squatting weren’t significantly improved .
4. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Collagen powder supplements, usually in the range of 5-20g (measured as hydrolyzed collagen peptides), may also improve aspects of heart health, potentially reducing heart attack risk (which is higher in men than women).
One study found that collagen:
Improved the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol in those with an elevated ratio, which is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Decreased advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in participants with higher levels of these harmful compounds, which are thought to promote heart disease and diabetes. However, this was a non-randomized study without a control group, so more detailed research is needed .
A 2021 cell study found that collagen also reduced oxidative stress in human aorta (blood vessel) cells exposed to free radicals. Oxidative stress is thought to be a mechanism for atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries). However, the ramifications of this study are limited as it wasn’t done in humans .
Can Collagen Help Gut Health?
Research examining the benefits of collagen for gut health is mostly mechanism-based and theoretical at this point. However, animal and cell studies offer some intriguing findings.
For example, two studies involving cell models designed to mimic the human gut found that collagen reduced a leaky gut, probably by inhibiting certain inflammatory pathways .
Collagen also increased short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production in a gut model, and in animals [24, 25]. SCFAs, such as butyrate, are produced by good gut bacteria and have anti-inflammatory properties as well as being an important energy source for colon cells.
Animal studies have also shown collagen may improve dysbiosis (gut bacterial imbalance) [24, 26, 27]. While we almost always recommend switching to a healthier, unprocessed diet (such as a Paleo diet) and taking probiotics as your first strategies for dealing with gut issues, it’s possible that collagen supplements could also be useful.
However, clinical trials in humans are needed to determine the optimal dose of collagen for improving gut health.
Choosing and Using a Collagen Supplement
If you choose to use a collagen supplement, you’ll find you can get it from different sources, with the three most common being [28, 29, 30]:
Fish (marine) collagen
Cow (bovine) collagen
Pig (porcine) collagen
All three types will contain similar quantities of collagen amino acids with a somewhat differing mix of type I, II, and III collagen, as outlined above.
Which Is the Best Collagen?
Manufacturers may insist their particular source of collagen, or the ratio of types I, II, and III in it, are the best you can buy. However there’s very little information to support one type over another.
What’s more important is that your supplement contains “hydrolyzed” collagen, which means it’s broken down into easier-to-absorb collagen peptides [2, 31]. Hydrolyzed collagen is the most commonly used form in research.
Any high-quality collagen, including pork and grass-fed bovine types, should be safe, effective, and side-effect free. But at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine clinic, we tend to recommend hydrolyzed fish collagen (a rich source of type I and type III collagen) for our patients. This is because increased fish consumption likely gets us closer to the natural, paleo-style diet of early humans. Consuming more fish (vs. beef or pork) can help you return to a healthier, more ancestral diet.
Marine collagen also tends to involve a process for collagen extraction with less environmental impact , while a recent study also showed that the bioavailability of marine collagen (the degree and rate at which it’s absorbed) is a bit higher than bovine collagen .
The dosages used in research have been quite wide, but for most situations we’ve found daily doses of 10 g as being helpful
One word of caution here: If you have a shellfish allergy, marine collagen is best avoided. This is because “marine” may not just mean “fish” but could also have traces of other seafood, and potentially shellfish present.
Men Can Benefit From Collagen
Collagen benefits for men may include physical performance benefits as well as benefits for joints, bones, and the heart. It’s quite possible that taking collagen supplements could benefit gut health too, after you’ve already taken the steps of improving your diet and taking probiotics.
More research is needed on what’s the best type, but marine collagen might have the edge in terms of absorption and eco-friendliness. A wide range of dosages have been found helpful, with an average of 10 g being about right for most men (and women too).
The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.
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