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Collagen vs. Whey Protein: Which One Should You Choose?

Protein is a key building block that helps you in a variety of ways by increasing strength, sustaining energy, and keeping you healthy. According to most medical and fitness professionals, it’s best if you are able to obtain protein primarily from the foods that you eat. However, there are a variety of reasons you may want to consider protein supplementation.

Whether they are trying to build lean muscle or just need a quick, on-the-go meal to fill them up, it seems like everyone is using protein powders in smoothies, shakes, or even their morning java. In the past, whey protein was the primary supplement you’d encounter on the fitness/diet aisle at the grocery store- but these days, more and more options are finding their place on the shelves as well, including collagen protein.

While collagen protein is quickly increasing in popularity, it’s important to understand this: before you decide to make the switch, you need to consider your personal protein goals.

In this article, we’re going to explore whey protein versus collagen protein. We’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both and also give you a bit of advice when it comes to deciding whether or not you should switch.

Whey Protein: What is it?

Think about it: have you ever opened up a container of yogurt and seen that watery stuff floating on top? If so, you probably wondered exactly what it was. Well, it’s whey. It is the liquid that is left behind after the milk solids (curds) have been separated out during the cheesemaking process. At one time, this was believed to be waste, so it was thrown out- but manufacturers finally realized that it had some benefit, so they started using it.

Whey and casein are the two primary proteins that are dairy-based and naturally found in foods such as cheese, yogurt, and milk.

Below, we’ll explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of whey protein.

Advantages of Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the most popular protein supplements on the market today, and for good reason. Some of the primary reasons that whey protein has become so important are as follows:

  • It is a complete protein. This means that it contains the 9 essential amino acids that your body is not capable of producing. Since your body can’t produce them, they must come from somewhere- whether diet or supplementation.
  • Your body absorbs it quickly. This means that it is one of the most efficient, effective proteins on the market today.
  • It is an excellent supplement to boost performance. One study from July 2017 indicated that whey protein has a positive effect on post-workout recovery and metabolism. Another study from 2013 indicated that whey protein promotes the gain of lean muscle mass.
  • It has some health benefits. According to a July 2012 study, as well as a newer, small study in December 2016, whey protein decreases blood pressure and inflammation- which indicates that consuming whey reduces oxidative stress in the body.

Of course, this is just a few of the most common advantages of whey. There are others that we have not mentioned here.

Disadvantages of Whey Protein

Now that we’ve looked over some of the most common advantages of whey, it’s only right to look at the other side of the issue: the disadvantages. Though whey protein does provide users with a lot of wonderful advantages, it also has a few disadvantages:

  • Doesn’t taste great. The natural flavor of whey protein can be a bit on the unpleasant side, which is why you will find a variety of delicious flavors, from traditional vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate to more exciting flavors such as Cinnamon Bun, Fruity Cereal, Cookies & Cream, and so many more. However, though they may sound delicious, there are some who claim that they can still taste the unpleasant undertones of the whey.
  • Often high in sugar content. Since natural whey is unpleasant, it is often flavored and/or sweetened with artificial sweeteners and sugars, which can have detrimental effects on your goals if you are trying to be healthy, lose weight, or fight chronic illnesses. If you do opt for whey protein and choose one that is flavored, you want to find one that is low in added sugars.
  • Contains dairy and lactose. Since whey comes from dairy, individuals who are allergic to dairy should not be consuming it. Additionally, many of the whey protein powders on the market also contain some lactose- so if you are lactose intolerant, you may wish to avoid it. However, if you still want a whey protein product, you can try whey isolate, which has been processed and most of the lactose has been removed. Therefore, even individuals who are lactose intolerant should be okay with it.
  • May cause gastrointestinal distress. According to medical experts, whey has been known to cause gastrointestinal discomfort. If your stomach hurts after consuming whey protein, you may not want to include it as part of your diet.

Collagen Protein: What is it?

Collagen is another type of protein that plays a major role in building and supporting the health of our eyes, digestive system, bones, cartilage, hair, and skin. In fact, experts tell us that there are more than 28 types of collagen in the body. Therefore, it is the most plentiful protein and is critical from head to toe.

This is a protein that our body actually produces- but over time, this process slows down and is worsened by things like smoking and exposure to the UV rays of the sun. This slow down starts somewhere in your 20s. Of course, there are some things you can do to combat this loss.

Consuming foods that have a high vitamin C content, including red bell peppers, citrus fruits, and strawberries, as well as foods that have a high collagen content, including eggs, meat, and seafood. In addition, you can take a collagen supplement to encourage your body to produce more collagen.

Below, we’ll explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of collagen protein.

Advantages of Collagen Protein

In recent years, collagen protein has been increasing in popularity, due to a variety of health, wellness, and fitness benefits. These include the following:

  • Promotes the production of lean muscle. An October 2015 study revealed that when combined with a resistance training program, more muscle mass was produced in participants than with resistance training alone.
  • May reduce inflammation. A February 2017 study indicated that collagen protein may ease joint pain in individuals who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis- but in order to confirm this, more research is required.
  • May improve skin. An August 2014 study indicated that taking an oral collagen supplement may improve the elasticity of your skin.

Again, this is just a few of the most common advantages of collagen protein. There are plenty of others.

Disadvantages of Collagen Protein

Now that we’ve explored some of the most common advantages of collagen protein, it’s important that we look at the other side of the issue as well. You must understand that though it’s a wonderful option, collagen is not for everyone. Before you choose this type of protein, you need to consider the following:

  • May contain fish. Collagen is not made from milk, which means you may not have to worry about digestive upset. However, it’s important to note that collagen supplements are typically marine-based, meaning they are made from fish or shellfish. Therefore, if you have seafood allergies and you are considering using collagen protein, make sure that you check the label to find out whether or not it contains these ingredients.
  • Not vegetarian/vegan friendly. Collagen is an animal-sourced type of protein- so, if you are vegetarian or vegan, you will want to find something else, such as a plant-based protein powder.

Which One Should You Choose?

Now that we’ve explored whey and collagen protein, it’s time to make your decision- which depends on what exactly you are expecting to get from protein supplementation.

Both of them are extremely effective for encouraging lean muscle gains when used along with a resistance training program. That being said, whey protein is more likely to increase your resting metabolic rate than collagen protein. This comes from a September 2019 study.

When it comes to changing your body composition, whey protein is more effective. On the other hand, when it comes to side effects, collagen protein seems to have less to worry about- especially those who are lactose intolerant or have dairy sensitivities.

Thanks to the wide variety of flavors, whey protein may be the better option- but collagen protein is unflavored and can be added to anything without affecting the flavor.

Can You Mix the Two?

Yes, experts say that it is perfectly safe to mix whey and collagen, taking them at the same time. Therefore, if you are making a protein shake, try adding a half scoop of whey with a half-scoop of collagen.

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