If you’re looking for a new way to keep your post-workout glow, a spoonful of collagen might help your skin stay radiant, supple and wrinkle-free. But it’s got some muscle-building benefits, too. Frances Largeman-Roth, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color, says, “Muscles are damaged during a tough workout, and you should take in protein 15 to 20 minutes after exercise to help repair them. Collagen powder provides 18 grams of protein per serving and is only 72 calories per two scoops.”
Because collagen is an animal-based protein (sourced from anything from bovine hides to fish scales), it has all the essential amino acids your body needs for muscle repair. The powder is also pretty tasteless, so you can add it to smoothies, juice, coffee, oatmeal and even soup without having to mask its flavor.
When it comes to purchasing a collagen powder, there are several to consider (besides the $45-and-up price tag per tub). They all share the same benefits of boosting the health of your hair, skin, nails, bones and joints, but their formulations differ. Some are powders that dissolve easily in liquid, others are gels that can be used to prepare gelatin-like foods. You can also find hybrid formulas, for instance, collagen plus whey protein (more on all these options, plus recipes, below).
Before you decide to splurge, Largeman-Roth recommends trying a boost at your local juice or smoothie stop — just to confirm you’re good with any subtle changes to taste or texture.
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5 Health-Boosting Collagen Powders
- Collagen peptides: These are gelatin proteins made from beef hides. “This is probably the best place to start if you’re not sure which one to use. You can mix it into both cold and hot liquids and it will dissolve instantly,” Largeman-Roth says. That means hot coffee or cold brew, soup or smoothies — you decide.
- Beef collagen: Beef collagen is also made from bovine hides, but it differs in formulation from collagen peptides because the powder becomes a gel. “This is the one to use for Jell-O. If you mix it into cold water, it will create a gel,” Largeman-Roth says. But if you want to avoid the gelling, she recommends adding a combination of cold and hot water to the collagen.
- Marine collagen: Marine collagen, also known as “fish collagen,” is made from fish scales and can also be used in hot and cold liquids, Largeman-Roth says. Largeman-Roth also recommends marine collagen for people who eat seafood but avoid red meat.
- Collagen whey: You get double the protein sources with this type of powder because it’s a combination of whey protein and beef collagen. It’s great for athletes who want to improve their sports performance but also help protect their joints. Because beef collagen thickens up in liquids, you can use it in chia seed pudding, smoothies, energy balls and soups to make them more filling.
- Cartilage collagen: This powder is made from the tracheas of cows and is geared toward people who are specifically looking to boost the health of their tendons and joints, Largeman-Roth says. But be aware that it is the most expensive out of the bunch.
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5 Creative Collagen Powder Recipes
Peptides in plain water sounds like a drag? Here are a few unexpected ways to incorporate collagen powder into your daily diet.
1. Creamy Chocolate Avocado Smoothie
When a serious chocolate craving strikes, this secretly nutritious smoothie will hit the spot. Cocoa powder, dates and honey give this beverage a chocolaty flavor without added sugar. Avocado and almond butter provide an extra creamy texture that will fill you right up. Food blogger, Danielle Walker, used collagen peptide powder for this recipe. Photo and recipe: Danielle Walker / Against All Grain
2. Nutty Cabbage Fennel Soup
Prepare for a night of hygee with a warm bowl of this savory soup. Fennel, shallots and cabbage are sautéed in Dijon mustard, garlic powder and low-sodium vegetable broth. After simmering it over stovetop for about 20 minutes, add two tablespoons of a collagen peptide powder. Then, whip them up in a blender. If you can’t find Brazil nuts (and they are pricey), this blogger recommends substituting cashews for their creamy texture. Photo and recipe: Amanda Paa / Heartbeet Kitchen
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3. Grab and Go Bacon and Egg Cups
If you’re following a Paleo or gluten-free diet, these savory bacon-and-egg cups will satisfy your breakfast sandwich needs for your morning commute. This hearty dish is made with cheesy bacon, sweet potato, asparagus, grape tomatoes and collagen peptides. Photo and recipe: Kristen Stevens / The Endless Meal
4. Yogurt Panna Cotta with Honey-Roasted Strawberries
You know spring is in the air when strawberries start popping up at your farmers’ market. And what better way to incorporate them than in a lightened-up panna cotta? Plain Greek yogurt, heavy cream, honey, vanilla and beef gelatin make the base. Meanwhile, the fruit topping comes together by roasting honey-coated berries in the oven until caramelized. Photo and recipe: Jenny McGruther / Nourished Kitchen
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5. Homemade Fruit Snacks
You know those vitamin gummies you’ve been snacking on? We hate to break it to you, but they’re loaded with sugar and artificial dyes. Instead, prepare these homemade fruit snacks. You’ll get a daily dose of collagen powder, probiotic-packed kombucha and antioxidant-rich berries. Beef collagen subs in for gelatin in this recipe. Photo and recipe: Katie Wells / Wellness Mama