Collagen vs Complete Protein

Why doesn’t Collagen Protein count as a good source of protein?

 Depending on your goals and what you wish to achieve, you will need to be consuming some protein in your diet to get the benefit of muscle recovery and potentially muscle growth.


This can range from 1.2g/kg for endurance athletes through to 3g/kg dieting physique athletes. Over the course of the day this should be coming from as many different sources as possible. Whilst collagen is a different source, it is limited by its low Tryptophan and low Methionine content.

 We have two types essential and non-essential. Essential because the body cannot make it and non-essential because it can be, but we definitely still need them for health and for being the best we can be. We can have conditionally essential but I’m going to leave it out as it isn’t needed in this article.


As you can see with the above table, both Methionine and Tryptophan are both essential amino acids. If your protein source is missing essential amino acids, then you’re limiting your dietary intake of those.

 The amounts needed per day for adults of essential amino acids (tyrosine and cysteine are required for the other amino acids but are technically non-essential) are:


Now that we know how much of the amino acids we need, let’s look at the amounts typically found in collagen and other foods.

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That means for 30g of protein for a typical meal of a 100kg person you would be getting:


As you can see this would mean you would need 3.2 meals across the day in 30g bolus doses of collagen to get the required amino acids, but you are still missing out on tyrosine and cysteine which collagen does not have.

 Not only does collagen miss some of the essential amino acids, but it is low in the branch chain amino acids that stimulate muscle protein synthesis, let alone high leucine which is the main driver. Research outlines that between 2-3g you get the maximal response depending on training age and training stimulus. To achieve this with bovine collagen you would need 81.75g but for chicken you would need 39.58g of protein from the chicken which equals about 177g of lean raw chicken.


 You also have to be aware that due to the get arounds with the labelling laws, companies are able to record collagen food sources as protein, even though it isn’t a complete source. So, you can be misled by simply reading the nutritional label and then thinking (quite understandably) that it is a fair protein source. On the back they will count this as a protein and so many unfortunately think that this something that it isn’t.

 Collagen is needed in super high dosages to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. If it isn’t going to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and it isn’t adding in all the amino acids your body can’t make, then it is only added in conjunction with a great diet that has all of that covered off. Placing collagen within a diet to supplement in amino acids that need raising to contribute to the overall amino acid profile and not as the sole or large source of protein. This is where vegans and vegetarians need to be cautious. Collagen is typically added to these diet types and their amino acid profile is harder to achieve so having a varied intake of food plus the collagen may improve the amount of amino acids.


 Currently there are supplement companies that use between 15g and 25g is equivalent to whey protein. Even if they reinforce the amino acid profile, the amounts needed to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis is between 2-3g for younger people and higher for adults older than 65. That takes dosages between 75 and 112g by itself to stimulate that response once. Added to a mixed meal would be less. Since 18g of a scoop doesn’t even come close to be a serve to swap out for the same amount of another protein source. That takes collagen at their dosages of $1 a serve to $6 a serve to get the stimulation needed for muscle protein synthesis. For the similar cost from the shos you can buy 500g lean chicken breast and get 112g of protein which would stimulate muscle protein synthesis 3.7 times.

 So, as an easy rule of thumb you would not use this as a sole protein source. Make sure that you mix as many different types throughout the day to get the benefits of different amino profiles. Also, I would count the collagen as 80% of a whole/complete protein source and so I wouldn’t equate them to make sure that I am getting in the other amino acids.

 For those of you who aren’t 100kg, you can simply use the math of all the figures I have written above but multiply them by the decimal that your body weight is. For example, if you are 80kg then you would multiply 3100 * 0.80 = 2480 and that is now how much you need for your intake.

Diet Smart Not Hard

Coach Dalton


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 Dietary protein quality evaluation in human nutrition Report of an FAO Expert Consultation

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 Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Baumstark, M., Gollhofer, A., & König, D. (2015). Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: A randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 114(8), 1237-1245. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810