Collagen vs. Whey: Which Protein is Best For Your Needs?

Collagen or whey. Which should you choose?

For years, collagen/gelatin was maligned by bodybuilding enthusiasts as an “incomplete protein” because it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, nor does it contribute directly to muscle protein synthesis.  There’s definitely truth to this. If you ate nothing but gelatin for your protein, you’d get sick real quick. That’s exactly what happened to dozens of people who tried the infamous “liquid protein diet” fad of the 70s and 80s, which relied heavily on a gelatin-based protein drink. Man—or woman—shall not live by collagen alone.

As for whey, it’s an extremely complete protein. It’s one of the most bioavailable protein sources around, a potent stimulator of anabolic processes and muscle protein synthesis. I consider it essential for people, especially older ones in whom protein metabolism has degraded, and for anyone who wants to boost their protein intake and get the most bang for their buck.

This said, which is best for your needs today? Let’s take a look….

Collagen and whey are two completely different foods. Whether you take one or the other depends on a number of factors.

The first thing to do is explore the different benefits and applications of whey and collagen.

Whey Protein: Uses and Benefits

Whey is one of two primary dairy proteins, the other one being casein. It gained its reputation in the fitness world as a proven muscle-builder, but it actually has some interesting health effects that have little to do with hypertrophy.

In fact, whey is more than just protein. It also includes bioactive components such as lactoferrin (which improves bone health), beta-lactoglobulin (which can promote glutathione synthesis and protect against allergy), alpha-lactoalbumin (which can improve resistance to the cognition-depleting effects of stress), and immunoglobulins (which have antimicrobial effects). Whey also turns into some interesting peptide metabolites upon digestion which, according to a review, can improve blood lipids and lower blood pressure.

What Are Some Good Applications Of Whey?

Obesity: Whey tends to reduce fasting insulin levels in the obese and overweight (but not healthy prepubertal boys, who could use the growth promotion), increase satietyreduce food intake, and improve resting energy expenditure. If you’re trying to lose weight or prevent obesity, you can’t ask for a better trifecta than increased energy burning, increased satiety, and reduced intake.

Diabetes: Eaten before a meal, whey reduces the glucose spike from the subsequent meal in non-diabetics and type 2 diabetics alike. It achieves this by “spiking” insulin, but transiently; the insulin area under the curve improves even as the immediate insulin response increases. Plus, as seen above, fasting insulin tends to lower in people consuming whey protein. Spikes are not persistent elevations.

Fatty liver: In obese women, a whey supplement reduces liver fat (and as a nice side effect increases lean mass a bit). Fatty liver patients also benefit from whey, enjoying improvements in glutathione status, liver steatosis, and antioxidant capacity. Rats who supplement with whey see reduced fat synthesis in the liver and increased fatty acid oxidation in the skeletal muscle.

Stress: In “high-stress” subjects, a whey protein shake improved cognitive function and performance by increasing serotonin levels. The same shake had no effect on “low-stress” subjects. And dietary whey also lowers oxidative brain stress, at least in mice.

Cancer: Both the lactoferrin found in whey and the glutathione synthesis whey promotes may have anti-cancer effects. Lactoferrin shows potential to prevent cancer that has yet to occur and induce cell death in existing cancer cells. In a recent human study, oral lactoferrin suppressed the formation of colonic polyps. And in animal cancer studies and human cancer case studies, whey protein has been shown to increase glutathione (“foremost among the cellular protective mechanisms”) and have anti-tumor effects.

HIV: People with HIV experience a drastic reduction in glutathione levels. As the master antioxidant, getting glutathione higher is pretty important. Whey won’t cure anything, but it does improve CD4 (a type of white blood cell) countlower the number of co-infections, and persistently increase glutathione status.

Cardiovascular disease: Last year, a review of the effect of whey on major cardiometabolic risk factors found that whey protein improves the lipid profile, reduces hypertension, improves vascular function, and increases insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Whey peptides that form during digestion actually act as ACE-inhibitors, reducing blood pressure similarly to pharmaceuticals without the side effects.

Sarcopenia: Muscle wasting, whether cancer-related or a product of age and inactivity, is a huge threat to one’s health and happiness. Studies show that whey protein is the most effective protein supplement for countering sarcopenia, especially compared to soy. An anti-sarcopenia smoothie I always have people drink on bed rest is 20-30 grams of whey isolate, a couple egg yolks, milk, cream, and ice. Tastes like ice cream and works like a charm. One time a friend even gave this to his grandmother who was on bedrest in the hospital with diarrhea, mental confusion, and a total lack of appetite. She was in a bad state. After a day or two of the smoothie, she recovered quite rapidly, regaining her appetite and alertness.

Gastrointestinal disorders: Dairy gets a bad rap in some corners for its supposed effects on the gut, but a component of dairy can actually improve gut health, even in patients with gastrointestinal disorders. In Crohn’s disease patients, a whey protein supplement reduces leaky gut. In rodent models of inflammatory bowel disease, whey protein reduce gut inflammation and restore mucin (the stuff used to build up the gut barrier) synthesis.

Oh, and whey is great for hypertrophy.

When To Choose Whey


  • If you lift and want some extra protein, whey’s a great choice.
  • If you’re older and worry about your ability to metabolize and utilize protein, some extra protein via whey can help.
  • If you have any of the conditions listed above, whey’s a great choice. Do note that some of the benefits may stem from simply eating more protein than before. Whey itself may not be the whole cause; an extra slab of steak or a few more eggs could possibly have the same effect.

Along with foods like organ meats, egg yolks, and shellfish, I consider whey to be an important “supplemental food”—a food that acts like a high-density nutrition supplement, powerful in small doses and worth including in almost every diet.

Collagen Protein: Uses and Benefits

I advocate collagen protein as a fourth macronutrient. It’s different enough from whey and other “regular” proteins, serving a totally different function in the body.

If whey has been the gold standard for the muscle building amino acid profile for 30 years, collagen is the gold standard for supporting collagen-based structures in the body (fascia, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, skin, hair, nails). We don’t get much collagenous material in a normal diet these days, and meat proteins and/or plant proteins and/or milk, eggs, etc. don’t have the collagen peptides nor the ideal ratio of glycine, hydroxyproline, and other amino acids found abundantly in collagen. Furthermore, metabolism of the amino acids present in muscle meat deplete our reserves of glycine, thereby increasing the requirement even further. The more meat you eat, the more collagen you need.

Why We Need Collagen So Much These Days

This (non)relationship with collagen is extremely novel for our species. For millions of years up until very recently we ate nose to tail. We ate the entire animal. To give you an idea of how much collagen we’d have eaten, the average cow is about half muscle meat and half “other stuff,” which includes bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and other bits extremely rich in collagen. That’s a ton of glycine and a far cry from eating nothing but ground beef and ribeyes. And more recently, even when we moved toward shrink-wrapped select cuts of meat and away from bones and skin, we still had jello. Then, when jello got maligned, we had nothing. So for the past 20-30 years or so, most Americans have had no appreciable source of collagen peptides in their diet.

Just based on what we know about human biochemistry, this is a disaster. The human body requires at least 16 grams of glycine per day for basic metabolic processes, yet we can only synthesize 3 grams, and the typical omnivorous diet provides just 2-3 grams per day, so we’re looking at an average daily deficit of 10 grams that we need to make up for through diet. Collagen is roughly 1/3 glycine, so that means we need to be eating about 30 grams of collagen per day to hit our 10 gram dosage. And in disease states that disrupt glycine synthesis, like rheumatoid arthritis, or on plant-based diets that provide little to no dietary glycine, we need even more.

I suspect a lot of pro athletes who have connective tissue issues could use even more collagen, especially since they’re exposing their tissues to such incredible stress. I know I did back during my competition days.

What Does Collagen Do For Our Bodies?

It supports our connective tissue and collagen-based structures: fascia, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails.

It improves sleep quality. Human studies show that 3 grams of glycine taken before bed increases the quality of your sleep and reduces daytime sleepiness following sleep restriction. Now that’s isolated glycine rather than collagen, but collagen is the best source of glycine. I can say that a big mug of bone broth or a couple scoops of collagen peptides before bed knock me out and give me great sleep.

It balances your muscle meat intake. I mentioned this earlier, and we see both observational and interventional evidence for it.

  • Observational: In one recent observational study, the relationship between red meat and diabetes was abolished after controlling for low-glycine status. People with low glycine levels and high meat intakes were more likely to have diabetes; people with higher glycine levels could have higher meat intakes without any issues. In another study, low circulating levels of glycine predicted diabetes risk.
  • Interventional: In both worms and rodents, excessive intake of methionine (the amino acid most abundantly found in muscle meat) reduced longevity, while adding in glycine restored it.

It improves gut health. When I gave up grains and stopped endurance training at age 47 my gut health improved immensely. Like, world-changing for me. But I was still at 90-95%. When I started supplementing with collagen, my gut finally had that last 5% of repair/support/healing it needed to get to 100%.

It’s a great pre-workout. Though maybe not for the reasons most people take “pre-workouts.” I’ve also experienced rapid healing of tendinitis through using pre-workout collagen with vitamin C. I’m not just imagining it because I’ve dealt with a ton of tendon issues over the years, and they never healed that quickly until I introduced pre-workout collagen.

I’ve noticed that my hair and nails grow much faster than before.

Final Answer: Which One?

So, should you use whey or collagen? Let’s get to the bottom line, Sisson.

I made Primal Fuel because I wanted a high quality, low-sugar, moderate-fat meal replacement whey protein.

I made Collagen Fuel and Collagen Peptides because I wanted an easier way to get more collagen into my diet.

Personally, I had a need for both.

If I had to choose one, collagen is a better choice for the vast majority of you.

Essential amino acids aren’t a big problem on most ancestral diets, like paleo, Primal, or Primal-keto, and if you’re eating enough animal protein you don’t really need whey. Now, can you benefit from whey despite eating meat? Sure. Necessary does not mean optimal; whey has been shown to improve hypertrophy and muscle recovery from resistance training, plus all the other benefits I already detailed earlier. Almost anyone who does anything in the gym will see benefits from adding 20 grams of whey per day.

But almost no one is getting enough collagen, even the ancestrally-minded eaters who are aware of its importance. And that is a historical aberration on a massive scale. It hasn’t been done before. I wouldn’t recommend testing those waters.

And of course, powders aren’t the only way to get collagen and whey. They both appear in plenty of foods. The powders are just convenient to have on hand when you forget to make the bone broth (chicken, beef, turkey) or throw the oxtails in the crockpot. (Check out those linked recipes if you prefer broth or stew sources.)

Which do you prefer—whey or collagen? What benefits have you noticed from each?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know your thoughts, and take care.


Wodarski KH, Galus R, Brodzikowska A, Wodarski PK, Wojtowicz A. [The importance of lactoferrin in bone regeneration]. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2014;37(217):65-7.

Markus CR, Olivier B, De haan EH. Whey protein rich in alpha-lactalbumin increases the ratio of plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids and improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;75(6):1051-6.

Pal S, Ellis V, Dhaliwal S. Effects of whey protein isolate on body composition, lipids, insulin and glucose in overweight and obese individuals. Br J Nutr. 2010;104(5):716-23.

Hall WL, Millward DJ, Long SJ, Morgan LM. Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite. Br J Nutr. 2003;89(2):239-48.

Shertzer HG, Krishan M, Genter MB. Dietary whey protein stimulates mitochondrial activity and decreases oxidative stress in mouse female brain. Neurosci Lett. 2013;548:159-64.

Bounous G. Whey protein concentrate (WPC) and glutathione modulation in cancer treatment. Anticancer Res. 2000;20(6C):4785-92.

Meléndez-hevia E, De paz-lugo P, Cornish-bowden A, Cárdenas ML. A weak link in metabolism: the metabolic capacity for glycine biosynthesis does not satisfy the need for collagen synthesis. J Biosci. 2009;34(6):853-72.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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63 thoughts on “Collagen vs. Whey: Which Protein is Best For Your Needs?”

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  1. Is there any evidence that collagen supplements can help with plantar fasciitis? Suffering from this recently and the stretching from MDA has helped but looking to get that last 10% of healing so there is no pain.

    1. I can relate, I passed through that
      I have been 110% healed for some years now, I even do zumba classes barefoot; I have done my sprints barefoot, but prefer the vibrams for that. And the only time I am wearing shoes is during my daily office hours: I even ride my bike to and from work barefoot.
      My take is this:
      If you are in crisis mode, go for the shots (I think it is cortisone or something similar)
      In my case the exercise that fixed it completely is the one you do when you are in stairs, leave your weight in the front of the foot, and hang like for a minute or two. Repeat several times, do it twice or thrice a day. This will fix you for sure.
      Also: sleeping with the boot they sell in the big store really works: you wake up in the morning much better.
      Wow this gives me bad memories, but it is for a good cause 🙂

      1. Thanks! Extended wall stretches and towel stretch (same thing as the stair “hang” stretch) have done wonders. Just started short runs again in minimalist shoes.

    2. So, aside from stretches, two exercises helped me quite a bit.

      1. Picking up marbles with your toes.

      2. I’m going to give you the long version, then a short cut. I started doing belly dance fitness videos (exactly what it sounds like -fitness videos using belly dance moves), which are done barefoot. After the videos unexpectedly helped with the plantar fasciitis, I tried to figure out why. Turns out that much of the footwork involved steps where you land toes first, rather than the middle of your foot or the heel.

      Now the short cut. You can get the same benefit by standing in place and raising up on your toes and lowering yourself back down. You can start with both feet at the same time, if you want, but you want to move to one foot at a time . To do one foot at a time, you could march in place landing on your toes and the balls of your feet instead of flat footed. Or spend a little time walking with a toe strike (the toes hit the ground first). Or better still, do a little of both.

      I haven’t had any problems with mine in years. I was doing the above before going Primal, and had sporadic, minor problems from time to time. What residual issues I had pretty well disappeared after I went primal, ditched my arch supports, spent more time barefoot*, and started wearing minimalist-ish shoes (I have a Walmart budget).

      *Even before going primal, I seldom wore shoes at home.

    3. My severe plantar fasciitis went away when I gave up nightshades. Tomatoes, especially fresh ones from my garden would literally cripple me.

  2. I would love to be able to take collagen supplements . Unfortunately, they make me very constipated with in just a few days of starting even at a very small dose. From reading reviews on countless collagen supplements, this appears to be a common side effect. I simply don’t have the time to make bone broth every week. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to overcome or prevent the constipation side effect?

    1. Possibly try gelatin instead? I’d been using gelatin for a while and had read somewhere that gelatin was harder to digest than collagen, and tended to cause digestive issues in some people. So I gave collagen a try and found that the opposite was true for me. Since the I’d bought a decent sized container of collagen, I didn’t want to just throw it away. I found if mixed a little collagen in with my gelatin, I could use it up without any issues.

      The only thing is that collagen will dissolve in cold or hot liquids and gelatin only dissolves in hot liquids. I usually mix it with coffee or tea, but had to start with a little at a time and build up, as the texture can be a bit off putting. And you don’t want let your drink get cold! One morning, during the summer I forgot that I still had a half cup of coffee with gelatin in it, and left it on the counter when I went to work. My daughter found it and put it in the refrigerator for me, where I had half a cup of coffee flavored jello waiting for me. We were both highly amused. (Ah, the many adventures of ADD.) Fortunately, it liquefied nicely in the microwave. Next time, I may just try eating it. If it’s awful, I can always microwave it.

    2. A heaping tablespoon of psyllium fiber with water in a large mouth mason jar, twice a day. Allow fiber to gel in the water for a half hour or more before drinking it.

  3. Hey Mark,

    Is there any benefit to having them at the same time? Or do they cancel each other out?
    I’m a big fan of stirring collagen into any foods I make that have sauce.
    What about a 50/50 smoothie of whey and collagen?
    Thanks for any insight!

    1. The instructions on my collagen container advise taking it away from any other protein source as it interferes with absorption. I have collagen in my coffee first up, do a weights workout, then have a whey smoothie after. Seems to work for me.

      1. Those directions seem somewhat silly to me. We evolved eating collagen along with other protein sources. The skin and ligaments were generally attached to the meat….

        I found several sites that say it doesn’t matter if it’s taken on an empty stomach or not. According to Vital Proteins “There are many people who claim taking collagen on an empty stomach provides them with the best results. Many people abide by this method because you need stomach acid to digest proteins, so in theory taking collagen on an empty stomach ensures you will be able to better break down the collagen. However, you do not need to take collagen on an empty stomach to obtain the benefits.” Well+Good says that any time of day, with or without food is fine. From Better Nutrition “However, researchers we spoke to believe collagen is equally effective when taken with food, and positive clinical studies support this.”

        Many sites said nothing either way.

        Live Strong is the only site I found that disagrees, saying “Since collagen needs to pass through your stomach and into the intestines without being broken down by stomach acid, collagen supplements must be taken on an empty stomach.”

  4. Oh my gosh thank you for this! I have been putting collagen powder in my coffee and worrying about not getting enough whey. This post cleared up a lot.

  5. This is a wonderful write up. I’d been in the either/or mentality about whey or collagen protein. I hadn’t thought of trying it for sleep quality. I do make homemade beef marrow bone broth, fish broth and chicken broth, one of these every week. But you’re right that I used to eat a lot more jello than I do now, on top of the broth.

    It is possible for a person to be allergic to casein and I don’t think it’s possible to have fully casein free whey protein except maybe the isolate. However, if the person is allergic it wouldn’t be safe. What’s the next best complete protein if a person can’t use whey, and wants the convenience of a powder? I’ve seen beef protein before, but have no idea of the quality.

    When i was testing to see if casein was an issue, I was using cans of tuna as my daily protein instead of making a shake. It was the best option I could think of at the time. Got that old tuna addiction going too. 🙂

    1. I’m allergic to casein. I use coconut blend protein with the collagen pre, in a shake together along with all my other vitamins & after my workout and I’m good to go all day
      I have mast cell disease. I’m thoroughly allergic to anything with an elevated histamine level

      1. I have systemic mastocytosis, this lifestyle has made me so healthy and almost symptom free! I’m so glad to see you here and living your best life. I wish more patients knew how much this helps, but big pharma doesn’t make any money from us being healthy. Thanks for sharing.

  6. How about both? I use both when I make the protein/fat shake (courtesy of Liver King)

  7. Is it true that collagen doesn’t work/assimilate without vitamin C? I try to take mine with some cherries or lemons.

    I put whey, collagen and a bit of yogurt in my after workout shakes. Also, whenever I eat muscle meat I make a collagen butter sauce to pour on top.

  8. I prefer for collagen, i try to TAKE DN Collagen from japan. Its good for my health because my createnine level is so high, my doctor says that i go for a dialysis when i collapse,
    I take it for one month then everything goes in normal level,
    DN Collagen is a supplement that focusing on the genetic level..

  9. I sometimes buy raw A2 milk from Jersey cows, and make my own whey. Wondering how that compares to powdered whey?

      1. It’s super easy to make whey. I make yogurt by adding some starter to a half gallon of raw milk,. After a day or so, the yogurt has set (it’s not as thick as the yogurt you buy at the store), and you put the yogurt in cheesecloth and strain the liquid out. The liquid is the whey.

  10. I’ve had bad fingernails all my life, which I inherited from my grandmother. They are very weak and flake off in layers. I tried gelatin and that didn’t really seem to do anything. I have never wanted to have long fancy nails but I’d like to have short neat looking nails. I tried collagen with vitamin C for a knee problem and to my great surprise by fingernails stopped flaking and started growing. My nails look better than they ever have in my life.

    There was a time when I stopped taking collagen for several months. I was under a lot of stress and I wasn’t taking it regularly and then I just stopped ordering the pills. Because it sounds too good to be true I also thought that maybe something else had brought about the changes in my fingernails, like that I was somehow taking better care of them and didn’t realize it. They went back to flaking off and looking rough. And now I’ve been taking collagen again and they have just begin to stop flaking and start growing again.

    My interest in this has led me to start studying biology because I would like to know more about nutrition and digestion. Because the way that my nails changed seems incredible to me and it really makes me wonder what else collagen is doing.

    1. This comes as no surprise. Many years ago it was commonly known that consuming Knox cooking gelatin stirred into water would improve the health and appearance of the fingernails. It was supposed to be good for the hair too.

      1. When I was a child my mother used to recommend eating a cube of solid jelly (aka jell-o) every day to improve nail strength. That was few years ago and the jelly cubes (you dissolved them in hot water to make jelly) were of course flavoured with god-knows-what and had sugar in them. But the principle remains true.

      2. When I was a kid, my mother would give me a square of jelly (which I guess is jello) every day for my fingernails. And that was in the 1950s, so not a new discovery!

    2. Hi Melis, I was very interested to read this as I also have the constantly irritating problem of weak flaking nails. I take collagen powder most days and consume a lot of bone broth but this never appears to make any difference to the quality of my nails. Am interested to know what type of collagen and Vit C you take and how long it was before you noticed that it took to achieve better nail health?

  11. Fantastic post Mark, very thorough. One thing to add though, there is a theory put out there that ageing is at least partially a ‘cysteine deficiency syndrome’ relating to oxidation:
    and whey is the the highest natural food source of cysteine..

    For the last year I have been working out (high intensity resistance training) following an 18 hour fast 3 times/ week and just beforehand I have taken a shake comprised of collagen powder, additional glycine (much cheaper than collagen!), 60g whey protein isolate and 100mg of Vitamin C. My reasoning behind this has evolved over the years: ie there is pretty solid evidence from Professor Keith Baar’s team that collagen, glycine and low dose Vitamin C are very beneficial for connective tissue if taken before a workout, and I have experienced the same benefits you have here Mark. In terms of the big bolus of whey protein isolate: I follow the advice of Luis and Tyler at Ketogains, also Martin Berkhan of Leangains, that it is not advisable to workout completely fasted without any essential aminos (whey being the richest source) – otherwise if you are working out very intensely in a fasted state the immediate impact can be very catabolic on muscle tissue if there are no exogenous essential aminos in circulation. Also I want to give my body a very strong signal that it is time to switch from the catabolic AMP-K pathway to the anabolic M-TOR pathway. Doing this pre-workout shake also means that I am not at all hungry till about 3 or 4 hours after the workout, so have my first ‘solid food’ meal of the day at around 5-6pm, without experiencing any hunger in the meantime.

    My question to you Mark would be to echo the same question others have posed, ie are there any downsides to me taking whey, collagen and glycine simultaneously in my pre-workout shake? Otherwise I have a real dilemma, as it appears that there is very good science to support having both collagen/ glycine as well as rapidly digested essential aminos (from whey) in your system before undertaking a ‘fasted’ workout.. A tough question I know but any insight you have would be much appreciated!

  12. Would glycine supplements have a similar effect as collagen? Glycine supplementation would be way less expensive than collagen:
    • 30 grams of collagen (=~10 grams glycine) from Great Lakes = 5 tablespoons, costs =~$1.13 if you buy the 8 pound bag.
    • 10 grams of glycine from Bulk Supplements =~$0.18 if you buy the 5 kilogram bag.

    1. I agree David! Currently I use 2 x tablespoons per day of Great Lakes hydrolysed collagen (even more expensive in here in the UK) for a ‘belt and braces’ approach – topping up with glycine from Bulk Powders. I believe that Rhonda Patrick has pointed to some research that indicates that some collagen is absorbed intact, so the benefit is not purely down to the glycine alone – but the question remains – how much of a difference does it make? The price difference is massive and I’m not sure I can afford to continue buying Great Lakes collagen – unless it is giving a proportionate % increase in benefit vs glycine powder!

      1. You can buy grass-fed colllagen from Zen Principle and others in 3 lb. bulk containers. Much cheaper.

        1. Interesting. But can you get it in Europe? I live in France and there are SO many things that just aren’t available here, or that have massive postage costs attached. I’ve tried many brands of collagen (from both beef and fish) and all of them seem to increase in price daily!

      2. I buy collagen and gelatine from MM ingredients in UK after I couldn’t afford Great Lakes and equivalents from Amazon.
        A bit powdery and slightly harder to mix but way cheaper. I buy a kilo at a time. Very happy. I don’t buy in bulk because the use couriers for larger shipments but cheaper post for small quantities.

  13. I suffer from Histamine Intolerance and have had poor experiences every time I’ve tried collagen over the past several years. Are there any low histamine sources of collagen?

  14. Collagen! I’m 56 and can still jump off of the roof of my house with no ill effects.

  15. Wondering if anyone has experienced changes in cellulite with collagen supplementation, for the better or for the worse.
    Cellulite has a lot to do with strong connective tissue giving the fat underneath it a dimpled appearance. I’ve read things suggesting that collagen should help improve cellulite, but I’m pretty sure it’s caused a worsening for me. Mind you, I’ve had cellulite since I was 18, so that’s just par for the course for me and it’s not going to stop me from using collagen because I think the benefits outweigh the cellulite, but I’m curious if anyone else has noticed something similar. I also do red light therapy which improves collagen production, so it may not be from the supplemental collagen.

    1. Ellie!
      OMG! I thought it was just me! I’ve been taking collagen for a couple years now, and I swear my cellulite has gotten way worse! Anyone else have this issue?

  16. Mark, can you please do a post examining the different amounts of glycine in actual foods, i.e. pork rinds, chicken skin, connective tissue rich cuts of meats, etc? I’d really like to get my collagen and glycine from food sources and know how much of the foods I would have to eat in order to get the 10g you mention.

  17. Hi Mark – thank you for all of your great information!!!
    I make homemade Greek yogurt at home – I strain it in a fine mesh strainer and get an incredible about if whey as a result. I generally mix about 1/4 cup back into the yogurt to get the right consistency. I throw the rest out. Is this consumable as whey for the diet?

  18. Can anyone suggest how much whey to take daily for the older woman? Everything seems to be aimed at men doing workouts! By the way, I don’t do gym-style workouts, but every day I carry heavy weights and undergo hormetic stress (especially at the moment, in the middle of a heatwave). It’s called gardening! My heavy weights are full watering-cans, big bagfuls of weeds after a weeding session, and sometimes big bags of compost (and those can really weigh!) And I haven’t got on to shopping yet…

  19. Great article Mark. You mention using a pre-workout collagen with vitamin C for tendinitis. I’ve been fighting tendinitis in my elbow for about 6-months now. I’ve tried everything but just can’t seem to shake it. To the end, could you share a recommendation on the amount of collagen and vitamin C that you would find beneficial to help with this issue? Does it matter if the Vitamin C is whole food or absorbic acid?

  20. I mix my collagen with Athletic Greens each morning and then mix another dose into dinner somehow (into a sauce, soup, broth, etc. – if not that then I just mix in with a smaller amount of Athletic Greens). And with Athletic Greens I’m able to consume it with plenty of vit C.

  21. I heard that our bodies cannot absorb collagen. Where is the true research which shows human bodies can absorb collagen powders etc.

    1. The only thing I’ve ever heard is that it’s too big to be absorbed when applied to the skin, so creams with it are pointless.

  22. Hi Mark,
    Can you speak to the quality and safety of collagen supplements on the market in general? It seems like there are many out there, and I’m concerned about how poor farming practices could actually make this type of supplement bad for you (non organic feeding of animals (GMO feed, grain feeding, etc), use of antibiotics to boost growth, exposure to pesticides, pasturing in areas that have had previous exposure to chemicals, etc. Can you compare what could go wrong with how you are sourcing animals for your collagen?

  23. And what about people who do not tolerate dairy? Mostly it is about casein, but is whey 100% casein free?

  24. Thanks for this great explanation! I have never used whey on a regular basis (although after reading this I’m considering it) but could not live without collagen! I’ve been using collagen peptides daily for about five years now, and the biggest difference I have noticed is with my skin…it is overall better, the most noticeable difference is the firmness. My nails are crazy strong, and I rarely have any muscle soreness. I try to get it from food sources as well, but adding the collagen peptides to my morning coffee ensures that I am getting it no matter what. I also love the collagen fuel for shakes and smoothies.

    1. I would totally agree with taking both at the same time. You can get cysteine from whey (proserum whey is probably one of the best IMO) and the glycine from the collagen and viola you can synthesize more glutathione and support muscle and connective tissues at the same time.

  25. Collagen or whey. Which should you choose? Mark’s answer is the best: “Personally, I had a need for both.” And me too, I mix and drink them together, as it should be in a real food. However, providing all necessary amino acids is only the first step. There are many requirements for assembling them into functional proteins. First, there should be a demand, such as a resistance exercise. Second, protein synthesis needs a lot of energy, such as a coconut oil. Also, it is very important to bring the total plasma Homocysteine (tHcy) level to a normal range. Homocysteine is a non-protein-forming amino acid produced by a methylation process, and it must be recycled back to Methionine or converted to Cysteine. In case of a vitamin deficiency (folate, B12, B6, B2, TMG, vitC), and potential mutation of enzymes, high levels of tHcy can cause an Unfolded Protein Response, in which case a protein must be scraped. Hcy can cause a serious damage to the vascular walls, and also interfere with the collagen repair.

    Collagen is a structural protein that holds the whole body together. It supports skin, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, intestinal system, heart, joints, nails, hair, and other organ tissues. Collagen synthesis is a complex process that can fail if all requirements are not satisfied. The first two steps are the most critical. In the translation (step 1), all required amino acids must be available in a sufficient quantity to build a single chain. The highest demand is for Glycine (Gly), because it occupies one of every three positions along a single pro-collagen chain. Gly is the smallest amino acid that was considered non-essential because it can be produced internally. However, new research shows that Gly quantity is not sufficient for collagen synthesis, and about 10 grams per day must be supplemented.

    Whey protein provides only about 0.4 grams of Gly from a 30-gram scoop, while one tablespoon (tbsp) of collagen peptides (~7 grams) provides about 1.8 grams of Gly. My morning and evening protein drink has one scoop of whey and two tbsp of collagen peptides, plus 1 teaspoon (tsp) of L-leucine (Leu), 1 tsp of cocoa, 1 tsp of creatine, and 1 tbsp of coconut oil, all mixed in a cup of green tea, providing about 4 grams of Gly per drink. (Leu deactivates AMPK and enables mTOR to start a protein synthesis process. The cocoa powder reduces myostatin levels, which opposes protein synthesis). Gly is also available as a powder, it looks and tastes like sugar. I take about 4 grams of Gly powder in a glass of apple juice with water (30/70) after lunch, and about 4 grams before going to bed. My total amount of Gly per day is about 12 grams. In addition to collagen synthesis, Gly provides many other benefits, including liver detoxification, sleep quality improvement, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, etc. I use only two scoops of whey per day, because my main protein comes from fish and chicken.

    The second step of collagen synthesis is a hydroxylation of proline (Pro) and lysine (Lys). Hydroxyproline is required for stabilizing collagen, while hydroxylysine makes it stronger. Hydroxylation consumes a lot of ascorbate (vitamin C), and this is a big problem, because people cannot produce ascorbate as other animals, except primates, guinea pigs, and fruit bats. Some human predecessors used to eat a lot of vitamin C food, which caused gene mutation for the ascorbate-producing enzymes. Without vitamin C people die from scurvy in a few months, because when a collagen synthesis stops the whole body falls apart – colla in Greek means “glue”. The low RDA of only 60 mg/day prevents acute scurvy, but it is too low to prevent a sub-clinical scurvy. Hydroxylation also needs water, and can be a cause of constipation, if dehydrated. The protein synthesis consumes a lot of energy in the form of ATP, but it needs magnesium for its release. I use magnesium lysinate glycinate chelate (gradually increase until get softer stool, don’t use magnesium oxide to prevent diarrhea).

    The last (step 8) of collagen synthesis is a crosslink formation, assembly of collagen fibrils. The high level of tHcy interferes with intermolecular crosslinking, causing a connective tissue defect and loss of strength. High cortisol level also interferes with a collagen synthesis process. The result is a loss of integrity in vascular, bone, muscle, skin, and other organ tissues. To protect damaged vascular walls from blood loss, a human body developed a protection mechanism, similar to patching street potholes, using Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a) for short. It is a crude solution, but it extends life until plaque blocks circulation. Lp(a) is different from LDL by an additional “sticky” apo(a) protein that binds to Lys residue in a damaged collagen. This mechanism eventually causes a plaque formation, atherosclerosis, and CVD.
    Lp(a) is not reduced by statin drugs, but many doctors confuse Lp(a) and LDL, plus they never test for tHcy. Taking supplemental Lys and Pro (available in capsules and powder) can intercept and neutralize Lp(a) in blood circulation before it sticks to a damaged vascular wall.

    Fortunately, recent research shows that “vitamin C significantly inhibited the expression and secretion levels of apo(a).” In a study of animals producing vitamin C, they found no Lp(a) and no atherosclerosis. The amount of a daily vitamin C production in animals, extrapolated to an average human size, is about 9 grams. However, internally produced vitamin C is directly released from liver into blood circulation, while supplemental vitamin C must be first absorbed. The actual amount of ascorbate in blood depends on a level of gastric acid and pepsin in the stomach. Also, a half life of ascorbate is about 30 minutes, so the vitamin C supplementation must be distributed over a day long time. I take 12 grams of vitamin C per day, using one gram tablets (two or three at a time).

    OK, how do I know that it all works for me? Every morning, before breakfast, I check my weight and hydration. Then I test my physical condition: 12 pull-ups, or 12 toes-to-bar, or 50 dips. It works, so far, with no any problems, and I am only 77. My last physical was about 35 years ago, but if you want to get sick go to a doctor.

  26. In my previous comment it was stated that collagen supports almost everything. Here, I would like to add a specific warning about collagen support of the heart valves, rings and chordaes (strings), because a deficient collagen synthesis and repair process can cause a mitral valve prolapse (MVP). Some studies found a correlation between skin biopsy test for collagen and MVP. Healthy people had collagen type I ~74%, and type III ~24%, but people with MVP had type I ~67%, and type III ~31% collagen composition. It appears that people with MVP need to increase synthesis of collagen type I, but not type III.

    Most collagen peptides are bovine or marine types. Bovine (beef) collagen is a type I and III, sourced from cow hides. Marine (fish) collagen is made from fish skins and contains primarily type I collagen. Marine collagen is also especially rich in the amino acid hydroxyproline. Marine collagen has no fishy smell or taste because all the fish oils are removed during processing. It can, therefore, be added to coffee or tea, and won’t affect the taste or smell of food. I use only the grass-fed bovine collagen peptides, but I also eat (three time per week) wild Alaskan canned salmon with skins and bones, providing additional type I collagen. Actually, I eat fish every day: Icelandic cod liver on Mondays, and wild sardines on all other days.

    In addition to collagen, magnesium supplementation is reportedly one of the best natural MVP treatments. A number of studies have linked low magnesium levels in the body to MVP. Coenzyme Q10 is another one of the top natural remedies for MVP. According to health experts, CoQ10 can help tremendously with symptomatic MVP. Acetyl-L-carnitine offers the same benefits as the L-carnitine, but it is more bio-available and may be more suitable for patients with certain MVP symptoms.

    D-ribose is a simple sugar that the body produces to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is the main source of energy for cells and muscles. People with MVP and heart disease often experience fatigue due to low levels of D-ribose, but supplements can stimulate energy recovery. Other potentially effective MVP remedies include taurine, arginine, and hawthorn, 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), alpha-lipoic acid, creatine, glycine, and melatonin. Melatonin is not just a sleep aiding hormone. It stabilizes inner membrane of mitochondria, the cellular power generators that recharge ADP back to ATP. In other words, most of our biological reactions and activities run on rechargeable batteries. So, when people get tired, and joke that they need a vacation to recharge their batteries, actually they are not joking.

  27. I react really bad to Whey Protein. I´ve tried all possible brands and the best I´ve found is a whey from Ireland (grass fed cows and no flavor, nothing added) but I do get pimples, bloated and some severe lower back pain and intestinal distress.

    1. Compare your symptoms with those listed in
      and consider some recommendations provided there.

      I use a whey protein from the BN Labs, they make the purest stuff, using a proprietary concentration/filtration process.

      Do not use any sweeteners and minimize carbs, don’t use any fiber.
      Try carnivore diet, with plenty of B and C vitamins.
      Also read about carbs vs meat on

  28. I am highly allergic to milk proteins (not lactose) which cause horrible congestion and wheezing. I have tried whey isolate and still have problems. Therefore it does nothing but create inflammation and contributes to weight gain. Besides, collagen is already hydrolyzed which makes digestion much faster. I definitely feel much better when having a collagen shake before working out versus the whey isolate that I was taking.

    1. Whey isolate process usually uses high temperature and some chemicals, which can produce a denatured protein (break down of a natural molecular structure). I use BN Labs protein (see link in my previous reply), they explicitly state that it is low temperature processed. Denatured protein may appear to your system as an antigen, and cause an allergic response.

      Collagen peptides don’t have any problems related to milk, but collagen is not a complete protein. Compare amino acid profiles of collagen and whey. Usually, collagen is missing Cysteine and Tryptophan. It is necessary to supplement with N-Acetyl-Cysteine (pure Cysteine is not stable) and 5-HTP (L-5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan).

  29. Fantastic article. There isn’t enough credible / fully vetted education about the benefits of collagen. Primal Fuel is a great product, thanks for bringing to market.

  30. Great info I was unaware of ! How do the 2 compare for in baking recipes for keto breads? I could get systematic & test this in a couple recipes, but thought maybe there’s a post or comment about it. Thanks!

  31. This is a brilliant post, thank you for sharing about collagen vs whey comparison. We always tend to change something or the other in our house, thanks for this great advice.I have seen similar information at one place, you can also see on