July 23 2019

Dear Mark: Collagen vs Whey Follow-Up

By Mark Sisson
21 Comments

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering questions from last week’s Collagen vs Whey post. You guys had a lot of questions, mostly about collagen, and I’m here to answer them. Can collagen help with plantar fasciitis? Should you take collagen and whey together in the same smoothie, or do they cancel each other out? If a person can’t have whey, is there an equivalent protein powder source? Is glycine a good replacement for collagen? What about liquid whey from raw milk—how does it compare to powdered whey? If I wanted to get my glycine from foods, what would I need to eat and how much of it?

Let’s find out:

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.

Fascia is basically pure collagen. If collagen supplementation has been shown to improve pain in other parts of the body made of collagen, like the knees or tendons, and improve collagen synthesis in collagenous tissues like skin and joints, I see no reason it shouldn’t also improve the fascia. Boosting collagen synthesis is boosting collagen synthesis, and supplemental collagen does it.

A good thing to try is eat 20-30 grams of collagen with 200 mg of vitamin C 30 minutes before a workout that you know targets your plantar fascia.

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!

I’m unaware of any unique benefit.

When you think about how collagen appears in the natural world, it’s usually alongside muscle meat.

Entire culinary traditions revolve around the consumption of collagen and muscle meat together. Think Vietnamese pho (bone broth and meat). Think French (reduced broth-based sauce poured over meat). Think Mexican (bone broth-infused rice served with meat). Hell, go all the way back to the Pleistocene and humans were boiling smashed bone fragments in stomach casings.

No reason to separate them.

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.

I’d say go for egg white protein. Extremely complete, tasteless, and blends seamlessly into anything.

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

It seems to work better. The recent study that found pre-workout collagen improved tendons also included vitamin C.

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

That’s awesome. The liquid whey will have a broader range of nutrients, but the powdered whey will be more concentrated and far higher in protein. Remember that whey protein is basically dehydrated liquid whey and you’ll get a picture of how much liquid whey goes into whey powder.

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.

You make a good point. I often use improvements in one area of health as assurance that other areas of health are also improving. I’m sure that’s not always true, but I think that’s a pretty safe assumption most of the time.

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!

There’s no reason to avoid it. Do it. Should be good for both your connective tissue and your gains.

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.

Pure glycine is great for things like balancing your intake of methionine. As I wrote in the original post, muscle meat is high in an amino acid called methionine. Methionine metabolism depletes glycine, so the more meat you eat, the more glycine-rich connective tissue, bone broth, and collagen supplements you should be eating to balance out the amino acids. This is the basic foundation for eating all that collagen I recommend.

But balancing methionine for longevity and health isn’t the only reason we’re eating collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, providing tensile strength to our bones, teeth, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. It’s an important structural component of the skin, lungs, intestines, and heart. And as far as the evidence so far available suggests, eating the amino acids that make up collagen separately doesn’t have the same effect on those collagenous tissues as eating them together in a collagenous matrix.

In one study, rats with osteoporosis ate collagen hydrolysate that scientists had marked with a radioactive signature to allow them to track its course through the body. It survived the digestive tract intact, made it into the blood, and accumulated in the kidneys. By day 14, the rats’ thigh bones had gotten stronger and denser with more organic matter and less water content.

Another study found similar results, this time for cartilage of the knee. Mice who ate radioactive collagen hydrolysate showed increased radioactivity in the knee joint.

When you feed people collagen derived from pork skin, chicken feet, and cartilage, many different collagenous peptides appear in the blood. You don’t get any of those from isolated glycine.

All that said, pure glycine can be a helpful supplement. As mentioned, it’s great for balancing out methionine intake from muscle meat consumption. It’s also been used in several studies to improve multiple markers of sleep quality. And glycine is probably the most important component, if you had to choose just one, of collagen.

Collagen is ideal, but glycine isn’t a bad option. In fact, I’d argue that perhaps collagen plus supplementary glycine could offer the best bang for your buck.

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.

I’ll do a quick answer.

An ounce of pork rinds gives you 3.38 grams of glycine.

An ounce of roasted chicken skin gives you 1 gram of glycine.

A pork tail of about 4 ounces will give you almost 3 grams of glycine. Oxtail should be about the same.

So getting your glycine from food alone is entirely doable, but you’ll probably have an easier time if you like chicharrones/pork rinds and animal tails. There are some higher quality pork rinds out there these days, like the Epic brand ones.

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?

It is consumable. But keep in mind that liquid whey isn’t as protein-dense as whey powder. It’s still good to eat and a great source of probiotics.

Thanks for your questions, everyone. Take care!

References:

Figueres juher T, Basés pérez E. [An overview of the beneficial effects of hydrolysed collagen intake on joint and bone health and on skin ageing]. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32 Suppl 1:62-6.

Shaw G, Lee-barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;105(1):136-143.

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21 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Collagen vs Whey Follow-Up”

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  1. I eat lots of Epic pork rinds. I’m convinced that they have dramatically improved my nails, which were in very bad shape. No doubt they have helped the rest of my body too.
    I often put a bit of butter on the rinds. I know that will make many people shudder but they go down easier.

      1. I had a similar result – my nails got much stronger when I was eating pork rinds on a regular basis. I have a hard time digesting collegen (I have some gut issues and both gelatin and collegen make me pretty uncomfortable). I think for someone like me pork rinds are a good option.

  2. Per the yogurt/whey question… I use the whey from yogurt making in soups, smoothies, and even bread! Usually the liquid whey blends in seamlessly, and can add a nice tang in mild soups. I’ve also made a cabbage soup with liquid whey and chicken broth, which ended up tasting like a sauerkraut soup. Definitely save the whey!

    1. You can also use the whey to ferment other foods. I’ve used the whey to kickstart things like fruit ferments, sweeter things that a salt-based ferment wouldn’t work well.

    2. Hmm, now I’m wishing I’d saved the whey from last week’s yoghurt to use in this week’s sourdough!

  3. I grind pork rinds and use the crumbs as a coating for baked bone in, skin on, chicken thighs. Perhaps one could call the dish Double Glycine Chicken.

    1. ok this pretty much sounds like the best thing ever. Bone in, skin on chicken thighs are the only way I even like chicken. Adding a pork rind crust sounds amazing!

  4. Thanks so much for asking the whey/collagen question. I figured it was a great way to do it but glad to hear from the expert!

    1. Every morning I have a mug of hot water, collagen, whey, and a little raw honey. It tastes great too!

  5. Mark,

    Can you clarify how much Vitamin C one should be using with collegen? The study you link to says 5 or 15 g of vitamin C-enriched gelatin.

    This would seem to be a much higher dose than the typical 1000mg or less in a Vitamin C supplement.

    Thank you

    1. The beverages used in the study had 0, 5, or 15g of collagen with 48mg of Vitamin C added to each

    2. I listened to a couple of podcasts with Professor Keith Baar at UC Davies who undertook the studies – he mentions a very low dose of Vitamin C, around 50mg if I remember correctly – apparently that’s all you need. I’m guessing Mark mentions 200mg of Vitamin C for a ‘belt & braces’ type approach…

  6. So no one is going to say it?

    Thank you for whey more information on this subject.

    Ok, there you go.
    Actually was wondering about the answers to those questions as I read the post and comments. I understand whey better for sure now.

      1. You win, one more weigh than me. Good one, insert big smile here…..

  7. Thanks Mark. Follow up question: how much chicken skin is an ounce? Would that be about one chicken thigh? I love conventional pork rinds, in fact I ate an unreasonable amount of them today. Probably 7 or 8 ounces. I’ve tried the epic pork rinds, and I just am not a fan of the baked taste, and for $4 a bag it was not worth it to me. The spiced ones are better but not fluffy the way I like ’em. My toddlers love them though. The idea to crumble them for breading on skin on chicken sounds great though, I’ll be trying that soon. 🙂

  8. Just a quick question,

    Why have the collagen pre workout and not post?
    The glycine in the collagen would act as a way to calm the CNS, which is something that would be more beneficial after rather than before?

    Thanks in advance

    1. My understanding is that the tendons/ ligaments etc do not have a good blood supply: they absorb glycine (and some collagen intact) via a sponge like mechanism, facilitated by exercise, in the presence of Vitamin C: hence Professor Baar’s protocol of collagen + 50mg Vitamin C 30 minutes prior to some fairly intense exercise (eg skipping rope for 5 minutes). Worth noting though that the take-up of collagen/ glycine will be focused on the specific muscle-groups worked after ingestion. If you take the collagen/ glycine after exercise, it can’t get to the target tendon/ ligaments so easily, but yes it might have the more systemic effect of chilling out your CNS!

  9. Hey Mark,
    It was recommended that my son avoid dairy due to hormones – his testosterone is low and estrogen is high (he’s 14, and struggling with weight loss resistance and gynecomastia). Is egg white your best recommendation for this situation also? Thanks!