Collagen Protein vs. Whey Protein for Bodybuilding

As you go through your bodybuilding journey, turning to supplements is a natural step to increase efficiency in gaining strength and mass. One of the first supplements many people try is protein powder. The nearly limitless options can get overwhelming, but a little research can help clear the fog. If you’re wondering what the difference is between collagen protein vs. whey protein or which is better for bodybuilding, this article will give you all the answers. 

What is Collagen Protein?

Collagen is primarily made up of three amino acids: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Collagen is found naturally in our connective tissue, tendons, skin, cartilage, and even bones. 

A collagen protein is a powdered supplement sourced from beef that contains a large amount of extra collagen and protein, which can be a great addition if you find your regular diet lacking in those nutrients.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey is a protein-rich milk derivative that is created by separating milk into two parts: whey and casein. Of note, whey contains lactose, so it is not suitable for those that may be lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive. 

Whey protein is one of the most popular supplements available today and is one of the most cost-effective ways to add more protein to your diet. 

Whey also has a high concentration of leucine, which has links to stimulating protein synthesis – meaning your body can absorb protein more efficiently.

Benefits of Collagen Protein

Collagen supplements have taken the world by storm in the last few years and are primarily marketed toward women. [1] Common benefit claims associated with collagen include:

  • Increased bone density
  • Improved gut health
  • More hydrated skin
  • Increased hair and nail growth
  • Improved skin elasticity

Collagen is also very protein-dense and is equivalent to whey protein when looking at protein-per-calorie. This makes it another attractive option for those in a caloric deficit (reduced calories for fat loss) or who prefer to keep a low body fat percentage year round.

The benefits of collagen in the body can’t be overstated. Many doctors call collagen the scaffolding of the body, as it is so crucial to connective tissue. However, as an oral supplement, the scientific claims backing its benefits are still in their infancy and inconclusive. 

There needs to be more data showing that ingesting collagen orally helps your body produce (and use) more of it. That said, ingestion is completely safe with few side effects.

Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the top-selling supplements of all time for a good reason. It has many notable benefits, including:

  • A great source of amino acids [2]
  • Contains antioxidants that fight free radicals and can have anti-aging benefits
  • Helps preserve muscle mass when eating at a caloric deficit
  • Lowers LDL cholesterol and increases heart health [3]
  • Absorbs very quickly to aid in muscle recovery
  • Prevents blood sugar fluctuations
  • Rich in calcium, thus promoting bone health
  • Can potentially help liver functioning [4]

One of the top reasons that whey protein is beloved by bodybuilders is because of how quickly it can absorb into the bloodstream. This means it can quickly get to work and assist the body in muscle repair. 

Quick absorption makes it ideal for ingesting by itself (meaning not paired with a meal which would slow digestion) right after a workout when muscle tissue has been damaged by repeated stress from heavy weights or many sets and reps.

Collagen Protein vs. Whey Protein – Which is Better for Bodybuilders?

Bodybuilding as a sport naturally attracts those willing to sacrifice to be the best. This mentality leads to research looking for the best supplement for reaching those goals. If you’re looking for an alternative to whey protein, let’s see how collagen stacks up.

Where are Collagen and Whey Sourced From?

Collagen and whey protein are both sourced from cows (collagen comes directly from beef, and whey is a milk derivative). This means they are close contenders in many ways that bodybuilders value: they digest quickly, contain high amounts of amino acids, and are low in fat and carbohydrates.

Collagen Protein vs. Whey Protein for Texture and Mixability

On the surface level, many athletes find that whey protein has a more appealing texture that mixes with water more easily than collagen, which some find to be grittier. 

You may prefer whey over collagen protein if you prefer to simply mix your protein supplement with water and not hide it with other ingredients (like in a smoothie). After all, a supplement is only beneficial if it’s actually used and doesn’t collect dust on a shelf.

Is Collagen or Whey Better for Those who are Lactose Intolerant?

For those that are lactose intolerant or sensitive to ingesting dairy, collagen will be the clear winner here. Whey has a very high lactose content, which can irritate some athletes’ digestive systems. Collagen protein has no lactose whatsoever, making it safe for those athletes.

Collagen Protein vs. Whey Protein for Joint Pain and Functioning

As the body ages, natural collagen production begins to decline. According to preliminary research, the body produces 1% less collagen each year after turning 20-25. 

If you are a bodybuilder or athlete that finds aging has brought with it thinning hair, joint pain, or loss of elasticity, collagen may be a supplement to explore and research for potential benefits. While the research is still somewhat light, it does show promise! [5]

Collagen Protein vs. Whey Protein to Achieve Bodybuilding Goals

At the end of the day, bodybuilders have clear goals: more muscle, lean body fat, and efficient results. Because of these goals and the training protocols needed to achieve them, whey protein will likely be the superior choice for most bodybuilding athletes. Its efficacy has been well-studied for decades.

Bottom Line: Should You Take Collagen Protein or Whey Protein?

As with all supplements, the overarching theme of the collagen vs. whey debate can be summed up with this: it depends. Do collagen’s potential benefits, like improved skin elasticity, intrigue you? The jury is still out in the greater scientific community, but that doesn’t mean it causes any harm to experiment.

However, if you are looking for a science-backed solution to increased muscle building and repair, whey protein will always be a safe and easily accessible choice. Like with any other supplement, do your research, invest in good-quality ingredients, and monitor your body to assess any changes or improvements.

  1. Marshall, L. Collagen: ‘fountain of youth’ or edible hoax? WebMD (2019). Available at: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20191212/collagen-supplements-what-the-research-shows. (Accessed: 20th December 2022) 
  2. Branched chain amino acids and their importance in nutrition – Researchgate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282332420_Branched_chain_amino_acids_and_their_importance_in_nutrition. (Accessed: 20th December 2022) 
  3. S;, P. S. E. V. H. Acute effects of whey protein isolate on cardiovascular risk factors in overweight, post-menopausal women. Atherosclerosis Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20561625/. (Accessed: 20th December 2022) 
  4. Protective effect of whey proteins against nonalcoholic fatty liver in rats. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51047831_Protective_effect_of_whey_proteins_against_nonalcoholic_fatty_liver_in_rats. (Accessed: 20th December 2022) 
  5. Proksch E;Segger D;Degwert J;Schunck M;Zague V;Oesser S; Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin pharmacology and physiology Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23949208/. (Accessed: 20th December 2022) 
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