Not All Collagen Supplements Are Equal: Know how to find which ones work and which ones to avoid.
Are you using the right collagen for your goals?
Every brand that makes a collagen supplement will claim to be the best, but how do you know if you can trust that you will get real results?
In this blog you will learn what are the key 4 questions you need to ask before you buy any collagen product.
First, What Is Collagen Good For?
A good collagen supplement can moisturize your skin, strengthen your hair & nails, and improve the health of your joints & bones from the inside out.
A collagen supplement enhances connective tissue, which means your skin, everything underneath it, and all the structures that keep everything in your body connected. It is truly the great unifier: collagen health = full-body health.
Click on the links to read up on what collagen should be used for:
✓ And possibly better gut health
You can (and probably should) take collagen on a ketogenic diet, read more on that here: Shocking Facts You Should Know About Keto And Collagen.
Whether it’s better mobility and less joint pain, stronger tendons and ligaments and bones, glowing moisturized skin, or stronger hair and nails, choosing quality is not always an obvious decision, right?
How Do You Know If Your Collagen Supplement Really Works?
Here are some hints before we dive into these 4 key questions:
- Does your collagen give the right amount of the right types of collagen?
- What about other ingredients? Do they support collagen function or are they just fillers? Why should you even care?
- Is your collagen supported by scientific studies and real testimonials?
- Is your collagen certified to be free from contaminants and banned substances? Does it actually contain what’s on the label?
If you only use products that meet all these requirements, you’ll be pleased with the results. Not every collagen supplement checks all these boxes. In fact, the companies that just want to make a quick buck don’t satisfy any of them.
You might not even know how to check for each of these. That’s why we’ve put this collagen buying guide together: to give you the knowledge to empower your decisions.
Keep reading to learn the details of each question, but if you just want to jump straight to our ranking of the top collagen supplements of 2020, click here: What Is The Best Collagen Supplement On The Market?
So, What Collagen Supplement Should You Buy?
With so many supplement companies jumping on the collagen bandwagon (collagen was one of the biggest supplement trends of 2019), you can just get the first collagen supplement that shows up on Amazon and get it delivered tomorrow, right?
Nope. Not even close.
Your needs are not the same as everyone else's on Amazon or around the world. Your body and mind are unique; you deserve a supplement that works for your unique needs. I want to make sure you’re able to make the best decision with this information.
Ok so let me mention this, FDA regulation is pretty loose with collagen and the industry is full of over-hyped products that deliver little to no results.
Side effects from low quality supplements range from simple ineffectiveness to serious cross-contamination concerns that can lead to severe symptoms like rashes, breakouts, allergies, and mystery inflammation.
Just check the 1-star reviews on Amazon for other products. How are you supposed to make your 2020 resolutions when your supplement is what’s holding you back?
It’s up to you as the consumer to make an informed decision. Finding products that have reputable, third-party, post-production certification is critical for getting a collagen supplement that really works. That high of a standard may seem like going a bit overboard, yet it is truly critical if you want to support your health and not harm it.
Question 1: “Is this enough of the right type of collagen?”
Scientists have discovered 28 different types of collagen, and that number keeps growing. Even if you boil it down to the top 3 most common ones in your body, it still isn’t obvious which ones you should be taking for what.
I’ll take out the guesswork right now:
- If you want to nourish your skin, ligaments, bones, blood vessels (and indirectly your hair and nails) and support natural beauty from the inside out, types I and III collagen are going to serve you best.
- If you want to see the benefits in your bones and stiff connective tissues (ie. the cartilage in your joints), type I and type II collagen is best. Resync Your Joints now has both of these types of collagen for total connective tissue health.
Minor collagen types may be useful for specific applications, but they are only present in tiny quantities in your body and research studies haven’t yet shown whether or not they’re a useful supplement to take.
This means that for a healthy heart, beautiful skin, solid bones, and resilient connective tissue, type I collagen is the most important piece of any supplement, followed by type III, and then type II.
The way your collagen supplement is made is just as important.
Traditionally, supplemental collagen was taken in the form of gelatin. Gelatin is actually made of collagen, but it’s in the form of huge proteins that can cause gut pain and aren’t absorbed very well.
Studies show that taking a hydrolyzed collagen is best. Hydrolyzed collagen is a broken down gelatin that gives your body easily digestible amino acids and functional peptides (2 or more amino acids joined together).
When your body sees those peptides, scientists think it signals an anti-inflammatory reaction so that your collagen cells can use them first before other organs and cells have a chance. They are absorbed intact and in a form that your body can use right away.
Can you just take the right amino acids?
The newest trend is vegan collagen builder supplements. These have the same basic amino acids that real collagen supplements have, they’re just from a plant source instead of from animals.
Some scientists think that the most important amino acid in collagen building might be glycine, others say proline, and some say that it’s the multiple-amino-acid units (“peptides”) that make the difference.
So, if you take enough of these aminos, they might do some good for the health of your skin and bones. In short, we just don’t know enough to say whether targeted amino acid supplements do enough.
We do have enough evidence to show that hydrolyzed collagen supplements are your best choice though. The research available shows that collagen peptides are the form that’s absorbed best, used most effectively, and make the biggest impact on joint and skin health.
What about ethical and sustainable collagen?
Grass-fed, free-range (or in the case of marine collagen: wild-caught) collagen sources are the best for the planet. The collagen in Resync comes from quality-certified sources.
To sum up the first question you should ask when staring down the supplement aisle:
- Make sure your collagen has types I and III if you’re looking for glowing skin, stronger bones, and better connective tissue.
- To maximize your body’s ability to digest, absorb, and utilize the collagen, take a hydrolyzed collagen peptide supplement.
- Add an eco-conscious level to your purchasing decisions by choosing grass-fed or wild-caught marine collagen whenever possible.
Note: click here if you're curious whether marine collagen is good for you and safe.
“How Much Collagen Do I Need To Take?”
This one’s an easy question to answer.
Check out the nutrition label and look for the grams of protein per serving. The research shows that you should take 10-15 grams per day for 8 weeks for better hair and skin. Some research shows that you should take at least 5 grams per day for 6 months for stronger bones. Still other research says that if you’re not getting the expected results, you may need to take much more collagen per day.
Some products out there are so full of fillers that you might have to take it 5 times per day to actually see any benefit!
Another major thing to pay attention to here is that you must take collagen consistently to get the benefits! Your body can’t optimize connective tissue with a steady stream of building blocks!
So, make sure your collagen supplement provides 10 to 15 grams of collagen hydrolysate per serving, and take it daily, not occasionally.
Question 2: “Are there other useful ingredients, or are they just fillers?”
Do these ingredients synergize, or are they just added as fillers?
Fillers to look out for in collagen supplements
Fillers to watch out for are carrageenan, artificial colors, and synthetic flavors which give no benefit for you and can even cause allergic reactions! Some companies use sweeteners like sugar, glucose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, and other, which may lead to a better flavor, but at what cost?
One way to see if your protein supplement is diluted with cheap amino acid fillers - called “protein spiking” - is to find out if the company makes the amino acid profile of their product available to the public.
If a company won’t give you the detailed breakdown of what amino acids are in their product, how can you know whether you’re taking a bunch of cheap amino acids vs. the real deal?
Resync, for example, is made with one of the most well-tested collagen peptide supplements available, Peptan. The detailed information on the proteins, peptides, and amino acids in our blend are available in this brochure. We know that you need the right information to make the best decision, and besides: why would we want to hide the quality that our reputation is based on?
Should your collagen have Vitamin C?
One “extra” ingredient to keep in mind is the antioxidant vitamin C (“ascorbic acid”), which plays a crucial role in making collagen.
If there isn’t enough vitamin C in your body, the amino acid structure can’t be properly made and your collagen starts to fall apart, a condition known as “scurvy”.
But recent research has proven that even if you’re not deficient in vitamin C, you still might not be getting all the benefits of a collagen supplement.
15g of vitamin C is enough to enhance the absorption and benefits of a gelatin supplement. Clinical trials are currently underway to see if 100% of your daily recommended value (60-90 grams) gives even better results.
So, going back to what else you need to pay attention to as a smart consumer: check if your collagen product delivers at least 100% (90 grams) of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C, if not more.
What about collagen with other ingredients?
Other natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients are a big plus!
Many people take a collagen supplement to minimize the damage of the modern environment. Those same people are probably exposed to higher levels of oxidative damage and inflammation, which suggests that they may benefit from a spectrum of natural antioxidants.
Something else to look out for are circulation-enhancing ingredients. A strong heart and healthy blood veins make sure that your skin and organs are getting vital nutrients.
Resync Collagen for example, is unique in its emphasis on heart health with the most powerful natural nitric oxide sources known. What’s nitric oxide, you may ask?
Nitric oxide is an anti-inflammatory molecule your body uses to tell your blood veins to relax, which increases blood flow. Red spinach extract is one of the most potent sources of nitric oxide, and it’s featured alongside the powerful aronia berry extract and the industry standard beet powder, in our blend.
Plus, since micro-circulation in the space between blood vessels works a little differently than the bigger blood vessels, we include mango extractーa natural micro-circulation enhancer.
So, make sure your collagen supplement has 90mg of vitamin C or more, and it’s a big plus if it contains antioxidants and any additional natural, standardized ingredients like nitrates if optimal heart health is one of your health goals.
Question 3: “Are there clinical studies to back up the health claims on the bottle?”
It’s always a bonusーin my opinion, a mustーthat the source of collagen you use has had clinical studies that demonstrate that it can be helpful at your age, your physical activity level, and in line with your purpose of using the product. We know 99% of them do not.
The collagen used for example in Resync Collagen was shown to support recovery from athletic performance in typical adults. Other high quality collagen sources have been recently shown to support bone health, and the use of collagen for osteoarthritis and joint pain have been studied at length.
Want more evidence? Check out Peptan’s science page here.
We try a hard as we can to make sure to never misrepresent our brand. Despite what other companies may claim, we know that just taking a collagen supplement isn’t the quick fix to all your problems, especially if there are other things in your lifestyle holding you back.
Collagen is a sensible addition if you’ve got a healthy diet and exercise routine down already.
It’s also only a sensible addition if you can actually know what you’re putting in your body. Regardless of which source of collagen you decide to consume, the most important consideration is:
Question 4: “Is it certified by an independent, 3rd-party testing lab?”
Just because a product was formulated by a doctor or endorsed by a celebrity, it doesn’t mean that the product is clean, safe, effective, independently tested for quality, or certified.
The responsibility is on you to check for all these markers of quality. That is why Resync products are taken by elite athletes in the U.S. - these performers not only see and feel the differences in their performance and recovery, but they objectively know that the quality of our products can be trusted because it is verified by a 3rd party testing lab.
Third-party testing labs are independent companies that make sure the ingredients on a product label are actually present in those same amounts.
They make sure that contaminants like mold or industrial byproducts are lower than federally mandated levels.
Some supplement makers try to get away with cutting their product with unlabeled fillers. Protect yourself by looking for a quality seal certification like NSF or FDA’s GRAS (“Generally Recognized as Safe”) label.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between NSF Certification and NSF Sport Certification. The former simply means that what is on the label is what is in the product. The latter means that the company has additionally, gone through extended testing for banned substances.
Other 3rd-party testing labs make sure that a supplement is FREE of banned substances that would put your health and performance in jeopardy. These companies are critical for maintaining transparency, and you should be rightfully suspicious of any company that isn’t certified.
Resync products are certified by two of the most respected independent product testing organizations, NSF Sport and the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG).
When you see the “NSF Certified for Sport” quality seal (a certification level higher than the basic NSF certification) or the BSCG stamp of approval, you know that the product went through a detailed banned substances testing.
Look for those marks so you can focus on your health and vitality instead of worrying whether the product you use works or if it’s causing side effects.
Remember, when you buy products that have these certifications, you’re buying quality and transparency. This is what Resync stands for!
When I was formulating Resync Collagen Blend, I travelled the world to learn from the best collagen researchers, I held manufacturers to the highest standards (and said “no thanks” when they couldn’t keep up with our vision), and I’ve made sure that Resync products are clinically tested to prove how they can be best used. If you're not convinced yet, click here to learn why Resync might be the product for you.
And if you’re curious what other brands stack up to Resync, check out another article in our buying guide:
Choosing quality is an obvious decision when you invest in your health with Resync’s products. Plus, if you invest in your health by buying our Resync Collagen, we’ll give you 3 free must-have eBooks that dispel myths and give you the practical takeaways from decades of research on collagen:
- “Collagen 101 - The Ultimate Guide to Improve Skincare, Joint Health And Energy”
- “Resync Your Performance & Recovery” and
- “7 Drinks To Guarantee You Feel, Look and Perform Your Best”
To summarize what to pay attention to when choosing a collagen supplement:
- Does this product provide enough of the type of collagen I need (for example, if you care about skin and connective tissue health, you want a source with mostly type 1 collagen)? Is it a hydrolyzed collagen? How many servings do I need to take to get 10-15 grams per day?
- Does it have 100% or more of the daily value of vitamin C (60-90 mg)? Does it have any other antioxidants or natural nitrates? What about fillers and artificial ingredients? Your collagen isn’t working for you if it doesn’t.
- Does this collagen have any clinical studies to back its health claims up? What about trustworthy testimonials vetting its effectiveness?
- Is your collagen NSF-sport or BSCG-drug free certified to be free from contaminants, banned substances, and actually contain what it says it does? Does the specific collagen have GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) status?
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While some companies try to sell their stuff with clickbait and fake news, we make sure you have the research that backs up our claims. We believe that if you have the right information, you’ll be empowered to make the best decision for yourself. That’s why we break down the complex science of nutrition and supplements into practical takeaways you can incorporate into your life today.
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Paz-Lugo, Patricia De, et al. “High Glycine Concentration Increases Collagen Synthesis by Articular Chondrocytes in Vitro: Acute Glycine Deficiency Could Be an Important Cause of Osteoarthritis.” Amino Acids, vol. 50, no. 10, 2018, pp. 1357–1365., doi:10.1007/s00726-018-2611-x.
Shaw, Gregory, et al. “Vitamin C–Enriched Gelatin Supplementation before Intermittent Activity Augments Collagen Synthesis.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 105, no. 1, 2016, pp. 136–143., doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.138594.
Skov, Kathrine, et al. “Enzymatic Hydrolysis of a Collagen Hydrolysate Enhances Postprandial Absorption Rate—A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 5, 2019, p. 1064., doi:10.3390/nu11051064.
Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated 09/22/2020