Why Collagen Burns More Fat and Builds More Muscle Than Whey

When it comes to fat burning and muscle toning, whey protein has been the protein of choice for dieters, athletes, and body builders alike for over 50 years. But recent research on the many benefits of collagen protein have made it the new superfood favourite of health professionals, fitness fanatics, and celebrities. Collagen protein is promised to boost protein intake, create smoother, younger looking skin, strengthen hair, nails, and teeth, ease joint pain, and repair the digestive system[1],[2]. But does collagen really live up to all the hype? And does it really help to build muscle and burn fat, even more than whey protein?

Better for Body Toning

High protein diets have been proven to be best for burning fat while building long, lean muscles, for optimal body toning[3].

Creating long, lean, toned muscles without bulk requires a delicate balance of burning fat and building some muscle, without replacing all the fat mass with muscle. It’s often hard to achieve a slim, toned look with supplements like whey protein, because whey protein is specifically designed to build muscle and add bulk.

If you simply want to tone muscles, the focus needs to be more on retaining or slightly building muscle mass, while predominantly burning fat mass to reveal the underlying muscles and reduce overall body size.

Collagen has been found in studies to be superior at maintaining muscle mass when compared to whey protein[4]. This is important because maintaining muscle mass, particularly as we reduce overall body weight, is essential for attaining that “toned” look.

How the Body Builds Muscle

In order to understand how beneficial is for toning the body, it’s important to look at how the body actually builds muscle.

When we perform body building exercise, like weight lifting, the muscles get challenged, and some muscle fibres break. The body uses protein consumed in the diet to rebuild the muscles, and in response to the stress of the exercise, muscles are built bigger and stronger than before[5].

The building blocks of the proteins needed to rebuild muscles are called amino acids. There are 22 amino acids, and nine are called “essential”. They are essential because they can’t be made in the body and so we need to consume them in the diet[6]. The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—have been shown to be particularly effective at building muscle. Because whey protein is rich in these BCAAs, it has been favoured for body builders and for increasing muscle size and mass especially.

Balancing Fat Burning and Muscle Building

But many people, particularly women, don’t want to build a lot of muscle or increase body size. In fact, this is the opposite of what we want to do!

Collagen can have many benefits for body toning over “heavier” supplements like whey, and here’s why:

  • Collagen helps to retain muscle while you lose weight. This means that as you lose fat, your slim, toned muscles underneath will be revealed, without losing your muscle[7].
  • Collagen is one of the most essential components of the body and yet we often don’t consume enough collagen in our diets. Humans used to eat much more collagen rich foods, such as the skin and connective tissues of animals, but nowadays we prefer not to eat those foods. While collagen rich foods like bone broths are making a resurgence, sadly many of us lack collagen in the diet.
  • On the other hand, we can get the BCAAs in our regular diets from milk, soy, eggs, beef, chicken, legumes, and many other sources. This means if you have to choose a supplement, it might be better to choose collagen—which we don’t get enough of—over BCAAs—which we often do.
  • Whey protein is rich in BCAAs, which make it especially engineered to build larger muscles. Collagen is rich in different amino acids—glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine[8].
  • Glycine is involved in the synthesis of creatinine, a key component in maintaining muscle strength. It helps you to power through your workout, burning fat while toning muscles[9].
  • Collagen contain 8 out of the 9 essential amino acids, however it is not particularly high in BCAAs, which may make it useful as a protein source without the properties that encourage huge muscle size increase.
  • Collagen has a huge range of other benefits for health and beauty which are seen as big pluses by those who want to tone the body, particularly women.

Benefits of Collagen Protein

One of the reasons that collagen is so popular, particularly amongst celebrities, influencers, and those in the beauty industry, is that as well as helping with muscle toning and exercise recovery, collagen has a huge range of other benefits, including:

  • The glycine in collagen is converted to glutathione in the body, which is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants[10].
  • Collagen improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles[11].
  • Collagen is great for strong and healthy hair and nails[12].
  • Collagen is a part of a healthy digestive system[13].
  • Collagen helps to reduce inflammation and promote joint healing[14].
  • Collagen may reduce cellulite[15].

When it comes to choosing a protein supplement that’s ideal for burning fat and streamlining muscles for the perfect slim, toned body, collagen protein is one of the best supplements for overall health, beauty, and fitness.

[1] https://lugonutrition.com/uncategorized/benefits-side-effects-collagen-supplements/

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/collagen-powder-benefits#top-benefits

[3] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822309002909

[5] https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/musclesgrowLK.html

[6] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm

[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822309002909

[8] https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/collagen-protein-powder-workout/slide/2/

[9] https://www.healthline.com/health/collagen-powder-benefits#top-benefits

[10] https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/collagen-protein-powder-workout/slide/2/

[11] https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/351376

[12] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12393

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14600124

[14] https://science.sciencemag.org/content/261/5129/1727.long

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4685482/

About the Author

Cara Dibdin is a Dietician & Exercise Scientist and a writer, originally from Sydney, Australia. Specializing in health, nutrition, behaviour change and meditation, Cara is passionate about finding innovative ways to nourish mind and body.

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