In “The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman,” author Tim Ferris warns us to beware of “marketing-speak” and “scientific-sounding” words. Read the product descriptions and marketing claims of the myriad new collagen supplements on the market, and you’ll hear terms such as glowing skin or youthful complexion, improved skin elasticity, stronger nails, and lustrous hair growth. Given these purported benefits, it’s no wonder most collagen products are marketed towards women.
But collagen is for men as well. So, in this guide, we’ll explore all of those previous mentioned benefits as well as additional benefits of collagen supplementation, such as joint health, muscle mass, healthy aging, muscle recovery, and heart health. In adherence to Mr. Ferris’s warning, we also investigate the clinical research to validate these claims. And given all men have skin and nails, and most have hair and would like to age gracefully, we believe collagen may be a worthy addition to a man’s supplement regimen.
After defining collagen, its types, and forms, and why we need to replenish this protein as we age, we review the results of clinical trials and, in a bonus section, provide our picks for the best collagen supplements for men. Where possible, we avoid scientific terminology such as “triple helix strands” and “extracellular matrix” and attempt to impart the necessary information in laymen’s terms. We recommend the (NCBI) National Center for Biotechnical Information for those interested in a more in-depth scientific explanation.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein. Like all proteins, collagen is comprised of amino acids, primarily glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. It is the most abundant structural protein in the body, found in skin, connective tissue, tendons, bones, and cartilage. It is also present in hair, blood vessels, and the lungs. The word is derived from the Greek “kola,” which means gum, and “gen,” meaning producing. Collagen plays a critical connective role in biological structures. As a structural protein, collagen provides structural support, a framework for cells and tissues, and plays important roles in cellular processes. Endogenous collagen is a natural protein synthesized by the body, and Exogenous collagen is a synthetic derived from an outside source, such as supplements.
There are twenty-eight known types of collagens. The five most prevalent in supplements, Types I, II, III, V, and X discussed in greater detail below. Some 90% of the collagen in our bodies is either Type I, II, or III.
Age-Related Collagen Loss
Like male hormones, collagen production naturally declines beginning in your thirties. As collagen density and elastin decline, the skin’s structural integrity is impacted, wrinkles form, and joint cartilage weakens. In addition, your collagen becomes fragmented and more loosely distributed, leading to dry, sagging skin.
The integrity of the collagen found in the skeletal system decreases with age as well, adversely affecting connective tissue, joints, bone strength, and blood vessel walls.
Lifestyle-Related Collagen Loss
Lifestyle decisions play an integral role in determining how gracefully you age and your healthy lifespan. A healthy diet, regular exercise, avoidance of tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption, are excellent anti-aging strategies. They also positively affect collagen production.
The typical Western diet, high in fats, sodium, excessive sugar, and processed foods, reduces collagen turnover, as does a sedentary lifestyle. Smoking will degrade collagen, causing wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and visible signs of skin aging. Excessive alcohol consumption is also detrimental. Excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can degrade collagen production – wearing sunscreen and limiting your exposure can help prevent signs of premature aging.
What are Collagen Supplements?
Many people turn to cosmetics or supplements to replenish collagen levels when faced with declining collagen production. Topicals, including creams, lotions, and serums, claim to revitalize the skin by increasing collagen levels; however, collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin. Any noticeable improvements in appearance and elasticity are most likely due to the moisturizing effects of these products. Collagen supplements are ingestible, and efficacy is supported by clinical trials as reported by the NCBI, discussed in detail in the Benefits section of this article.
Collagen supplements are designed to replenish this important protein’s levels lost due to aging, environmental-related oxidative damage, or lifestyle choices. The collagen formulated for supplements is extracted from animal and plant sources or recombinant protein production systems. Although plants do not have naturally occurring collagen, they contain other proteins that mirror the effects of collagen and have vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants beneficial in collagen production. For example, vitamin C is essential for the manufacture of collagen. The most common animal collagen sources are bovine (cattle) and porcine (pig) by-products, eggshells, and marine organisms such as fish and shellfish.
There are single collagen supplements on the market; however, most manufacturers use several different types of collagens in their formulations, with Types I and III, or Types I, II, III, V, and X being the most frequent combinations. We discuss each type and its intended benefits in a later segment.
Forms of Collagen Supplements
Collagen supplements use various delivery systems such as capsules, powders, tablets, liquids, and gummies. Unflavored powders seem to be the format of choice for most men; however, flavored products are also available. Some men prefer the convenience of capsules and tablets or if the taste of powders is a barrier.
Supplemental collagen protein is available in two forms: hydrolyzed and undenatured. Undenatured or non-hydrolyzed collage (Native type II collagen) is in its natural bioactive form; the proteins are still intact and have not been further processed into their amino acids. Conversely, hydrolyzed collagen (collagen hydrolysate) has been processed into smaller units called peptides (groups of amino acids) for easier absorption and bioavailability. Therefore, whenever you see peptides in the product description, understand the product is collagen hydrolysate.
Another popular trend in the nutrition space is collagen from bone broth protein, made by simmering marrow-rich animal bones (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) in water to release their collagen and protein and then turned into a powder. The resulting broth is rich in collagen, nutrient-dense, and savory. In addition, broths typically have a higher protein content than other supplements.
Types, Sources, and Function of Collagen Proteins
According to your source, there are 28 or 29 types of collagen protein in humans, all designated by a Roman numeral, I through XXIX. Seven types, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and X, are crucial for human health. Our focus is the five types used most frequently in supplements, types 1-3, and types 5 and 10 (I, II, III, V, and X). These collagen types are an essential part of our physical makeup, found in our skin, hair, nails, teeth, blood vessel walls, organs, bones, connective tissue, and cartilage.
The most abundant collagen in the human body is a primary component of teeth and bone, also found in the skin, connective tissue, blood vessels, lungs, and heart. Exogenous Type I is often sourced from marine or cattle but may be from porcine or eggshell membrane. Type I is used to support healthy skin, hair, and nails and may be beneficial for osteoarthritis.
Type II (native collagen) is the principal constituent of cartilage, bone, and other connective tissue. Most Type II supplements come from chickens – also plentiful in chicken broth. Type II is an important protein that helps build and repair cartilage, supports gut health, and promotes immune function. Type II is essential for those seeking improved joint health and is used to treat arthritis.
Type III, an essential component of arterial walls and muscles, is also found along with Type I in skin, bones, tendons, lungs, and ligaments. Beef is a popular source of Type III in supplementation. Type III is key for the cardiovascular system while also supporting skin and bone health. The second most abundant collagen of soft tissue, works effectively when combined with Type I.
Not as abundant in the body as Types I, II, and III, Type V plays a role in forming cell membrane and the tissue in a woman’s placenta. Typically sourced from eggshell membrane, Type V collagen contributes to bone tissue, the corneal stroma (connective tissue), and helps protect muscles, the liver, lungs, and placenta.
Type X is another lesser collagen in the body involved in bone formation in cartilage. Sourced from chicken or bovine in most supplements, this collagen plays a crucial role in healing joints.
In addition to the functions/benefits cited above, healthcare professionals use collagen-based materials in the medical field to help treat burns, wounds, in the reconstruction of bones, and dental and orthopedic surgeries.
Most of the best-in-class men’s collagen supplements feature Types I – III minimally, with some protein powders and broths including Types V and X. Vitamin C, zinc, and copper are also required for collagen production, and many supplements will also include one or all of these elements.
Getting Collagen from Your Diet vs. Supplementing
To reiterate, the body naturally produces collagen, assimilates collagen from the foods we eat or replenishes by supplementation. Endogenous collagen results from the amino acids (the building blocks) in the protein-rich foods we eat, vitamin C, zinc, and copper. The collagen consumed from food sources tends to be more bioavailable than dietary supplements.
Collagen is present in all animals, concentrated in the skin, ligaments, and joints. Bone broth is a particularly rich source of collagen:
- Egg whites
- Fish and shellfish
- Bone broth
Vitamin C Foods
- Citrus fruits
- Tropical fruits, mango, kiwi, pineapple
- Red and green peppers
Additional Vitamins and Minerals
- Leafy greens
For those with diets deficient in any of the essential elements for collagen, amino acid-rich proteins, vitamin C, or minerals, production may be impaired, and supplementation may be necessary to restore your collagen levels.
In this segment, we recite the benefits of collagen supplementation as quoted by the products/brands in the space; however, we go a step further and review the clinical data for each purported benefit. The health benefits cited most frequently include improved skin elasticity, strengthening hair and nails, reduced joint pain, and prevention of bone loss. Other benefits include immune support, cardiovascular and digestive health, and weight management.
We turn to the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnical Information) for a review of clinical studies to support the efficacy of collagen supplementation in delivering the following benefits:
Potential Skin Benefits of Collagen Supplementation
Improving aspects of skin health is one of the most frequently cited claims of collagen supplements. In their review of nineteen clinical trials that included 1,125 participants (disclaimer – 95% of participants were women) between the ages of 20 and 70, the NCBI found that taking hydrolyzed collagen (peptides) improved skin hydration, elasticity, and reduced wrinkles compared with placebo treatments. An important caveat, many of these studies were funded by the companies that produce collagen products; however, these were randomized, blind, placebo-controlled studies.
The dosages of collagen used in these research studies varied from 2.5–15 grams of collagen peptides per day. Other ingredients in the tested formulations included vitamin C, native vitamin E complex, zinc, biotin, and acerola fruit extract.
Potential Benefits for Bone Health
Another study illustrated the benefit of collagen in improving bone mineral density (BMD) – important as reduced BMD may lead to osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the study was conducted exclusively on postmenopausal women. Participants who supplemented with collagen peptides (5 gm/day) for one year exhibited significant increases in BMD compared to participants who took a placebo.
Given the study design, older, postmenopausal women with reduced BMD, it is difficult to discern if collagen supplements would have similar effects in other populations.
Potential Benefit in Combatting Sarcopenia
A condition of aging of significant concern to many men is muscle loss/wasting, known as sarcopenia. Adverse conditions that contribute to sarcopenia include systemic/chronic inflammation, reduced anabolic hormones, and oxidative stress – free radical damage. Not surprisingly, lifestyle changes are again key to improving the symptoms of this condition. Exercise, in particular, resistance training, coupled with protein supplements, can be very effective.
The design of the clinical studies to address collagen’s effect on sarcopenia is much more favorable to our review. These studies featured men, typically older men, who suffered from sarcopenia. The results showed that resistance exercise, performed three times per week and collagen hydrolysate supplementation, could significantly increase muscle mass, muscular strength, and decrease fat in participants.
In randomized controlled trials, Type II collagen and collagen peptides were shown to effectively treat osteoarthritis. In both studies, participants were patients diagnosed with OA of the knee. In one trial, the protocols were acetaminophen only or acetaminophen plus Type II collagen. The combination treatment was proven superior. In a separate trial, undenatured Type II collagen (UC II) was compared to a placebo or glucosamine and chondroitin for effectiveness – with UC II proven more effective. The NCBI contends that both collagen hydrolysates and native collagen reduce OA pain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Benefits
RA is a chronic and debilitating autoimmune and inflammatory disorder that causes cartilage and bone erosion in joints. In two separate clinical studies, Type II collagen from chicken was observed to be an effective treatment for RA, leading the NCBI to conclude that Type II has the potential to treat autoimmune diseases with no adverse side effects.
UC II reduced the symptoms of both osteoarthritis and RA, including joint stiffness.
Potential for Weight Management
Beyond the significant benefits reviewed above, collagen supplements may provide additional health benefits. The NCBI further addresses uses in wound healing, treating (GERD) gastroesophageal reflux, and dental procedures.
In several studies, such as the sarcopenia trials, participants markedly improved body composition when supplementation was combined with resistance training.
A quick summary of benefits and types of collagens. Type I and Type III hydrolysates are your best options for skin, hair, nails, muscle retention, and body composition. Specifically for joints, Type II native collagen from chickens is the best source. We suggest you seek a high-quality supplement with Types I – III at a minimum, or all five of the types reviewed in our article for overall health.
Is Collagen for Men Safe?
As observed in the clinical trials, there are relatively few adverse side effects from oral collagen supplementation. However, some people may experience heartburn, constipation, bloating, or stomach pain. In addition, those with food allergies should exercise caution and review their supplement with a medical professional as collagen supplements often contain eggs, fish, and shellfish.
As always, consult with your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your regimen.
Stacking Collagen with Other Men’s Supplements
Just what supplements should be in your regimen? If this article has illustrated the need for a collagen supplement to address dietary deficiencies or restore collagen levels, you may want to consider several additional items.
- MVM Multivitamin/Mineral is another insurance policy to ensure you meet your RDA for all essential vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin C – if your collagen supplement is not fortified with Vitamin C, you may want to add it to your program.
- EFAs – Essential Fatty Acids, fish oil, or an omega 3 supplement.
- Pre- and Probiotics – Prebiotics and probiotics are good for gut health and immune support.
- Whey Protein – Yes, this is another type of protein and provides the amino acids required for collagen production. Collagen, however, is not a complete protein, as it does not have all nine essential amino acids. Although high in the amino acid proline, collage is not as abundant in BCAAs, leucine, valine, and iso-leucine, meaning your anabolic factor may not be as great.
For the more serious athlete, particularly strength athletes, creatine, beta-alanine, caffeine, and glutamine are considerations, as are electrolytes for the endurance athlete.
In Summary: Collagen for Men
Healthy lifestyle choices, a nutrient-dense diet, exercise, and avoiding tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption will help delay the visible signs of aging, age-associated changes in collagen levels and improve your overall health. Using a high-quality collagen supplement to address any dietary deficiencies or replenish diminished collagen levels is clinically validated. Per the NCBI, collagen-based products and treatments have great potential and are among the most important supplements in an anti-aging regimen.
We identify several of our favorite collagen supplements for men in the following bonus segment.
Best Collagen for Men
Live Conscious Collagen Peptides
Live Conscious Collagen Peptides is a hydrolyzed Type I and III collagen blend for skin, hair, nails, and joint health. This unflavored collagen powder is sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised, non-GMO, Grade A bovine, certified hormone-free. Manufactured in the USA to quality control standards that exceed expectations set by cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices).
All Live Conscious products (formerly Live Well) are independent; third-party tested to ensure quality and purity. Money-back guarantee.CODE “SHARE10” FOR 10% OFF LIVE CONSCIOUS COLLAGEN PEPTIDES
YouTheory Men’s Collagen Protein
YouTheory Men’s Collagen Protein is a hydrolyzed collagen peptide supplement in a tablet delivery, fortified with Vitamin C and biotin. An efficacious formula for healthy skin, hair, and nails that also works well to reduce joint pain from tendons or ligaments.
One of the original collagen supplement brands,
YouTheory is manufactured in California in a cGMP-certified facility and sold in more than 60,000 retailers worldwide. Gluten, dairy, and soy-free.BUY 1 GET 1 50% OFF YOUTHEORY MEN’S COLLAGEN PROTEIN
Orgain Collagen Peptides
Created by cancer survivor Dr. Andrew Abraham, most Orgain products are Certified Organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made without soy or artificial ingredients.
Orgain Collagen Peptides, Hair, Skin, Nail, and Joint Support is from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle and is gluten, dairy, and soy-free. Orgain features Types I and III peptides, 20 grams per serving. We like that the amino acid profile includes eight essential aminos, plus the BCAAs leucine, valine, and iso-leucine. The unflavored and odorless powder mixes easily into any hot or cold beverage.GET THE BEST PRICE ON ORGAIN COLLAGEN PEPTIDES
Ancient Nutrition Multi-Collagen Protein
From Dr. Axe, Non-GMO, grass-fed and pasture-raised, sourced cage-free and cruelty-free, without hormones. Includes Type I, II, III, V, and X collagens, hence the name, “Multi Collage.” This unique formulation includes vitamin C and probiotics. Ancient Nutrition’s collagen is clinically proven to support healthy skin, hair, nails, joints, and digestion.
Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen comes flavored or unflavored and is certified non-GMO. Twenty grams of high-quality protein per serving -improves exercise recovery by 53%.GET THE BEST PRICE ON ANCIENT NUTRITION MULTI-COLLAGEN PROTEIN
Dr. Kellyann Bone Broth with Collagen
We’ve mentioned that bone broth is an excellent source of collagen. One of the most popular broths on the market today is from Dr. Kellyann Petrucci. With zero fat, no added sugars, only two carbs, and fifteen grams of protein per serving, Dr. Kellyann’s product is ideal for Keto, Paleo, or weight management. Sourced from chicken and grass-fed beef hydrolyzed collagen. Gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, and sugar-free.
One of the best-tasting broths on the market, delivered in convenient packets for on-the-go use.CODE “FITNESSCLONE” FOR $10 OFF DR. KELLYANN BONE BROTH