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September 2, 2021
The Ultimate Guide to Collagen for Women Over 50 (2021)
Ever played the game Jenga?
If so, then you know that the 54-block tower is at its strongest at the very beginning of the game—when no one has taken any of the blocks out of the tower.
However, with each turn, the tower begins to lose its firm foundation, causing the structure to become weak and wobbly.
This is almost like your body and collagen as you age…
Your body with ample amounts of collagen is like a newly-built Jenga tower—strong, sturdy, and in optimal condition.
Your body without ample amounts of collagen is like a Jenga tower mid-game—lacking support, prone to disaster.
Think of it like this: Collagen is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein (1).
So in our Jenga analogy, protein is the Jenga tower and amino acids are the smaller blocks within the tower.
Where there are 54 blocks in Jenga, there are approximately 20 common amino acids that make up protein (2).
And guess what has 19 of those amino acids (3)...
What Is Collagen?
Put simply, collagen is a protein found in every organ and tissue in your body.
It’s the second most common substance in your body (right after water).
And it makes up one-third of your body’s total protein and is found in the following (4):
- Tendons and ligaments
- Blood vessels
- Internal organs
Collagen’s incredible strength comes from its firm yet flexible structure. It’s formed by three long and thin polypeptide chains made up of amino acids that are tightly wound together to form a strong triple helix.
Summary: Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body. It’s known as the glue that holds our body together, transforming gut, joint, and skin health.
What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.
Types of Collagen
Out of the 28 different types of collagen, there are three that comprise 80 to 90% of your body’s total collagen—Type 1, 2, and 3 Collagen.
Type 1 Collagen
Type 1 collagen is by far the most abundant type of collagen in your body and is typically found together with Type 3 collagen. Found just about everywhere in your body (except cartilage), these two types of collagen dominate the space between your cells known as the extracellular matrix (5, 6).
The extracellular matrix is vitally important for you to live a functional life. Its three-dimensional structure—made up of macromolecules like collagen—cushions and separates your organs, protecting them from injury (7).
Type 1 and Type 3 collagen are best known for:
- Improving the elasticity and hydration of your skin
- Giving you a more youthful appearance
- Maintaining the integrity of your spine, muscles, and eyes
- Healing the lining of your gut
Fun Fact: Gram for gram, Type 1 Collagen is 10X stronger than steel (8).
Type 2 Collagen
Type 2 collagen is mostly found in cartilage—accounting for 80% of the collagen count. Thus, it’s vastly important in supporting your bones and joints.
The unique formation of Type 2 collagen is rigid, yet flexible and strong, giving your joints the ability to absorb the shock of constant compression (9).
When depleted, arthritic pain begins to develop.
In one randomized controlled study, 39 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) were split into two groups. One group received 1,500 mg of acetaminophen (Tylenol) daily for 3 months, whereas the other group received 1,500 mg of Tylenol and 10 mg of collagen daily for 3 months (10).
Which group do you think fared better?
(Those who supplemented with both Tylenol AND collagen.)
Type 3 Collagen
Type 3 collagen makes up 5 to 20% of the collagen content in your body. It acts as a critical structural component in hollow organs like large blood vessels, uterus, and bowel (11).
Although it makes up the least amount of collagen in the body (compared to Type 1 and 2), Type 3 collagen is what gives strength and stability to your organs.
But that’s not all...
In one analysis, surgical wound fluid was collected from those who had just undergone surgery. The results were astounding—the levels of Type 3 collagen increased 2 to 3 days after the surgery, and within just 5 days, levels were increased by 1,000 (12).
Healing wounds is just one of many ways Type 3 collagen manifests itself in the body.
Summary: There are 28 types of collagen. Type 1, 2, and 3 represent 80 to 90% of your body’s total collagen.
What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.
What Is Collagen Made Up Of?
Collagen is made up of 19 different amino acids—also known as the building blocks of protein.
Remember the Jenga analogy used above? The one that explains how the tower is the protein and the blocks are the amino acids?
Now, this is where collagen comes into play—as the glue that holds it all together. Your body, and in Jenga terms—the tower.
Each amino acid offers its own unique benefits. The two most abundant amino acids are glycine and proline (3).
Known as the “anti-aging amino acid,” glycine makes up about 30% of collagen. Even though it’s the smallest amino acid, it's crucial for the synthesis of other necessary amino acids. Without it, your body wouldn’t be able to repair damaged tissues (9).
Many of the health benefits you get from collagen come from glycine. This tiny amino acid provides your body with numerous other health benefits such as:
- Regulating the breakdown of fat
- Being a cell-protecting antioxidant
- Protecting and promoting the health of your liver and kidneys (13, 14)
- Reducing the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (15)
- Reducing inflammation (16)
- Improving blood pressure (17)
- Preventing arthritis (18)
- Promoting better sleep (19)
- Improving gut lining while preventing leaky gut (18)
Making up about 10-15% of collagen, proline is vital for collagen synthesis (i.e. the production of collagen)…
In order to make collagen, your body first needs to convert proline into the amino acids hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline.
Even though proline (along with glycine) is a “non-essential” amino acid—meaning your body has the ability to make its own—the name is deceiving.
In fact, mounting evidence is suggesting that it should be considered a “conditionally essential” or “functionally essential” amino acid (20).
The benefits of proline include:
- Aids in (and is vital to) wound healing (21)
- Improves the immune system (22)
- Prevents obesity (23)
- Aids in digestion (20)
- Improves cardiovascular health (24)
- Protects reproductive health (23)
Here’s the catch: Even though your body can make proline and glycine, it doesn’t make enough to meet your body’s needs. Thus, a collagen peptide supplement is needed to ensure that you’re getting enough proline and glycine.
Summary: Collagen is made up of 19 amino acids, with the two most abundant amino acids being glycine and proline—two nonessential, yet vital amino acids.
What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.
The Health Benefits of Collagen
Adding a collagen supplement to your daily regimen will enhance, repair, and strengthen nearly every part of the body.
Benefits of collagen include:
- Repels wrinkles and fine lines while firming up the skin (25)
- Repairs gut lining for optimal immune function (26)
- Tones and sculpts lean muscle (27)
- Increases joint strength and flexibility and relieves pain (28)
- Nourishes scalp hydration for hair follicle regrowth
- Supports strong hair and nails (29)
- Prevents bone loss (30)
- Increases energy (31)
- Enhances brain health (32)
- Promotes heart health (33)
- Promotes weight loss and a faster metabolism (34)
- May improve mood
The Cause of Collagen Decline
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I now have to reveal the downside of collagen…
Your body’s natural collagen production begins to decline as early as your 20s (sad, but true) (35).
So, if you’re 30 or older, your collagen levels are begging to be replenished.
Take a look at the chart below to see just how much your collagen levels plummet with each decade of your life.
By the time you reach 50 years old, your collagen levels have been cut in HALF. And that’s not taking into account alcohol, smoking, stress, UV exposure, or processed food—all of which speed up the decline of your collagen levels even more.
Wondering how to know if you have a collagen deficiency?
Summary: Your body’s natural collagen production begins to decline as early as your 20s. By the time one reaches 50 years old, their collagen levels have decreased by a whopping 50%.
How to Know If You Have a Collagen Deficiency
You may be deficient in collagen if you’re experiencing one of the following:
- Your joints and muscles feel stiff,
- Your skin (especially in your face, neck, and chest) is becoming wrinkly and saggy,
- Your skin is becoming more prone to skin rips,
- Your bones are becoming more brittle—breaking easily,
- Your gut is irritated and bloated,
- You’re unable to have a daily bowel movement,
- You’re having more arthritic flare-ups,
- Your hair is thinning—maybe even balding,
- Or your nails are brittle—breaking easily.
These typical (but unnecessary) symptoms can all be boiled down to one thing: Not enough collagen.
Luckily, it’s an easy fix. With the right amount of high-quality collagen powder, you CAN revitalize your fountain of youth.
How Much Collagen You Should Take
When it comes to how much collagen one should take, it depends on a few different factors—your age, gender, genetics, ailment, and what you’re wanting to achieve (i.e. do you want to gain and repair muscle? Do you want to relieve joint pain? Do you want firmer skin?).
With my clients, I always recommend two phases of collagen intake: Collagen Loading and Collagen Maintenance.
Collagen Loading is a 6-to-8-week-long phase that consists of 20 to 40 grams of collagen daily. This is to restore your collagen levels to where they need to be (AKA where they used to be before your levels started declining).
Collagen Maintenance is the indefinite phase that comes immediately after the loading phase. This consists of 10 to 20 grams of collagen per day.
Here’s the breakdown of what the right amount of collagen can do for you:
Summary: There are two phases one must take in order to replenish collagen levels—Collagen Loading and Collagen Maintenance. Each phase consists of taking a specific dose of collagen for a set number of weeks.
It may feel like a chore getting your daily dose of collagen in, which leads me to my next point...
How To Consume Enough Collagen Every Day
With a premium collagen supplement, getting your daily dose of collagen is simple.
Here are my and my client’s 3 favorite ways:
- Add a scoop of unflavored collagen peptides to your morning smoothie or cup of coffee
- Add a scoop of collagen coffee creamer to your coffee and mix with your handheld frother
- Add a scoop of Wild Berry Collagen to your water and stir
Try them all, discover your favorite way to take collagen, and voila!
The Best Time to Take Your Collagen Supplement
Whether you’re the early bird or night owl, it doesn’t matter.
Collagen can be taken any time of day.
However, depending on why you take it may play a factor in when you should take it…
Collagen in the Morning
If you are supplementing with collagen in order to lose weight, then drinking it in your morning smoothie or cup of coffee may make for a more efficient weight loss journey.
According to research conducted in 2015, collagen consumption is correlated to reduced hunger and the curbing of cravings (36).
This is because glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1)—which is released when grass-fed collagen is consumed—is hard at work in your GI tract by slowing the emptying of your stomach and regulating your appetite (37, 38, 39).
And because food stimulates the release of GLP-1, a healthy, collagen-rich breakfast will satiate your hunger—allowing you to feel full longer.
My favorite way to consume collagen in the morning—Collagen Coffee Creamer. Choose from french vanilla, vanilla caramel, mocha latte, peppermint, or vanilla chia and you’ll have yourself a steaming cup of 100% yum and 0% yuck.
With just one scoop, you’ll be armed with 100% grass-fed collagen protein, pure MCT oil extracted from raw coconuts, and a touch of low-calorie monk fruit to sweeten it up (goodbye sugary coffee creamers!).
Collagen at Night
If you’re longing for a good night’s sleep, then taking collagen at night may be your best bet.
We have the amino acid—glycine—to thank for that.
Glycine is one of the more prominent amino acids in collagen—along with proline and hydroxyproline, and studies show that just 3 grams of glycine before bedtime significantly reduces fatigue and daytime sleepiness among those who suffer from insomnia (40).
30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, add a scoop to a glass of water or mix it into some relaxing chamomile tea.
Collagen after a Workout
It’s pretty standard to associate exercise with a post-workout protein shake.
But, does collagen make the cut?
More and more research is coming to light regarding the positive effects of collagen on both body composition and post-workout recovery.
In one 2019 study, researchers analyzed the effects of 57 young men—all of which were divided into a group receiving either collagen peptides or a placebo (43).
The men who took 15 grams of collagen peptides every day for 12 weeks (in addition to resistance training three times a week) saw a significant reduction in fat-free mass with no changes in body fat mass.
In a 2008 study, 97 athletes who competed on a varsity team or club sport were recruited and split into two groups—with one group taking 10 grams of collagen hydrolysate and the other group receiving a placebo (28).
After 24 weeks, the athletes taking 10 grams of collagen daily showed signs of improved joint health and possibly reduced risk of joint deterioration. Although these results are promising, future research is still needed to support these findings.
My two favorite ways to enjoy exercise-enhancing collagen is to put a scoop of Wild Berry Collagen Powder in my water bottle or post-workout smoothie.
Summary: There is no required time to take your collagen. However, if you want to lose weight, sleep better, or quicken recovery, there is a recommended time to enhance results.
Foods with Collagen
You can have your collagen and eat it too.
Before I dive into which foods are rich in collagen, there’s something you need to know: It’s extremely hard to get your recommended daily intake of collagen when supplementing with JUST food.
For one, you’d have to eat heaps of that collagen-rich food in order to meet the amount of collagen that your body needs.
Second, your body has a harder time breaking down and digesting collagen from tough, fibrous foods (hence why collagen supplements are “hydrolyzed”—meaning that the collagen has already been broken down and is more readily absorbable).
With that being said, here’s a list of collagen-rich foods:
- Citrus Fruits
- Pasture-Raised Egg Whites
- Wild-Caught Fish
- Organic Bone Broth
- Pasture-Raised Chicken
- Red & Yellow Bell Peppers
- White Tea
- Leafy Greens
With a well-rounded diet of whole foods (plus a collagen supplement), you’ll be giving your body the nutrients it needs to combat signs of aging.
Which Collagen Supplement Is Best?
With more and more collagen supplements appearing on the market, it’s crucial that you know what makes one collagen supplement different from another.
There are 6 things to look for when choosing a collagen supplement:
- “Collagen peptides”, “hydrolyzed collagen,” or “collagen hydrolysate” (spoiler: they all mean the same thing). If it’s not hydrolyzed or in peptide form, your body won’t be able to use it.
- Which animal it’s sourced from: bovine (cows), chicken, porcine (pigs), or marine (fish)
- A label that states that it is grass-fed and pasture-raised (or wild-caught when it comes to fish). This means that the animals are ethically and sustainably raised.
- No unnecessary fillers like added sugar, antibiotics, dairy, gluten, hormones, or soy.
- Developed in a certified Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility and in a third-party, FDA-approved laboratory.
- An ideal ratio of Type 1 & Type 3 collagen, so that you (and your body) get the most bang for your buck.
Wondering if you picked the right collagen supplement? Read: The Problem With Collagen Supplements
Frequently Asked Questions
You have questions, I have answers. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered in the FAQs section below, leave a comment or shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Should All 28 Types Of Collagen Be Taken Together?
No, you should not take all 28 types of collagen at once.
You’ve probably seen supplement companies promoting “multi-collagen”, boasting about how beneficial it is.
The truth is, multi-collagen supplements may as well be labeled “watered-down” collagen.
That’s because not all collagen types are absorbed equally by the body. Types 2, 4, and 5 are cheaper forms of collagen and are poorly absorbed by the body. Thus, when you consume this watered-down collagen, you’re actually only getting a fraction of the benefits of collagen supplements.
Consuming a collagen supplement that only contains high-quality and highly absorbable Type 1 and Type 3 collagen is the best way to experience the wondrous benefits of collagen.
What Are Hydrolyzed Collagen and Collagen Peptides?
“Hydrolyzed collagen” means that collagen has undergone “hydrolysis”.
Hydrolysis breaks up the amino acids in collagen, making their chains much shorter. These shorter chains are called “peptides” (44).
Collagen peptides are much more bioavailable to your body and easier on your digestive system. They’re pretty much odorless, tasteless, and dissolve easily in any liquid because of their tiny size.
Can I Get Collagen From My Diet Alone?
Because the collagen found in food is extremely hard to break down (because it hasn’t been hydrolyzed), it’s nearly impossible to get enough collagen from food alone.
That’s why I recommend taking a grass-fed collagen supplement daily to ensure your collagen levels stay replenished.
Are There Foods That Can Boost My Collagen Production?
Fun Fact: Your body requires other nutrients in order for collagen supplements to work their magic.
With that in mind, here’s a list of nutrients and nutrient-rich foods that promote your body’s ability to make new collagen:
- Vitamin A: Largely found in orange fruits and veggies like carrots, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes, foods rich in vitamin A help by restoring damaged collagen.
- Vitamin C: This antioxidant-rich vitamin, found in foods like bell peppers, broccoli, and citrus fruits, is extremely important for your body to produce collagen. Vitamin C also helps by neutralizing free radicals, preventing them from breaking down collagen in your body.
- Dark leafy greens: Their high chlorophyll content (what makes them green) promotes collagen synthesis, and their high amount of skin-loving antioxidants help protect you from free radicals (45).
- Lycopene: Red veggies boost your collagen production because they’re full of lycopene—think red peppers, tomatoes, and beets. They also protect you from the effects of sun damage, or overexposure to ultraviolet rays. Too much exposure to ultraviolet rays is a big factor in the depletion of collagen in your body.
- Berries: All types of berries work by both detoxifying your body of skin-damaging free radicals and boosting collagen levels.
- Sulfur: This mineral is excellent at synthesizing collagen. Garlic is one of the best sources of sulfur you can find, but there are other sources like eggs, onions, cabbage, and broccoli. Your body actually can’t produce collagen without sulfur, so be sure to get enough of this mineral.
- Garlic: In addition to sulfur, garlic also contains taurine and lipoic acid, which help rebuild damaged collagen fibers.
- Bone Broth: Full of glycine and proline, as well as growth factors called glycosaminoglycans, bone broth enhances immunity, gut health, and weight loss while reducing inflammation and joint pain.
Is Collagen Vegan?
It depends on where it’s sourced from.
The majority of collagen supplements are derived from animal sources like pigs, beef, chicken, or fish.
Vegan collagen, on the other hand, is made from genetically modified yeast and bacteria (46). If you’re wanting to skip the GMOs, collagen can also be found in the following foods:
Where Are Collagen Supplements Sourced From?
You’ll find that the majority of collagen supplements are sourced from animal sources like pigs, beef, chicken, or fish.
Although not widely available yet, there are vegan collagen supplements made from genetically modified yeast and bacteria (46).
NativePath Collagen is sourced from ethically-raised, grass-fed bovine (cows) in Columbia.
Can I Take a Collagen Supplement While Pregnant or Nursing?
Yes, you can take collagen supplements while pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
Remember, collagen is just another form of protein, so it’s completely safe.
As always, be sure to read the label first. A safe, high-quality collagen supplement shouldn’t contain any nasty fillers, artificial sweeteners, or hormones.
Is Collagen a Complete Protein?
No, collagen is not a complete protein.
Of the nine essential amino acids making up a complete protein, collagen lacks the amino acid tryptophan—making it incomplete.
It may be incomplete, but it’s also made up of over a dozen amino acids often lacking in today’s modern diets, including glycine and proline (3).
How Much Collagen Should I Take?
In a recent study looking at how much collagen protein can be taken each day as part of your overall protein intake, it was found that a little over one-third of your daily protein can come from collagen peptides without causing any type of nutritional deficiencies (44).
Collagen protein is very good for you, but like many things in life, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. This is why it’s important to have a diet rich in a variety of nutrients and to use collagen supplements as just that—a supplement to a healthy diet.
How Do I Know If I Need Collagen?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are those fine lines and wrinkles on your face showing up more and more?
- Are you feeling more aches and pains in your joints and bones?
- Is your body not healing as quickly as it once did?
If this sounds like you, then your body most likely needs more collagen. Don’t wait until problems show up even more. Add collagen to your diet and feel your ailments drift away.
How Should I Incorporate Collagen Into My Daily Wellness Regimen?
The reason why NativePath offers a plethora of collagen products is so that you never get bored with your collagen supplementation.
These collagen powders can be added to your water, coffee, tea, smoothies, or even soups and broths.
Do Collagen Supplements Work?
Yes, collagen supplements work. They have been and continue to be well studied as they gain more and more popularity (50).
Remember to consume a high-quality supplement free of fillers, artificial ingredients, and hormones.
Are There Any Side Effects of Collagen?
Side effects related to collagen supplementation are next to none.
Some individuals report that collagen upsets their digestive system—causing a feeling of fullness or an unpleasant taste (51).
If this is something you too, have noticed, simply decrease your collagen dosage.
One other thing to note is that some collagen supplements are made from common food allergens like eggs, fish, and shellfish. If this is the case, these types of collagen supplements should be avoided. As always, read the label.
The Bottom Line
Consider yourself armed with everything you need to know about collagen.
Feeling confident about your journey with collagen? Feeling inspired to share YOUR collagen transformation? Still questioning whether or not you need it? Your feedback is always welcome (and read by someone who really appreciates you!), so please leave a comment below.
As a doctor of Physical Therapy, Senior Wellness Expert, and co-founder of NativePath, Dr. Walding has helped hundreds of patients improve their quality of life from the inside out—by speaking, writing, and educating others on how to live life a little more #onthepath.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.