Regular exercisers know protein is the key ingredient to building and maintaining muscle mass. However, you might not be familiar with the different types of protein. One of the most important varieties is collagen.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and serves many vital functions for men and women, but it can be more beneficial for men overall. Increasing collagen intake can improve men’s fitness and overall wellness. Here’s everything you should know about this vital protein.
What Does Collagen Do?
Collagen accounts for 30% of the body’s protein and maintains the structural integrity of your skin, bones, muscles and connective tissue. To support all these body parts, collagen must complete many small tasks:
- Assist with blood clotting
- Replace dead skill cells
- Grow fibroblasts in your skin to help new cells grow
- Restore worn-down cartilage
- Form a protective layer over the digestive tract
- Strengthen cells in your eyes and hair follicle
Collagen combines all these tasks to reduce joint inflammation, repair skeletal muscle tissue and slow the skin’s aging process. These benefits can be life-changing for anyone regardless of age, sex or lifestyle. However, collagen can be the most impactful among one particular demographic — physically active men.
Why Is Collagen Important for Men?
Collagen has traditionally been the go-to protein choice for women’s health and skin care products, but the trend is starting to shift. Men are hopping on the collagen bandwagon for several significant reasons.
Men Have High Protein Requirements
Collagen is especially beneficial for weightlifters because they put an uncommon amount of stress on their bones, muscles and ligaments. Men generally lift heavier weights and have more muscle mass than female weightlifters, so they have greater need for a protein source that helps with muscle recovery and joint flexibility.
Men also need more collagen simply because they’re often heavier than women. A 185-pound man who sits inside all day still has much greater collagen requirements than a highly active 115-pound woman. He needs more protein to fill out his bulkier frame.
Men Age Faster Than Women
Collagen levels naturally decrease as people get older. Since men age faster than women, they also lose collagen at an earlier age and at a steadier pace. Women maintain consistent collagen levels throughout most of their lives until reaching menopause. Men with active lifestyles must replenish their collagen levels during their physical primes.
Men Are Prone to Collagen Degradation
Men often engage in bad habits that lead to collagen breakdown. UV ray exposure and smoking tobacco are the main causes of collagen degradation because they interfere with protein synthesis, especially in the skin, where collagen production primarily occurs. Alcohol and sleep deprivation can also lower collagen levels.
Those working outdoor jobs inevitably get more UV ray exposure. It’s no secret that men drink alcohol and smoke tobacco products at high rates. Men also have worse sleep quality than women overall. If any of these trends apply to you, you might need to compensate by increasing your collagen intake.
How Can I Increase My Collagen Intake?
The best way to increase your collagen intake is to eat more protein. The bulk of your diet should consist of lean sources such as eggs, beef, chicken and fish. Collagen is also the main protein in other animal species, so you can easily replenish your supply by eating different types of meat.
Like all other proteins, collagen consists of amino acids — primarily glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. They combine to form a unique triple helix structure that enables tissue regeneration. A handful of nutrients are essential for creating this triple helix, including vitamin C, zinc, copper and manganese.
You must increase your intake of these vital nutrients to get more collagen and reap its benefits. These foods contain high concentrations of vitamin C, zinc, copper and manganese:
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains
- Nuts and nut butters
You should get plenty of collagen every day if you have a balanced diet of lean proteins, clean carbohydrates and healthy fats. Keep track in a food journal if you need help remembering what you’ve consumed daily. That way, you’ll know to increase your amount if necessary.
Should I Take a Collagen Supplement?
Use a supplement if allergies or dietary restrictions prevent you from eating collagen-rich foods. There isn’t much clinical research on them because the FDA classifies them as food products. That means they don’t undergo the same randomized trials as other supplements, such as multivitamins.
However, supplement companies and independent researchers have performed their own blind tests to confirm effectiveness. One trial showed that collagen supplements improved people’s skin health in many ways, including hydration, elasticity, roughness and overall density.
Other claims that collagen supplements can reduce acne or accelerate weight loss are unfounded. You can only be certain they will boost the functions of your body’s natural collagen supply by reducing joint inflammation, repairing muscle tissue and delaying the skin’s aging process.
You should consider different types of collagen supplements. Collagen peptides have small amino acid chains, which makes them easier to digest. Hydrolyzed supplements directly support the breakdown of protein molecules for muscle recovery. You can mix them into one solution and reap the benefits more quickly. Our Keystone Collagen Superprotein delivers you those amino acids in a traditional unflavored option for versatility or bolder flavors like chocolate or lemonade.
Collagen boosters are another relatively new type of supplement. Most supplements contain animal products, so boosters were developed as a vegan-friendly alternative. They contain hydraulic acid and vitamins to increase the body’s natural collagen production. However, a true vegan protein supplement is not yet available.
Men Must Prioritize Their Collagen Levels
Collagen is a vital protein for everyone but is especially important for men. Males need more protein, age faster and engage in collagen-depleting habits more often than women. Therefore, they should focus on increasing their intake to remain healthy as they get older.
If you want to maintain an active lifestyle in your 40s, 50s and beyond, you must start prioritizing your collagen levels now. Adjust your diet and consider trying one of our Keystone Superprotein supplements to give your body the collagen needed to stay healthy and strong for many years.
Jack Shaw is the senior health and fitness writer at Modded as well as a coach and sports enthusiast. For the past 5+ years he's studied and written extensively about how to stay fit and maintain mental and physical health.