What to Look for in a Collagen Powder

By Britni Vincent, RD, LD
May 20, 2024

key-collagen.jpgCollagen has become a buzzword in the last several years and for good reason – collagen makes up 30% of your body's protein and a significant component of many tissues such as 65% to 80% of tendons, 70% of ligaments, 70% of cartilage, and 90% of the bone matrix. It is also found in your skin, hair and nails (my clients are often very interested in those specifics!) and intestinal tract.

Collagen is FULL of benefits; however, your natural production of collagen begins to drop off in your twenties and may only be 50% by age 60. In addition to the decline in natural production, lifestyle, previous injury and inflammation can all affect the production of collagen.

At Nutritional Weight & Wellness we always look to food first to get our nutrients, but it can be very difficult to get enough from diet alone. You can focus on increasing collagen rich foods and also foods that contain zinc and vitamin C, which are necessary to make collagen in your body.

Collagen and Food

Collagen is naturally found in animal flesh that contains connective tissue. There are also foods that contain the necessary nutrients to help your body make collagen naturally.

Food Sources of Collagen

  • Meat - especially meat that contains more connective tissue such as pot roast, brisket and chuck roast.
  • Fish - the collagen is richer in the skin and bones of fish.
  • Bone broth - the collagen is released from the bones into the broth, making a nutrient rich liquid to sip on or make soup with. Check out our bone broth recipe and learn more about the benefits by listening to a Ask a Nutritionist episode all about bone broth.
  • Gelatin - a form of collagen that is made by boiling animal bones, cartilage and skin.

Foods That Boost Collagen Production In Your Body

  • Protein - such as meat, dairy, eggs, fish and seafood. Protein sources contain amino acids which are the building blocks for collagen production. So meat and fish contain both collagen AND the building blocks to make collagen.
  • Foods rich in zinc -meat, nuts, seeds, shellfish, and legumes. Zinc is necessary for collagen production in your body.
  • Foods rich in vitamin C - leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and bell peppers. Vitamin C is also necessary for collagen production in your body.

I would encourage you to incorporate foods that are rich in collagen as well as foods that will boost collagen production, but the reality is that may not be enough to get or make adequate collagen.

Your body will gradually produce less collagen as you age and that reduction begins in your twenties. In addition to age, stress (eating processed food is stressful for your body!), excess sun exposure, exercise, lack of sleep and smoking can dramatically reduce your body’s ability to produce collagen.

For these reasons you sometimes need a little extra help in the collagen department. That's where collagen supplementation comes in.

Types of Collagen

Here are some of the different types of collagen that make up the various parts of the human body:

Type I: It is the strongest type of collagen found in skin, bones, tendons, and connective tissues. It provides structural support and elasticity.

Type II: Mainly found in cartilage and important for joint health. Collagen powders targeting joint support may include type II collagen.

Type III: Often found alongside type I collagen, particularly in skin, blood vessels, and organs. It contributes to skin elasticity and structural integrity.

Type V and Type X: These types of collagen are less common in collagen supplements but may be included in some formulations. Type V is often found alongside type I collagen, while type X is important for bone formation.

The Difference Between Protein Powder and Collagen Powder

Both contain protein and amino acids, but the main difference is they have different amino acid profiles. Just as a refresher, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Collagen targets bone, skin, and joint health so it contains a lot of amino acids that are beneficial for those areas specifically. However, it's not a complete protein like whey or pea protein powder would be.

Collagen and protein powder shouldn’t be used interchangeably and I would think of collagen powder as just extra protein. Collagen isn't going to promote muscle growth or satiety as much as protein powder does. I personally use both collagen powder and protein powder and so do many of my clients.

Benefits of Collagen Supplementation

How To Have Anti-Aging Skin.jpgHere are some common health benefits you may notice – both inside and out – from a high-quality collagen supplement (and we'll get to this later, but not ALL collagen supplements will give you these benefits if it doesn't have all the collagen types mentioned above):

  • Firmer, smoother, and healthier skin and may contribute to fewer wrinkles and cellulite. One meta-analysis that included 1125 participants found that ingestion of hydrolyzed collagen for 90 days is effective in reducing skin aging, as it reduces wrinkles and improves skin elasticity and hydration.
  • Improves brittle nails for faster growing, stronger nails.
  • Faster growing and thicker, healthier hair.
  • Collagen supplements help improve bone mineral density. Collagen provides a framework for the incorporation of minerals. Without collagen, bone minerals would be extremely brittle and prone to breakage.
  • Improves flexibility and strength of tendons and ligaments which can decrease the risk of injury.
  • Regeneration of joint cartilage, making joints smoother and more mobile. This helps support flexible joints and improve joint pain.
  • Healthier intestinal tract which results in a stronger immune system.
  • May improve body composition, especially when coupled with resistance training. One study of 77 premenopausal women found that daily collagen supplementation along with resistance training increased fat free mass, strength and led to a greater decrease in body fat than the placebo group that just did resistance training.

What To Look For In A Collagen Supplement

There are many products on the market, so here are a few key things to look for when deciding to purchase something for yourself:

Look For Hydrolyzed Collagen For Easy Absorption

When you're choosing collagen supplements, it's a good idea to look for one that's hydrolyzed, which means the collagen is broken down into specific protein fragments called peptides through a process called hydrolysis. Collagen peptides are short chains of amino acids that are more readily broken down into a form that can enter the bloodstream upon digestion. This means your body can make use of it more efficiently.

Because it's highly absorbable, hydrolyzed collagen can effectively support skin health, joints, and bones. Additionally, hydrolyzed collagen is versatile and can be mixed into both hot and cold beverages or foods, making it convenient to incorporate into your daily routine for overall health and wellness.

So we want a collagen that’s easily absorbed by the body and one that’s easily absorbed into the liquid we are putting it in!

Look For Quality Collagen Peptides

Look for collagens that call out the types of collagen and any specific collagen peptides they are using, so you know what areas of the body the product is meant to target.

If a company doesn’t call out which collagen peptides are included, you can assume the product is made up of one or two types of the cheaper collagen peptides. These products might be great for hair or skin, but they will not satisfy the additional variety of collagen needs your body has – like for bones, ligaments, and tendons.

Collagen supplements comprised of Bioactive Collagen Peptides® will also help to stimulate your body's own collagen production.

Collagen peptides like Tenoforte®, Fortigel®, Verisol®, and Fortibone® in the ingredients list are good to look for and indicative of high-quality collagen peptides. These different collagen peptides target different areas of the body making it extremely effective.

Look For Quality Standards

Look for a collagen supplement that is produced in a cGMP (good manufacturing practices) facility, which means it's been third party tested and has higher quality and safety standards.

Pharmaceutical grade means it's top-quality, pure, and safe. It's made with strict standards to ensure its quality and effectiveness. So, if you want something reliable and trustworthy, look for pharmaceutical grade collagen powders.

When picking collagen powder, it's smart to look for options that are non-GMO, gluten-free, and dairy-free. That means they're made without any genetically modified ingredients and are safe for folks with gluten or dairy sensitivities.

Plus, it's best to choose collagen supplements with no added fillers or binders and steer clear of potentially inflammatory stuff like corn or soy. Keeping it simple like this ensures you're picking the best collagen supplements that are good for you and your body.

Look For Preferred Flavor and Taste

Some collagen powders are flavorless and odorless, making them easy to incorporate into various recipes. Other collagen powders may come in flavored varieties, such as vanilla, chocolate, or berry.

Consider your preferences and how you plan to use the collagen powder. If you like something with flavor already included, look for ones that are sweetened with monk fruit or stevia and avoid any artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, acesulfame K and aspartame.

230421_KeyCollagenDrinks_GIF_01_HR_Cropped.jpgWays To Use Collagen Powders

Tips For Success With Collagen Powders

Test Flavors & Recipes

If you've tried a collagen powder and didn't like it...try taking it in a new way. Instead of mixing into a glass of water, try mixing it into your coffee and use a milk frother to blend it (milk frother is optional, you can just use a spoon to stir it into your coffee) or add it to your smoothie and you likely won't even notice it's in there. Try different flavors and textures until you find the right one for you.

Don't Expect Immediate Results

We encourage you to use collagen for at least three months to determine how your body may benefit. Many of the benefits may take longer than three months; remember that the damage you're trying to repair didn't happen in a short amount of time. We all want instant results, but anything that heals your body for the long haul takes time.

Our Recommendation For The Best Collagen Powder

230421_KeyCollagen_GIF_03_HR_Cropped EDITED.jpgWe recommend NutriKey's Key Collagen Powder for your collagen supplementation.

Key Collagen is an unflavored bovine collagen and mixes easily with water, coffee, tea, and protein smoothies.

Key Collagen is hydrolyzed and contains collagen types 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 as well as four patented Bioactive Collagen Peptides: Fortigel®, Fortibone®, Tendoforte®, and Verisol®. These collagen peptides are designed to promote vibrant skin and nails while also supporting healthy joints, bones, ligaments, and tendons:

For the health and quality of ligaments/tendons, Key Collagen contains Tendoforte®. A study using 5 g of TendoForte® (the same amount in Key Collagen) for six months showed significant improvement in ankle stability.

For joint health, Key Collagen contains Fortigel® for promoting growth of new cartilage. Interestingly, a study done on animals found that the ingestion of Fortigel® stimulated an increase of cartilage tissue growth after just three months.

For skin health, Key Collagen contains Verisol® that stimulates skin metabolism while counteracting the loss of collagen in the skin. You can expect noticeably firmer and smoother skin with fewer wrinkles. The skin surface structure also improves which reduces cellulite and speeds up nail growth. Sounds amazing doesn't it?! One study with more than 100 women aged between 45 and 65 years showed that Verisol® (2.5 g/day) significantly reduced wrinkles after four weeks and led to a significantly higher amount of collagen in the skin. Another comprehensive study of 105 women aged between 25 and 50 years showed that Verisol® significantly decreases the cellulite score – an effect that was measured after three and six months of supplementation.

For bone health, Key Collagen contains Fortibone® for stimulating bone cells (osteoblasts) that increase production of new bone and reducing the cells (osteoclasts) that break down bone. The results of a study of 131 postmenopausal women showed that collagen increased bone density compared to the placebo group after 12 months.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 03/29/2024

Scott G. - Better knees and my shoulder

My knees have seen an amazing improvement. They are both damaged and old but the last 7 months of collagen have made a huge difference. I damaged my shoulder angrily yanking on my lawnmower rope a year and a half ago. It too has has seen a miraculous recovery since of started the collagen. Kudos!!

Recap On Collagen Dietary Supplements

Your body's collagen production begins to decrease in your twenties. Thankfully, adding a scoop of the one of your favorite collagen supplements into a hot or cold drink has never been easier and a habit you can add into your healthy lifestyle.

When looking for the best collagen option for you, decide why you are wanting to incorporate collagen into your routine (strengthen hair? plump skin? wound healing? joint pain relief? bone density support? healthy gut?).

Then look for a product that will fill those needs while being made with quality standards and easy absorption in mind. If you have any questions about your options, our registered and licensed dietitians and nutritionists can help you determine what is best for you!

More Resources About Supplements:

READ: 6 Important Supplements You Should Know More About

READ: Could You Benefit From Extra L-Glutamine?

READ: Benefits of GLA

NutriKey Products Mentioned

NutriKey's Key Collagen- an unflavored blend of collagen peptides to support healthy skin, bones, and joints.


De Miranda, Roseane B, et al. “Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systemic review and meta-analysis.” International Journal of Dermatology, vol. 60, no. 12, 2021, p. 1449- 1461., doi:10.1111/ijd.15518.

Jendricke, Patrick., et al. “Specific Collagen Peptides in Combination with Resistance Training Improve Body Composition and Regional Muscle Strength in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 4, 2019, p. 892., doi: 10.3390/nu11040892

König, Daniel, et al. “Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 1, 2018, p.97., doi:10.3390/nu100010097.

Oesser, S., et al. “94 Orally Administered Collagen Hydroslysate Halts the Progression of Osteoarthritis in STR/Ort Mice.” Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, vol. 15, 2007, doi: 10.1016/s1063-4584(07)61727-0.

Proksch, E., et al. “Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, vol. 27, no. 3, 2014, pp. 113-119., doi:10.1159/000355523.

Schunck, Michael, et al. “Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology.” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 18, no. 12, 2015, pp. 1340-1348., doi: 10.1089/jmf.2015.0022.

About the author

Britni is a licensed dietitian at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. Britni once struggled with insomnia, acne and regular migraines that would force her to retreat to a dark room for relief. She tried several different approaches to feel better before she realized her diet was the culprit and changed her eating to a more balanced approach. As a result, her insomnia and acne are gone, and she rarely has migraines. Britni is a registered and licensed dietitian through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of St. Thomas and completed her dietetic internship at the University of Iowa. She has experience in nutrition counseling, leading seminars and motivating clients of all ages to make changes.

View all posts by Britni Vincent, RD, LD

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