Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. There are quite a few different types of collagen, but types I, II, and III make up the majority of the collagen in the body.
Recently, collagen supplements have become really popular because they claim to improve hair, skin, nails, joints, and some even claim to help burn fat and build muscle (see the best collagen powders for losing weight).
Types I and III collagen are generally geared toward improving hair, skin, nails and supporting healthy bones, while type II is for supporting joint health. Some supplements include one or a few different types of collagen.
Most individuals would appreciate improvements in hair, skin, and nails, and extra protection for our joints and bones certainly couldn’t hurt, but could a collagen supplement also lead to weight gain?
This article will provide a brief overview of collagen and its potential benefits and discuss whether or not it could lead to weight gain.
Collagen is the Most Abundant Protein in the Body
Collagen is a structural protein that is found in our skin, bones, muscles, cartilage, and tendons.
It’s a crucial aspect of connective tissue, but it’s also important for the immune system, tissue repair, and other functions in the body.
The body creates collagen naturally, but in recent years, taking collagen as a supplement has become increasingly popular. The idea is that because it plays these important roles in the body, then if we take more of it as a supplement, perhaps we’ll reap extra benefits.
Benefits aside, as with many supplements, collagen could have some side effects.
Some individuals find that taking a collagen supplement causes some gas and bloating, and others may worry that it could lead to weight gain. Before we dig into the research on the benefits of collagen, let’s explore whether or not it really could cause weight gain.
Does Collagen Make You Gain Weight? (What You Need to Know)
In the most simple sense, weight gain happens when the calories consumed are greater than the calories burned on a regular basis (not by over-consuming calories one day). However, the human body is anything but simple. Many other factors affect our weight, aside from our caloric intake. Things like hormones, medical conditions, medications, and many, many, many others can play a significant role too.
While gas and bloating are potential side effects, adding a collagen supplement to your routine is unlikely to lead to weight gain.
In fact, it will boost the overall amount of protein you’re consuming, which could help you lose weight. A high protein diet can be very effective for both weight loss and muscle building. However, it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. Overeating anything, whether it’s protein or anything else, has the potential to lead to weight gain.
Now that we know collagen on its own is not going to cause weight gain, let’s review some of its potential benefits.
Collagen May Help You Feel Fuller
Protein itself, regardless of whether it's from collagen, why, or another source, is known to help boost fullness after meals. It also has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or fats, which means that the metabolism revs up more to digest and absorb protein than it does for carbohydrates or fats.
Collagen specifically has been found to help boost leptin levels, the hormone responsible for signaling to the brain that we’re full. However, one study found that even with a boost in leptin, individuals didn’t anecdotally notice an increase in fullness (1).
Still, consuming collagen is a means to increase protein intake, which could help promote satiety and lead to eating fewer calories and fewer instances of overeating.
Collagen Could Promote A Healthy Gut
Taking a collagen supplement regularly might help improve gut health by reducing inflammation in the intestines, though currently the only research supporting this is on individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). So, it’s unclear whether or not healthy individuals will experience improved gut health with a collagen supplement (2).
Plus, for some it may cause some gas and bloating, which is likely harmless, but certainly uncomfortable.
Other research has found a potential link between the skin and gut, so there is some thought that if collagen helps to improve skin, this could translate to gut health as well. However, this is a preliminary idea and there is no concrete research supporting it just yet (3).
Ultimately, there is some evidence that a collagen supplement might improve gut health, but most of the research has been done in cell and animal studies, so we need more research, specifically human clinical trials before we can say for sure (4, 5).
Collagen May Reduce Body Fat
Some early research and animal studies have shown that collagen might help improve body composition by protecting muscle mass and lowering body fat (6).
One study found that a collagen supplement was effective in reducing body fat in overweight individuals, even without reducing overall calories (7).
If this sounds like it’s too good to be true, it might be.
Another study found that while whey protein was effective in reducing body fat, collagen was not (8).
We know that protein helps protect muscle mass and support muscle growth, which in turn can help increase the metabolism and reduce body fat. So, while the research is a bit mixed, collagen could indirectly have an effect on body fat.
Still, supplementing with collagen probably won’t lead to drastic changes in body fat and no supplement is going to replace the effectiveness of healthy habits.
Collagen May Boost Muscle Mass
When it comes to building muscle, complete protein sources are important. If you are considering a protein supplement, whey protein is generally accepted as the most superior choice for building muscle mass.
Collagen is an incomplete protein because it’s missing tryptophan, one of the nine essential amino acids. Despite this, there is still some research indicating that it is beneficial in protecting muscle mass (9).
However, it’s important to note that many of the studies on this were performed on elderly participants, who are more susceptible to muscle wasting and therefore would likely benefit from any increase in dietary protein.
On a similar note, it’s unclear whether or not the collagen itself could be credited with maintaining muscle mass, or if it was simply due to the increase in protein in general.
To summarize, collagen has the potential to help you maintain and build muscle mass, but specific research on this is still lacking.
Should You Achieve Your Weight Goals Through Collagen Supplements?
A high protein diet is known to be effective for weight loss. Taking a collagen supplement will help increase your overall protein intake during the day, with the potential of offering other benefits as well.
Additionally, most individuals are looking to lose fat, specifically. This means that maintaining muscle mass is crucial. Protein is going to be key when it comes to maintaining muscle, especially if you are eating in a caloric deficit.
As a dietitian, I generally encourage a food first approach to wellness, but I also recognize how difficult it can be getting enough protein every day. A protein powder, like collagen or whey, can help you reach your protein goals.
We also covered a few of the other benefits of collagen supplementation, but it’s important to point out that most of the research on collagen is still mixed and in its early stages.
Despite this, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, and there is nothing wrong with trying a collagen supplement out yourself to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Recommended Collagen Supplements
The brands below are, in my opinion, the best at making collagen supplements and they're made in the USA:
Final Verdict: Does Collagen Cause Weight Gain?
Nope! Taking collagen is not going to cause weight gain directly.
Remember, weight gain typically occurs when we are eating more calories than we are burning (though it’s always important to note that it’s not always this simple). A specific food or supplement is not going to be responsible for weight gain.
Still, some individuals do experience some bloating and gas from taking collagen, which could technically cause small increases on the scale. Keep in mind, this type of increase on the scale is certainly not body fat and is temporary. It’s also completely normal and expected to see fluctuations in body weight day to day, and even throughout the day, regardless of the use of collagen.
If you discover that collagen doesn’t sit well with you, you may want to try another form of protein instead.