A really popular supplement in the keto community is hydrolyzed collagen. Ketoers use it to meet their daily protein requirements, to improve their exercise recovery, and for healthy skin, hair, and nails. This supplement also has some advantages over other animal proteins and research has found it comes with a plethora of health benefits.
But does hydrolyzed collagen (aka collagen peptides) really help with the keto diet, ketosis, keto-adaptation or any other benefit relevant to ketoers? In other words, how did collagen peptides reach the keto community specifically in the first place and what exactly are the benefits of using hydrolyzed collagen on keto?
First Things First – What is Hydrolyzed Collagen?
Hydrolyzed collagen is collagen produced from the bones, skin, and connective tissue of animals. It is made through a process called hydrolysis that involves the breaking down of molecular bonds between collagen strands. After that process is done, manufacturers will evaporate, dry, and pulverize it to make the end product.
The process of hydrolysis creates collagen peptides which are essentially smaller-sized collagen proteins. This reduction in size helps with their digestibility and absorption. Researchers did test the bioavailability of collagen peptides, and so far, most studies show that the body does absorb and use up to 63% of these peptides [1, 2].
But then again, what is collagen? Collagen is the main structural protein of connective tissue (skin, ligaments, blood vessels, bone, and eye cornea). It is also the most abundant protein in your body, making up around 25-35% of all proteins in your body. It's often called "the glue that holds everything together" giving the body strength and structure.
Why Use Hydrolyzed Collagen?
Your body makes collagen from amino acids  and with the help of other important nutrients, most notably vitamin C and copper. Unfortunately, collagen production tends to decline as we age, usually beginning in our 30s. This causes weakening in connective tissue that manifests as fine lines, wrinkles, skin sagging, hair thinning, and joint problems .
If you want to counteract this problem, one thing you could do is take hydrolyzed collagen supplements. Studies show that taking these supplements improves skin elasticity and helps with other problems associated with declining collagen production [5, 6].
You can also use hydrolyzed collagen to boost your daily protein intake. On average, adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilogram bodyweight daily . The same recommendations apply when you're following a keto diet. Sometimes meeting your protein requirements can be difficult and that's where collagen peptides come in handy.
But What About the Keto Benefits?
When it comes to hydrolyzed collagen benefits that have to do with the keto diet specifically, most dieters look for the following:
- Lower risk of side effects (allergies, digestive issues)
- Easy digestibility
- Improved skin elasticity post weight loss
- Joint health protection
So, let's discuss the benefits above. Keto dieters who like to take protein supplements can benefit from hydrolyzed collagen more than other animal, and even plant proteins. Milk and egg protein allergies are one of the most common food allergies out there .
Collagen peptides are also easy to digest due to their smaller size. What's more, they also seem to benefit gut health. The unique amino acid profile of collagen helps in reducing gut inflammation, improve digestion, and heal ulcers . Collagen plays a big role in the structure and health of your digestive tract, so taking supplements can improve gut health [10, 11].
The reason this is important for keto dieters is that digestive health will make a huge difference on your diet success. The better you are able to absorb nutrients, the fewer issues you'll face on your keto journey.
Keto dieters who lose a lot of weight may also reduce sagging skin with hydrolyzed collagen. Drastic weight loss can cause skin sagging in some people. That's because collagen fibers have been damaged over many years of carrying extra weight.
And lastly, hydrolyzed collagen can help protect joint and bone health . Collagen makes up a big part of your skeleton, and an even larger part of your joints. Wear and tear of joint cartilage from rigorous workouts and with age can and do happen. This is why taking collagen supplements can be beneficial for the more active keto dieter.
Can Collagen Peptides Affect Ketosis?
Collagen peptides are proteins, and like with any other protein source, your intake on keto needs to be moderate. That's because proteins are made up of amino acids, and your body is able to convert several types of amino acids (glucogenic amino acids) into glucose when needed. This is a metabolic process known as gluconeogenesis and can potentially kick you out of ketosis if you're not careful.
The most abundant amino acids found in collagen are glycine, proline, leucine, and hydroxyproline. The first three are glucogenic amino acids. Keeping your total daily protein intake below 1 gram per kilogram of body weight is considered moderate. To get your exact daily protein (and other macros) requirements, try out our Keto Calculator.
It's important that you don't eat too little protein, however. Protein is an essential macronutrient your body needs in order to build and repair tissue; make important hormones and enzymes, and to make blood cells. Keep in mind, though that collagen is not a source of complete protein, meaning that it does not contain all 9 essential amino acids.
While hydrolyzed collagen wasn't designed with the keto diet in mind, it does make this diet easier. First off, it's great for meeting your protein needs. Secondly, it's great for digestive health which you'll appreciate on keto. And lastly, it will keep you looking and feeling youthful, which is likely one of your goals on your keto journey.
When buying hydrolyzed collagen supplements, make sure to go for reputable and high-quality stuff. You want the best out of your peptides, and adulterated products won't give you that. Another thing to keep in mind is that hydrolyzed collagen peptides can't replace protein from food. It's not a complete source of protein and is also a supplement – so do use it as such.