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BEAUTY FROM WITHIN: AN IN-DEPTH GUIDE TO COLLAGEN PEPTIDES
Collagen - the most abundant protein found in animals, accounts for one-third of our body protein and three-fourth of our skin’s dry weight. Collagen gives structure to bones, joints and skin. Collagen is comprised of three amino acids, namely proline, glycine and hydroxyproline. 
The body produces collagen naturally, but the production gradually declines with age as one crosses 25. Using a collagen supplement can help offset the slowdown in collagen production. The supplements are basically hydrolyzed collagen proteins in the form of collagen peptides or collagen protein powder.
What are Collagen Peptides and Hydrolyzed Collagen? 
Hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides are the same, in a sense, the term "collagen peptides" relates to full-length collagen that has been broken into collagen peptides by undergoing a process called hydrolysis. Hydrolysis breaks down the amino acids in the collagen into small molecules, to be better absorbed into the bloodstream. Hence, collagen peptides are frequently referred to as hydrolyzed collagen or hydrolyzed peptides.
Hydrolyzed collagen is the most effective way through which the body can absorb collagen.
Research proves that consuming hydrolyzed collagen results in a significant increase of collagen in the blood. Hence hydrolyzed collagen supplements (also known as hydrolysate) is the best supplementation for collagen augmentation in the body.
Types of Collagen
There are more than 28 varieties of collagen. Of these Types I, II, and III form around 90% of the collagen in the body. ,, Types I and III deal with offering a better structure to the skin, ligaments and the muscles of the body, while the type II is commonly found in the eye and the cartilages. 
Benefits of Collagen
Functional foods offer a plethora of health benefits that extend beyond essential nutrition.  Today nutritional science has extended beyond basic nutritional adequacy to the concept of optimal health with their research shifting focus on identification of biologically active component in foods that have potential health benefits and desired physiological effects. 
Hence, food-derived bioactive peptides are the norm of various nutritional sciences today.  These bioactive peptides are not active within the native protein; however, when they are sliced from the native protein by way of fermentation, digestion or through special processing, they tend to have beneficial effects on the physical and mental well being and also help minimize the risk of disease. 
A collagen is a well-established form of functional peptides with adequate biological activity.  Collagen proteins have shown to have exhibit vital physiological functions as well as depict a positive impact on health. The physiologically active peptides and essential amino acids in collagen have the potential to optimize health and address physiological needs posed by ageing and exercise as follows:
1. Repairs and Restores Muscles 
Muscle protein breakdown forms a vital metabolic constituent of muscle remodelling and enhancing muscle mass. Exercise (especially resistance exercises) helps to increase muscle protein breakdown.
However, continuous long-term strenuous exercise may gradually result in protein loss over a while. This happens on account of oxidation, inflammatory reactions and micro lesions. Hence professional endurance athletes usually consume collagen protein throughout their training periods. Consuming collagen protein helps in the following ways:
2. Helps to Reduce Inflammation Caused by Intense Workouts
Strenuous exercise results in tremendous strain on the body resulting in inflammation. Collagen offers healthy inflammation response by speeding up the repair process of connective tissues that are damaged and inflamed as a result of an intense workout. 
3. Helps to Increase Muscle Mass in Sarcopenic Elders
As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass. Muscle mass is lost at a rate of 0.5% to 2% per annum as we mature beyond 50. The muscle loss mainly occurs as a result of a decline in type II fibers that belong to a category of fast-fibers which help in short bursts of speed.
Such loss of fast fibres is a leading cause of sarcopenia in elders. A study showed that collagen peptide supplementation, together with resistance exercise, helped enhance body composition and build muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men (men affected by muscle loss on account of ageing).
4. Maintains Nitrogen Balance and Overall Body Composition
Many elders have a low intake of natural dietary protein though their protein requirements may be more than the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance). In such cases, authentic and good quality protein supplements may help to enhance the availability of required amino acids and increase nitrogen retention in the body of older adults.
A study on nine healthy aged women showed that a 15-day fortified hydrolyzed collagen protein supplement helped to maintain the nitrogen balance and also preserved the lean body mass.
5. Better Joint Health
6. Improves Gut Health
Collagen supplementation also enhances gut health as collagen is basically a part of the cells lining the gut, and hence it makes a superb ingredient for digestive health. 
7. Better Skin and Bone Health
8. A Healthy Heart
Collagen, as shown by another study, proved that it helps to reduce stiffness in arteries; thus, collagen supplementation may minimize the risk factors associated with heart conditions like atherosclerosis.
The fibroblast tissues in the body naturally produce collagen. Fibroblasts are found in the connective tissues in the dermis. The activation of fibroblasts leads to higher production of collagen. So how do these fibroblasts get activated? The answer is through enough supply of amino acids.
Collagen supplements work by providing enough amino acids to the fibroblast tissues, irrespective of the internal reserves of amino acid in our body. This, in turn, helps in making our skin look great and enables the joints to function more effectively.
Choosing the Best Collagen Supplement
One must ensure quality when looking out for a collagen supplement. Here are some basic rules to follow when looking out for a collagen supplement:
1. Check for Hydrolyzed Collagen:
Natural collagen is a long chain protein, while hydrolyzed collagen is broken down into smaller chains called peptides. So when checking out supplements lookout for labels stating hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides.
2. Check for the Absorbing Capacity of the Collagen Supplement:
Supplements with collagen peptides have low molecular weight and are better absorbed. Low molecular weight collagen peptides (LMWCP) ensure better hydration and elasticity of the skin.  Hence check the labels for low molecular weight.
3. Ensure the Best Collagen Source:
There are four primary collagen sources, namely bovine (cow), porcine (pig), marine (fish), and chicken. Of the above bovine (grass-fed) is supposed to be the best source of collagen, while porcine accounts the least quality source.
4. Check for Vitamin C Enriched Supplements:
Vitamin C helps to augment the collagen synthesis, hence check for supplements enriched with Vitamin C.
5. Avoid Artificial Flavors, Sweeteners or Colors:
While certain supplements may add flavours, most of them are flavourless as that is the precise state of actual hydrolyzed collagen. It is best to avoid artificial colours, sweeteners or flavours as they might be added to mask the real quality of the collagen.
6. More the Essential Nutrients, the Better the Supplement:
In addition to Vitamin C, one can take a better look at the label to see what other combo is incorporated in the supplement. Certain quality ingredients that one can look out for in the supplement include Vitamin A, Zinc, Proline, Copper, Vitamin E, and so on.
Additional Points to Check on the Label:
Make sure that the collagen supplement is: -
- Non-GMO and
How to Incorporate Collagen Powder in Your Diet: 
Collagen peptide, unlike collagen gelatin, dissolves quickly in cold and hot liquids and will not thicken. Further natural collagen is flavourless, so it can be easily incorporated into many recipes without affecting the overall taste or texture of the dish. Some of the recipes where collagen peptide can be included are:
- Salad Dressings
- Soups and stews
- Any food batter like pancake batter
- Baked items like slices of bread, cookies, and muffins
- Porridge etc.
Best Forms of Collagen Supplements
- Collagen Protein Powders
- Bone Broth
- Collagen Tablets for a comfortable daily dose of collagen
- Collagen Cream for enhancing skin elasticity. (Certain creams are meant only for the face, so check the label)
- Face Masks - a quicker alternative for the routine skincare regimen.
Consuming collagen has many benefits and known minimal risks. For beginners, collagen supplementation can help by beginning with better skin health, bone and joint health and enhanced muscle mass.
Collagen supplements are generally safe and quite easy to use, and it is definitely worth trying them as a part of regular protein intake, given their numerous bioactive properties and rich availability of various indispensable amino acids.