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A Beginner's Guide to Collagen Supplements

It’s been all over influencer’s Instagram stories, fitness and beauty blogs, and seems like everyone is raving over collagen supplements. But what exactly does collagen do? Help with hair, skin, nails? What does that mean? These were all the questions I was asking myself when contemplating whether I needed to jump on the collagen bandwagon myself and luckily, with a little help from nutrition coach, Michelle Cartmel, I found some answers.

Seattle Refined: What is collagen and what does it do?
Cartmel: Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. There are four main types of collagen (Types I, II, III and IV), found in our muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive systems and tendons. It supports skin elasticity and provides structure and support to our joints and tendons. Unfortunately, collagen production begins to naturally slow as we age, but also slows because of external factors like high-sugar diets or excessive amounts of sun. Thankfully, there are some terrific supplements on the market that we can take to boost our production of collagen which I highlight below. However, as a nutrition coach, my recommendation is to start with a diet rich in foods that help stimulate collagen production like bone broth, dark, leafy greens, fish high in Omega-3's like salmon and tuna, grass-fed beef, organic chicken and berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries). A diet rich in these foods AND the added collagen supplement will pack a powerful punch!

What brands are best to get? Are there kinds to avoid?
When choosing a collagen supplement, think clean and read labels! If you are purchasing collagen in powder form, make sure that you get your powder from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows that have not been fed antibiotics or chemicals. The ingredient list should be minimal and all natural. Whether you are purchasing pill or powder, make sure that you check the sources if you have allergies to fish, chicken or eggs, as some collagen comes from chicken, bovine, fish or egg whites. My personal favorite is Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder. Since I began taking it over one year ago, my hair and nail growth has accelerated and my skin has never looked better. The powder is tasteless, so I drink it in my coffee each morning and occasionally add it to smoothies. When a friend of mine was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and started shedding clumps of hair, she began using this product; her hair has grown back and the hair loss has stopped. While I am loyal to this brand, I have also tried and recommend Blue Biology Marine Collagen and Ancient Nutrition Multi-Collagen Protein.

How long does it take to see/feel results on average?
The results can be seen VERY quickly; I started noticing changes in my skin and hair in one month; and clients of mine whom I recommended this to have reported results in 1-3 months.

Anything else we should know?
Be consistent. Like anything else (a fitness routine, new diet, etc.) you're not going to see results unless you do this daily. That said, make it part of your morning or evening routine. Put the package/container next to your coffee maker or vitamins so that you don't forget when you're groggy in the morning.

Carmel even shared her collagen smoothie recommendation:

  • One handful of spinach or kale
  • 8 oz nut milk or oat milk
  • 1-2 scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder
  • 1 dash vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 frozen banana
    Blend ingredients until smooth, and enjoy!

I’ve been plopping collagen into my coffee each morning for about a week now and while I can’t totally tell if I see a difference just yet, consider myself on the train!

For more information on collagen, nutrition, and other supplements, visit Michelle Cartmel’s website.