Skip to main content

Collagen protein vs whey protein: Which should you choose?

Collagen protein vs whey protein: What to consider

NatalyaBond / Shutterstock

Collagen protein powder and whey protein might look the same from their packaging, but each of these workout supplements differs in their use and makeup. Whey protein powder has been used by fitness enthusiasts for decades, offering a convenient way to achieve protein macro goals. But powdered collagen supplements have only recently become a fitness trend — but is it a fad? In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about choosing collagen protein vs whey and how to determine which is best for your fitness goals.

What is collagen?

Collagen is an essential protein that plays many critical roles in our bodies such as providing structure and support for our bones, muscles, ligaments, connective tissues, and more. This important protein makes up about 30% of your body’s total protein but declines naturally with age. Collagen peptide products are made from animal tissues (cow) that are boiled and dehydrated to create a powdered supplement. Once collagen begins gelatin and is made into a powder, it is packaged as a flavorless supplement you can find in your local health food or vitamin store. kasarp studio / Shutterstock

What is whey protein?

Closeup of handsome african american sportsman training body on modern rowing exerciser in gym, copy space. Motivated young black sportsman with wireless headset having workout on rowing machine
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Whey protein is another product found in powdered supplement form. This protein supplement is made from whey, a byproduct liquid that separates milk when cheese is made. During the cheese-making process, milk fat coagulates and leaves behind whey, which is then turned into a powdered form. This is a complete protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Our bodies cannot produce essential amino acids on their own; which means we must consume them in our diet.

Collagen protein vs. whey protein

Man drinking protein shake
Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Choosing between collagen or whey protein ultimately comes down to your health and fitness goals. Each supplement has its own set of benefits and it’s important to recognize one supplement cannot replace the other. Collagen protein is considered an incomplete protein since it does not contain all nine essential amino acids. Collagen contains eight amino acids, except branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), an amino acid that is vital to the muscle-building process. A healthy, well-rounded diet must contain complete protein sources.

But this doesn’t mean collagen can’t also play a vital role in helping you to achieve your wellness goals. Below, we’ll break down which supplement to choose based on your goals.

Muscle growth

If packing on muscle mass is your goal, both collagen and whey protein powder can play a helpful role. However, if choosing between collagen protein vs. whey protein, whey protein is a better choice to help support your muscle growth. This is because whey protein contains high levels of leucine, an amino acid that triggers muscle protein synthesis after a workout.

Some studies, however, do suggest that collagen can also support enhanced muscle growth by strengthening the extracellular matrix of muscle cells. With this in mind, athletes and gymgoers can try taking both collagen protein and whey protein as part of their diet routine.

Bone density

Bone density naturally declines with age, which is why many people take hydrolyzed collagen powder to help combat age-related bone loss and promote healthy density. Many studies have found that consuming collagen regularly can increase bone formation and reduce bone degradation. If you’re looking to support bone density, collagen may be a better choice over whey protein.

Hair, skin, and nails

Consuming healthy levels of protein daily is an important part of maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails. Whey protein can make up a portion of your daily protein intake to help reach your macro goals. However, collagen has specific benefits on the hair, skin, and nails because it works with other substances like hyaluronic acid and elastin to target the skin and support skin elasticity and volume. Many people find that they have improved skin, more durable nails, and stronger hair when regularly taking collagen supplements.

Considerations when choosing whey or collagen

Male athlete drinking protein shake while sitting in gym.
Westend61 / Adobe Stock

Choosing to consume one or both whey protein and collagen peptides is a personal choice and depends on your unique goals. However, there are a few important things to consider when making your decision. First and foremost, collagen peptides are typically derived from a bovine source (cow), which means it is entirely made of animal products. As such, collagen powder is not suitable for anyone following a vegan diet. There is no such thing as a vegan collagen powder, but pescatarians may prefer a marine collagen product.

Whey is also not vegan, as it contains dairy byproducts. Other forms of protein powder do exist that may serve the same purpose as whey, however, such as plant-based pea protein. Anyone who has digestive issues or lactose intolerant may also find whey tough to tolerate, as it is a dairy product. When choosing between whey or collagen, consider the protein that best fits with your lifestyle and makes you feel your best.

Emily Caldwell
Emily is a freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She holds a B.S…
Planks vs crunches: Which is actually a better core exercise?
Is one better than the other?
A man doing a crunch by a pool

Deep core strength is essential for building a strong and healthy body. Your core muscles, including your abdominals, obliques, and lower back, play a crucial role in maintaining good posture, balance, and stability. They also help you perform everyday activities with ease and efficiency, from lifting groceries to playing sports. Studies show that training your core can help you better perform other athletic activities. 

Two popular exercises that often come to mind are planks and crunches, but which is better for your health, planks vs crunches? In this article, we'll explore the benefits and drawbacks of each exercise, provide step-by-step instructions for doing each one safely and effectively, and offer tips for strengthening your core overall. Whether you're a fitness beginner or a seasoned athlete, you'll learn how to build a stronger, more stable core that will serve you well in all aspects of life. Let’s get started!
How do planks and crunches target the core?

Read more
High protein fast food for a busy day: These picks won’t kill your fitness goals
You can eat healthy on the go with these high protein fast food options
Sankt-Petersburg/Russia - July 21 2019: McDonald’s worker holding bag of fast food. Hand with a paper bag through the window of mcdonalds car drive thru service.

Whether it's your home life or work life, food choices tend to be the last thing on our minds during ultra-busy weeks. Despite our best efforts to eat at home as much as possible, we all find ourselves looking for something fast and prepared from time to time. While fast food certainly shouldn't be an everyday event, many fast food chains offer healthy, high protein options that are great for when you're in a pinch. Knowing what to order when at a fast food chain can help you keep on track with your fitness goals without much thought at all. Consider these delicious 5 options for high protein fast food on your next busy day.

Drive-thru high protein fast food

Read more
Do you need intra workout carbs?
Will intra workout carbs boost your fitness routine?
Caucasian muscular man using pull down machine in the gym, weight lifting workout.

Nutrition is one of the most important components to accompany your workout plan -- regardless of your fitness goals. Yet, there are many different nutritional approaches to try, which can make it challenging to know the best plan for you. Some athletes try intra workout carbs to help fuel their workouts, helping to replenish muscle glycogen for energy. But are intra workout carbs the best strategy for everyone? Should you give it a whirl? Let's dive into this fitness trend and who should consider giving it a try.

What are intra workout carbs?

Read more