Protein Powder vs. Collagen: What’s the difference?

Usually, when something has a ‘versus’ in the title, the expectation is for the writer to weigh up each product and then tell you which is the better option. It could be the difference between animal-based and plant-based proteins, or which kind of supplement is better for your health.

This isn’t the case with collagen and protein powder. 

You see, protein powder and collagen may have their differences (which we’ll come to later), but they are a powerhouse of nutritional wealth when combined. One is most definitely not better than the other! 

Now we’ve got that out of the way, we can begin! 

What is collagen?

Collagen is a protein, and the most abundant protein in the human body, for that matter. There are several key differences between protein powders and collagen powders, because they’re sourced differently and have different benefits for the body. 

Collagen is the main structural component of our connective tissue, which includes our tendons, ligaments and skin. It’s what gives our skin structure, helps to maintain healthy hair and nails, and it’s also been shown to help maintain bone health and form (Wu and Crane, 2019). It can also help with our digestive and circulatory health, relieve joint pain, prevent bone loss and can help the liver to process alcohol (García-Coronado et al., 2018). 

As you can see, collagen is hugely beneficial for the physical wellbeing of our bodies. The problem is that as we get older, our bodies' ability to build collagen becomes less efficient, which threatens the structure and formation of our cells, causing skin to wrinkle, joints to stiffen and bones to lose their strength (Quan and Fisher, 2015). 

So giving your body the tools it needs to build collagen itself is pivotal for maintaining optimal levels in our system and helping to slow the processes of ageing, keeping you and your joints healthier for longer. 

What are proteins?

Proteins are macronutrients which are vital for building muscle mass. They are made from long strings of amino acids which, when broken down by the body, are used for different purposes such as; growth and repair of muscle tissue, faster recovery, providing your body with energy, and supporting your immune system (Li et al., 2007).

Whilst collagen relies on a smaller number of amino acids for synthesis, other proteins have longer strings compromising lots of different amino acid combinations which have wider roles in the body. They can be used as sources of energy, form hormones and digestive enzymes, to maintain and regulate various bodily functions and processes, as well as being used for muscle protein synthesis (Tessari, Lante and Mosca, 2016).

People who exercise heavily with the intention of building muscle will often rely on a high protein diet complete with protein shakes in order to assist the healthy growth of lean muscle tissue, which is what protein powders are created for. They may have different amounts of protein per serving, depending on whether they are designed for athletes, people who exercise moderately, or people who just want to add a little extra protein to their diet.

Protein powders may also contain different amino acid profiles to help achieve certain things - for example, the addition of Branched Chain Amino Acids to protein powders to help with enhanced muscle growth and faster recovery, or turmeric powder to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. These are designed with full body exercise recovery in mind, and not focused solely on one protein, as collagen powders are. 

If collagen is just another form of protein, then why do I need a separate supplement? 

That’s all down to the amino acid profiles of protein powders and collagen building supplements, which is where the main differences between the two lies. Collagen is built in the body using specific amino acids; glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, most of which are not included in high enough quantities in protein powders. 

These amino acid profiles are what give collagen builders and protein powders different functions in the body. The body also requires the presence of other nutrients, such as copper, zinc, and vitamin c during collagen synthesis. Again, most protein powders do not contain these nutrients as they’re not required in high quantities for protein powders to be efficient. If they do it is at lower levels, which does not promote effective collagen synthesis.

Collagen is also produced differently to protein powders. Collagen is most traditionally sourced from the connective tissues and organs of animals and fish, including fish skin and scales, and boiled animal bones. When processed, these proteins become gelatin, which can then be treated, dried and powdered. Protein powders are made by drying, treating and powdering forms of protein, such as whey, pea or hemp (Liu et al., 2015) - which is more similar to the way that plant-based collagen builders are made.

The better way to build collagen:

Bovine and marine based collagens have been on the scene a lot longer than their plant-based counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they’re better. You see, when you take animal-based collagen it’s simply broken down into various amino acids and then your body rebuilds it into its own collagen, which is a really inefficient way to do things. Plus, animal-based collagen supplements can contain ineffective amounts of key ingredients, and so can’t produce the same results. 

So if that wasn’t enough to consider a better way to build collagen; the scales, bones, skins, and various animal tissues which are required to create animal-based collagens tend to come from factory farms which are not only devastating for the animals, but also for the environment. 

Vivo Life’s plant-based Collagen Builder has a superior amino acid and nutrient profile to typical animal-based collagens with 25g of protein per serving, scientifically proven to support collagen production, hair, skin and nails.. This means that you are not eating collagen to build collagen, you are instead supplying your body with the blocks it needs to build its own with maximum efficiency. 

Our blend also contains 240mg of ultra-pure hyaluronic acid in a single dose, to deliver changes you can see and feel, and 600mg of Bamboo Extract Silica, to help bolster your skin’s natural ability to retain water.

So there you have it - all collagen builders contain proteins, but not all proteins can build the best collagen. Take our PERFORM protein powder, for example. The amount of protein per serving is the same as our Collagen Builder, but the difference between the amino acid profiles indicates that PERFORM is more suited for exercise recovery and muscle protein synthesis, whilst the collagen builder is best for, you guessed it, building collagen! 


Wu, M. and Crane, J.S. (2019). Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis. [online] Available at:

Quan, T. and Fisher, G.J. (2015). Role of Age-Associated Alterations of the Dermal Extracellular Matrix Microenvironment in Human Skin Aging: A Mini-Review. Gerontology, 61(5), pp.427–434. doi:10.1159/000371708.

Li, P., Yin, Y.-L., Li, D., Woo Kim, S. and Wu, G. (2007). Amino acids and immune function. British Journal of Nutrition, [online] 98(02), p.237. doi:10.1017/s000711450769936x.

García-Coronado, J.M., Martínez-Olvera, L., Elizondo-Omaña, R.E., Acosta-Olivo, C.A., Vilchez-Cavazos, F., Simental-Mendía, L.E. and Simental-Mendía, M. (2018). Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. International Orthopaedics, 43(3), pp.531–538. doi:10.1007/s00264-018-4211-5.

Tessari, P., Lante, A. and Mosca, G. (2016). Essential amino acids: master regulators of nutrition and environmental footprint? Scientific Reports, [online] 6(1). doi:10.1038/srep26074.

Liu, D., Nikoo, M., Boran, G., Zhou, P. and Regenstein, J.M. (2015). Collagen and gelatin. Annual review of food science and technology, [online] 6, pp.527–57. doi:10.1146/annurev-food-031414-111800.