Collagen Protein vs Pea Protein

Written by Ben Carlisle

Last updated on: Sep 18, 2022

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If you are wanting to know how collagen and pea protein match up, you are in the right place. Both have their benefits. Collagen is beneficial for joint, skin, and hair health. Whilst pea protein is high in protein, has a good amino acid profile and rich in iron. Read on to find out more…

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Collagen protein is a type of protein which is derived from the connective tissues of animals. It is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Collagen protein has been shown to be beneficial for joint, skin and hair health. It is also a good source of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline (1).

There are three main types of collagen: Type I, II, and III.

Type I collagen is the most abundant type of collagen in the human body, it is found in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.

Type II collagen is found in the cartilage and other connective tissues.

Type III collagen is found in the muscles, blood vessels, and organs.

You may also come across Type IV collagen. This is found in the layers of the skin. It forms in a sheet. It is the major collagen component of the basement membrane. This basement membrane is vital for normal skin functions.

Benefits Of Collagen Protein

Collagen protein supplementation has a number of benefits. These range from helping to improve overall health through to injury prevention and improved recovery in athletic pursuits.

Joint Health

Collagen has been found to support joint health. It has been shown to cause an anabolic effect of cartilage tissue. Cartilage is found in the joint and its function includes resisting compressive forces and enhancing bone resilience. Its use also appears to beneficial in patients with osteoarthritis.

A clinical trial over a 24-week period found athletes who supplemented with collagen hydrolysate benefited from a reduction in parameters which have a negative impact on athletic performance. The study concluded collagen supplementation may have a role in supporting joint health and reducing the risk of joint deterioration in high risk individuals (2).

Skin Health

Human skin is largely composed of collagen. It is found in a connective tissue which provides functional and structural support. As people age they produce less collagen. This results in thinner and weaker skin. This often results in dry skin and wrinkles forming (3).

Research has found taking collagen supplements can help reduce this degradation of the skin. And consequently, slow the formation of wrinkles and thinner skin. Researchers have stated the short and long term use of oral collagen supplementation to help prevent skin ageing and to assist with wound healing are promising. It was also found collagen supplements caused improved skin elasticity, hydration and dermal collagen density (4).

Bone Health

Research has found collagen peptide supplementation has increased bone mineral density in postmenopausal women who were suffering from age related reduction of bone mineral density. Individuals who supplemented were also found to have favourable improvement in indicators of increased bone formation and a reduction in bone degradation (5).

What Is Pea Protein?

Pea protein is a type of protein which is derived from ground yellow split peas. It is a great source of plant-based protein, it is also low in calories and fat. Pea protein has a high fiber content, which makes it an excellent choice for those who are looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Benefits Of Pea Protein

Pea protein is a fantastic supplement offering a range of beenfits. It is an extremely popular alternative to whey protein. It can assist with athletic and fitness goals as well as provide a number of health benefits.

Weight Loss

Research has found protein to be the macronutrient which suppresses appetite the most. Protein is often described as increasing satiety. This means to make you feel fuller. When compared to a range of supplements (including whey protein), pea and casein were found to be the most effective at suppressing appetite when consumed before eating (6). This suggests pea protein is a leading choice for those wanting to maximise feelings of fullness. Additionally, one study found plant based food to have significant benefits on weight reduction when compared to non-plant based food.

Rich In Iron

Pea protein is packed full of iron. One of the leading pea protein powders on the market contains 8.1mg of iron per serving. This is the full daily recommended iron intake for men and post-menopausal woman. Whilst for pre-menopausal women this will make up 44% of their recommended daily allowance. A study has also found pea to be a promising encapsulating matrix for the controlled release of iron (7). Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional disorders which means pea protein is an interesting supplement for many people who suffer from low iron levels.

Supports Muscle Growth

Pea protein has been found to be as effective as whey protein when it comes to promoting the growth of muscle tissue (8). Pea protein supplements have good levels of the branched chain amino acids; leucine, isoleucine and valine. These three amino acids have been found to be beneficial in promoting the growth of muscle mass. Combining pea protein with a consistent resistance training program is recommended to achieve the best possible results.

Good Amino Acid Profile

While there is some debate as to whether pea protein is a complete protein source. It is widely agreed to have a good amino acid profile. Although it is low in methionine, this can easily be made up elsewhere in the diet. Methionine is widely available in several animal products. For those following a plant based diet it can be found in foods such as nuts, oats and seeds. For those not wanting to worry about getting methionine from food sources they can choose a complementary protein powder such as brown rice, or choose a pea protein supplement with additional ingredients to give a full essential amino acid profile.

Compatible With Most Special Diets

Pea protein is hypoallergenic. This means it is free from the eight most common allergens. For this reason, it is compatible with almost all types of dietary needs. The only people who should stay clear of pea protein are those allergic to peas. However, there is one thing which should be checked before purchasing any pea protein supplements. This is if it uses sugar alcohols. Research has linked the sugar alcohols, xylitol and erythritol with causing stomach upsets (9). If you have any concerns about an ingredient in a protein supplement you should always seek advice from a medical professional.

Collagen vs Pea Protein: Essential Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and they are essential for the body to function properly. There are 20 amino acids found in most plant and animal proteins. However, the animal collagen gelatin is an exception to this rule. it is does not contain all nine essential amino acids. It is missing tryptophan. 

9 of these amino acids are essential. These are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Essential Amino Acid Collagen Protein* (%) Pea Protein (%)
Histidine 0.8 2.5
Isoleucine 1.5 4.8
Leucine 2.9 8.5
Lysine 3.4 7.5
Methionine 0.6 1.9
Phenylalanine 2.1 5.5
Threonine 1.9 3.7
Tryptophan 0.0 1.0
Valine 2.4 5.0

*Bovine Collagen

Collagen Essential Amino Acid Profile

Collagen is not considered a high-quality protein because it is not a complete protein. It does not contain all nine essential amino acids. It is missing the essential amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is needed for normal growth in children and for the production and maintenance of the body's proteins, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. L-tryptophan is converted by the body into serotonin (10). Serotonin may assist with better quality sleep and mood control (11).

Collagen is also low in the amino acid methionine. Pure collagen does not have branched-chain amino acid levels which compare favorably with other protein powders. The branched chain amino acids are; leucine, isoleucine and valine. They have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness (12).

This means collagen should not displace complete protein foods or supplements. It is not intended to be used as a main protein source, rather it should be used as a complementary one. Collagen is however made up of some amino acids which are not often part of modern day diets.

Pea Protein Amino Acid Profile

Pea protein is sometimes referred to as having a complete amino acid profile. This status as a complete protein is often debated. Whilst true it does contain all the essential amino acids, it is low in methionine. This lack of methionine is not a problem as it can be found in other foods sources. As a lot of people following vegan diets, use pea protein as a substitute for whey, methionine often needs to be found in plant based foods. Plant based sources of methionine include; dried seaweed, brazil nuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, pistachio nuts peanuts and oats. If animal based products are not a problem tuna, turkey and beef are some great sources of methionine.

Collagen vs Pea Protein: Non-Essential Amino Acids

Both collagen and pea protein are good sources of non-essential amino acids. Although not essential for the body to function properly, they can be beneficial to overall healthy. There are 11 non-essential amino acids which are found in proteins.

All of the non-essential amino acids are found in both collagen and pea protein. However, collagen protein contains a higher amount of some of these non-essential amino acids. Collagen protein contains more of the amino acids glycine, glutamic acid, proline, and serine than pea protein. Glycine assists the body in the creation of glutathione. This is an antioxidant which haas a protective effect on the cells. Oxidative stress is related to a number of chronic diseases and inflammation (13).

Collagen vs Pea Protein: Muscle Growth

Collagen protein is not considered a good protein for supporting muscle growth because it is missing the essential amino acid tryptophan and has low levels of branched chain amino acids. Pea protein, on the other hand, is a great supplement to support muscle growth. It has a good amino acid profile with high levels of the BCAA's. The BCAA's have been found to be important for stimulating muscle protein synthesis Additionally, research has found the plant based supplement to be as effective as whey when it comes to muscle growth. This means pea protein is far superior than collagen protein for those who are looking to build muscle (this includes muscle weight gain for bodybuilding purposes).


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Collagen vs Pea Protein: Protein Per Serving

A good collagen protein supplement can contain up to 90% protein content. Collagen peptides is a term often used interchangeably with collagen protein. However, there is a slight difference. Both are forms of collagen but collagen peptides normally have higher bioavailability. They are better absorbed into the blood stream. The reason for this is they have much shorter chains of amino acids. The reason they have shorter amino acid chains is because they are fully hydrolysed. This is much like whey hydrolysate, which has better digestibility than whey concentrate.

Despite a high protein content per serving and good bioavailability. The quality of this protein in terms of the amino acids its provide is not as good as pea protein if you are looking for a supplement to enhance athletic performance. The reason for this is despite pea protein having a lower protein content (typically between 66% and 75%), it has a better essential amino acid profile and better BCAA levels. With the branched chain amino acids being particularly important for the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. The low level of methionine in pea is still higher than the methionine level of collagen. And today many of the best pea protein powders contain added ingredients to make up for this methionine deficit.

However, this does not mean collagen does not have a role for athletes. Research has found it can lessen joint pain, which could make it an excellent supplement to complement a complete protein powder. The reason for this is it may reduce training and competition days lost due to injury (2).

Collagen vs Pea Protein Which One Should You Choose?

The choice will depend on your goals. If you are looking for a protein supplement to assist with joint, skin, and hair health, collagen protein would be a good choice. However, if you are looking for a supplement to support muscle growth or athletic performance pea protein is a superior choice. There’s also no reason why these two supplements cannot be used together. An example would be for an athlete who uses pea protein for assisting with their workouts. And using collagen to help with injury prevention.

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