The keto diet and collagen protein might just be two of the most popular trends in the health and wellness world right now—but should you be combining them? According to some experts, yes. Here’s how loading up on collagen can boost your keto lifestyle.
First, A Quick Keto Refresher
The subject of an endless number of Instagram transformation posts, cookbooks, and more, the high-fat keto diet continues to dazzle with its promises of weight loss, reduced inflammation, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, increased energy, and diminished cravings.
By eating 60 to 70 percent of your calories from fat, 15 to 30 percent from protein, and just five to 10 from carbohydrates, you transition your body from burning glucose (which comes from carbohydrates and sugar) to burning ketones (which come from fat).
Though eating too much protein on a keto diet can affect your body’s fat-burning abilities (we can turn excess into glucose), it’s still important for your overall health and well-being that you eat enough, says Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C, member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council and author of the upcoming Keto Diet.
And when it comes to what type of protein to emphasize while on keto, Axe recommends collagen.
So, Why Collagen?
The most abundant type of structural protein in the human body, collagen can be found in our muscles, bones, skin, hair, nails, ligaments, tendons blood vessels, and organs. Like glue, it essentially holds the body together, forming our connective tissues and repairing wounds.
As we age, our body produces less and less collagen, leading to wrinkles, droopy skin, brittle nails, and joint issues.
For that reason, pretty much all of us can benefit from consuming more collagen. (In fact, doing so has been shown to relieve joint issues, support digestive health, and boost the appearance of our skin, hair, and nails.
Collagen, Meet Keto
According to Axe, consuming more collagen—and boosting our body’s own collagen production—is especially beneficial when you’re on a ketogenic diet.
Keto has been credited with warding off inflammation, easing pain, promoting cognitive function, and supporting weight loss. However, the diet (especially its limited protein intake) can have some drawbacks for muscle mass and joint and gut health over time.
That’s why Axe recommends prioritizing collagen on a keto diet. Since this protein offers so many muscle, joint, and gut benefits, it can help you get the most ‘bang for your buck’ from the protein you consume on keto.
Enter ‘The Keto Collagen-Boosting Plan’
To maximize keto’s age-defying and health-boosting benefits, Axe recommends following his ‘Keto Collagen-Boosting Plan.’
For starters, you’ll limit your total protein intake to between 0.8 and one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. (That’s 55 to 68 grams of protein for a 150-pound person).
From there, you’ll incorporate collagen-packed foods, collagen-boosting nutrients, and collagen supplements in your diet at least twice a day. Ideally, up to 20 grams of your daily protein intake will come from collagen.
4 Ways To Maximize Collagen On Keto
What does that look like in everyday keto eating? Here are Axe’s four tips for ramping up collagen without wrecking ketosis.
1. Avoid Collagen-Depleting Habits
The first step in boosting collagen and its benefits is to avoid certain lifestyle factors Axe calls ‘collagen killers.’
“Poor sleep, a sedentary lifestyle, over-exercising, chronic stress, excess sun exposure, and smoking can have all been shown to reduce collagen synthesis in the body,” he says. Basically, anything that’s bad for your long-term health is also bad for collagen production.
According to Axe, eating a diet high in sugar is also collagen-depleting—but luckily sugar is already off the table on keto.
2. Incorporate More Bone Broth
Because collagen is abundant in connective tissues like bones and cartilage, it’s not exactly something most of us eat regularly. That’s why drinking bone broth, which is made from those tissues and packed with collagen, daily is perhaps the easiest way to boost your collagen intake.
Because there’s only so much meat-juice you can gulp down, though, a bone broth protein powder can also come in handy. These supplements, which are made from powdered bone broth, typically contain somewhere between 12 and 20 grams of protein per serving and contain multiple types of collagen, says Axe. When mid-afternoon hunger strikes, just shake a scoop into some nut milk.
3. Eat More Collagen-Boosting Nutrients
Aside from eating collagen itself, eating nutrients our body needs to produce collagen (and convert the protein into a form we can use) is also important.
“You can get vitamin A and vitamin C in leafy green veggies (such as kale and chard), bell peppers, broccoli, organ meats (like beef or chicken liver), free-range egg yolks, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, tahini, nuts, and seeds,” says Axe. To boost your A and C intake, incorporate at least one serving of these foods per day.
However, you can also take your go-to collagen supplement alongside vitamin C and A supplements. In fact, many collagen supplement formulas (like Reserveage Collagen Replenish) already contain extra vitamin C.
Axe personally likes to up his vitamin C intake with antioxidant-rich fruits, like camu camu, amla berry, and lingonberry. You’ll often find them in powder or liquid form (like Paradise Herbs & Essentials Camu Camu or Garden of Life mykind Orange Tangerine Amla Vitamin C.)
4. Try A Keto-Friendly Collagen Powder
When in doubt, a keto-friendly collagen protein supplement can also help you incorporate more collagen into your day—without threatening to throw off your macros. “Look for a product that contains a combination of collagen and a healthy fat,” says Axe. Ancient Nutrition Keto Collagen (Axe’s own brand) packs grass-fed beef collagen along with MCTs from coconut oil. Try adding the powder to keto smoothies, coffee, fat bomb recipes, or even keto pancakes!