I’ve written and recorded a lot of evidence-based content over the years on just about everything you can imagine related to building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthy.
I’ve also worked with thousands of men and women of all ages and circumstances and helped them get into the best shape of their lives.
That doesn’t mean you should blindly swallow everything I say, though, because let’s face it—nobody is always right about everything. And especially in fields like diet and exercise, which are constantly evolving thanks to the efforts of honest and hardworking researchers and thought leaders.
This is why I’m always happy to hear from people who disagree with me, especially when they have good arguments and evidence to back up their assertions.
Sometimes I can’t get on board with their positions, but sometimes I end up learning something, and either way, I always appreciate the discussion.
That gave me the idea for this series of podcast episodes: publicly addressing things people disagree with me on and sharing my perspective.
Think of it like a spicier version of a Q&A.
So, here’s what I’m doing:
Every couple of weeks, I’m asking my Instagram followers what they disagree with me on, and then picking the more common or interesting contentions to address here on the podcast.
And in this episode, I’ll be tackling the following . . .
- Is collagen protein superior to whey?
4:12 – What is collagen protein?
12:31 – Does whey protein have heavy metals in them?
Mentioned on the Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. Now, I’ve written and recorded a lot of evidence-based stuff over the years on just about. Everything you can imagine relating to building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthy. I’ve also worked with thousands and thousands of men and women of all ages and circumstances and helped them get into the best shape of their life.
But that does not mean you should just blindly swallow everything I say, because let’s face it, nobody. Always write about everything, and especially in fields like diet and exercise, which are always evolving thanks to the efforts of honest and hardworking researchers and thought leaders. And that’s why I’m always happy to hear from people who disagree with me, especially when they have good arguments and evidence to back up their assertions.
Sometimes I can’t quite get on board with their positions, but sometimes I. Learning something and either way, I always appreciate the discussion and that gave me the idea for this series of podcast episodes, which I call says You, where I publicly address things that people disagree with me on. And I share my perspective.
It’s kind of like a spicier q and A. So what I do is every couple of weeks I ask people who follow me on Instagram at Muscle Life Fitness, please follow me what they disagree with me on, and then I pick a few of the more common or interesting contentions to address here on the podcast. So if there’s something that you disagree with me on, and it could be related to diet, exercise.
Supplementation business, lifestyle. I don’t care anything. Go follow me on Instagram at Muscle for Life Fitness and look for my saysyou story that I put up every couple of weeks where I solicit content for these episodes. Or just shoot me an email, [email protected]. And in this episode, I will be tackling the claim that collagen is superior to.
Heavy metal infested whey protein, and this’ll be good because it’s a twofer. I get to talk about collagen protein and the charge that whey protein, all whey proteins on the market. I’ve seen people say this are. Infested with heavy metals or contain high enough levels of heavy metals to harm people’s health.
Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger. Thinner, leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the Shredded Chef.
Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores. And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100.
Free when you sign up for an Audible account, and this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime, like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audiobooks for free, just go to www.buy Legion.
That’s b u y legion.com/. And sign up for your account. So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna learn time proven and evidence-based strategies for losing fat, building muscle, and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, bigger, leaner, stronger for Men, thinner, leaner.
For women and the shredded chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipe. Okay, so let’s talk about collagen protein first. What is collagen protein? Well, it is a type of protein that serves as the main component of your body’s connective tissues. So that means that it is the primary building block of different things in your body, like your skin and your teeth, and cartilage, and your joints, and your bones, and your tendons.
collagen protein supplements are made up of those types of tissues, connective tissues of various animals, including cows, chickens, and fish. And there are many different types of collagen in animals, over 37 different kinds actually, and they are categorized. Into different buckets based on their amino acid makeup and where they are found in the animal’s body.
So you have type one, you have type two, three, and so forth. And most collagen protein supplements contain a mixture of these types because they are made from different things. They’re made from beef skin, they’re made from chicken and fish bones, byproducts of food processing like eggshells or animal intestines.
Collagen protein supplements are often made from a combination of these things, not just one of them. So as you have gathered, collagen protein supplements are a good source of different types of collagen, but are they good for body composition? Are they good for building muscle, for example? Well, the most important aspects of a protein supplement or really any source of protein in the context of muscle building are the amino acid profile, and particularly the essential amino acid profile.
So those are the amino acids that we have to get from food that our body cannot synthesize from other stuff and, and particularly leucine that is, Essential amino acid that is directly responsible for protein synthesis for the creation of proteins, including muscle proteins. And the other major factor is how well the protein is digested and absorbed.
Because if you have a source of protein that is rich in essential amino acids, but your body could only use, let’s say 50% of them because. Poorly digested or poorly absorbed, then that would not be as good for building muscle as a source of protein that has maybe 20% less essential acids, but is absorbed really, really well.
Let’s say your body can use 80 or 90% of what is in the protein. And unfortunately while collagen protein is digested well and it is absorbed well, it is also severely lacking in essential amino acids. For example, collagen is about 2.7% leucine by weight, whereas beef protein is around. 8% leucine by weight and whey protein is about 10% leucine by weight.
And the amount of leucine that is contained in a meal has been shown to, and this is not surprising given, uh, that leucine again directly stimulates muscle protein synthesis, but the amount of leucine contained in a meal has been shown to directly correlate with the amount of muscle growth that occurs from that meal.
Ideally, you would get at least two to three grams of le. In one serving. Some people actually need to get a bit more to maximize muscle protein synthesis, but two to three grams of leucine in a serving of protein is a good benchmark. And that’s also why when you have a high quality source of protein, like whey protein, you’ve probably heard that people recommend having 20 to 40 grams in each serving, and that that’s.
To again, maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis, 20 grams. If you’re a smaller person, let’s say you’re a woman and you don’t weigh that much, 40 grams. If you’re a larger person, if you’re a guy who weighs maybe almost twice as much as the woman, or if you are an older individual, because we know that as our body’s age, it requires more protein.
In each serving to maximally stimulate muscle building, and one of the reasons why that range is often given that 20 to 40 grams per serving is because of the amount of leucine that provides. Again, whey protein is about 10% leucine by weight. So when you have 20 to 40 grams of whey, you are getting about two to four grams of leucine.
Now coming back to collagen protein with its 2.7% leucine by weight, we immediately see that it would require about four times as much collagen protein to match the leucine in a given amount of whe and about three times as much to match the amount of leucine in a given amount of beef protein. And so if you are supplementing with protein to augment muscle building, if you’re doing it for body composition reasons, then collagen protein is just not a.
Choice. However, if you are supplementing with it because you’ve heard that it can make you prettier, that it can make your skin hair and nails look better, or maybe you even have experienced that taking collagen protein researchers think that that is probably because it’s rich in an amino acid called glycine, which is a non-essential amino acid.
So it is not vital for muscle building, but there is. That it can improve the look and the health of your hair, skin, and nails. And the cool thing about glycine is it’s super cheap and it tastes good. You can just buy it in bulk and you could take a few grams per day. And if that is what is helping you, if that is why the collagen protein is making you look more beautiful than you.
Retain the benefits for a lot less money because collagen protein is very hot right now and it has been for at least a year or so, and people are willing to pay a premium for it because they’ve been told by many marketers that it is much better than it actually is, and especially for body composition, it’s often promoted as something that will help you build muscle and gain strength and get pretty.
So again, if you are supplementing with protein primarily for fitness reasons and you are currently using collagen protein of any kind, I would recommend switching to something else. I’d recommend trying Whey or cassin or Beef protein powder. I really don’t like beef protein powder. I think it’s disgusting, actually, at least the last time I tried it, which was a long time ago, and it was so bad, I took one sip and.
Poured it out and threw the bottle away, and I have the pallet of a Rottweiler. I can enjoy food if I want to, but I can also just not care and eat just about anything, but not a serving of beef protein powder, at least not of a few years ago. anyway, so that’s an option. Egg protein powder is an option.
It’s a bit expensive. That’s why I don’t sell it over. At Legion, for example, I’d have to charge like $80 a bottle and that’s ridiculous. And if you want something plant-based, I’d recommend pea protein or rice protein, or ideally a blend of both because they’re amino acid profiles are complimentary.
That’s why my plant-based protein. Plant Plus is a combination of pea protein and rice protein. That’s actually often referred to as the vegans whey because like W H E Y, not w A Y, because when you combine pea protein and rice protein, the amino acid profile looks comparable to whe anyways, so that’s about it on the collagen protein, and if you are not using collagen protein, but that little bit about glycine, improving hair, skin, and nail health and luster.
Has piqued your interest, then yeah, just get some bulk glycine. You can pick it up on Amazon for cheap and take two to three grams per day and see what happens. And as a little bonus, you can take that glycine in one serving 30 or 45 minutes before bed because research shows that it can improve sleep quality and it can also mitigate the effects of not getting enough sleep.
Okay, so that’s it for. Collagen protein versus whey protein in terms of body comp by my lights, whey protein is clearly superior.
If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world, bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded.
What about this heavy metals claim? Because if what some people say is true, maybe we should be limiting the amount of whey protein that we take, or maybe we shouldn’t be using it at all. Maybe I’m wrong in that regard, and I should only be promoting specific protein powders that have much lower levels of heavy metals.
Well, this is something that. I have been hearing about since I got into the fitness space back in 2012 when I published the first edition of Bigger, leaner, stronger, because there was a report published back in 2010 by Consumer Reports, and in it they analyzed 15. Different protein powders, and what they found is that the average amounts of heavy metals in just three servings of the protein powders that they looked at, exceeded the maximum limits in dietary supplements proposed by the US Pharmacopeia.
And although that was a while ago, I still get people sharing that with me fairly often, asking my thoughts and asking. That means for legion’s products and how can they know that legion’s products don’t contain dangerous levels of heavy metals. And there’s another evaluation that I’ve come by and that people ask about.
And that was done in 2018, or it was published in 2018 by the clean. Label project, and in this case, researchers tested 133 different protein powder supplements, and they found that all of them contained detectable concentrations of heavy metals. And specifically they reported that 70% of the protein supplements tested, contained, quote, measurable levels of lead, and 74% contained cdm.
Now that sounds ominous, and if I were to just leave it at that and give you no other information, then you may be concerned about your whey protein or your rice protein or pea protein or whatever protein powder that you’re using. But there is more information to consider like the dose, right? The old saying the dose makes the poison because these heavy metals are prevalent in our environment.
They’re just. Of life at this point. And a major reason for that is because of chemicals that were used a long time ago, uh, pesticides in particular. And these chemicals were used for a long time and they contained heavy metals and other things. And now, We are dealing with them. Fortunately, our body has adapted to deal with them, but these heavy metals are in the air that we breathe.
They’re in the water that we drink, they’re in the food that we eat many different foods because they’re in the soil that the foods are grown in, and the foods take up some of those heavy metals and then of course pass ’em along to us. So we’re. All exposed to these substances in different ways. And again, fortunately our body has evolved defenses and ways of managing the risk.
And so it’s misleading and it’s incorrect to point to tests that show that protein powders have heavy metals, and then tell people that they should just stop using them because. By that logic, they would also have to stop eating a lot of the food that they eat, including a lot of the nutritious stuff they would have to stop drinking water that isn’t very thoroughly filtered.
You know, like run through a reverse osmosis system, for example. And even then, you’re not gonna be able to get rid of all of the heavy metals. And as I mentioned earlier, we are exposed to heavy metals in the air that we breathe as well. So what are we supposed to do about that? Now what is a perfectly valid question is how much of this stuff, how much of these heavy metals are in protein powder and the protein powder that you use, for example.
Well, there is a 2020 study conducted by scientists that cardo chem risk that offers some insight. So here researchers did an analysis to determine whether the heavy metal concentration. Reported in the Consumer reports and the Clean Label project analyses posed human health risks. So the Cardinal Chem risk scientists, they looked at concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, and they took the data from the Consumer Reports report as well as the clean label Experiment, and they wanted to determine.
If what was observed in those protein powders was poisonous, was the dose high enough to be poisonous? And in this case, the che risk scientists also assumed the worst case scenario. They assumed the people were going to be using the most. Polluted protein powders observed or protein powder observed, and that people were gonna be having between one and three servings of protein powder per day, which is probably what you and I do.
I do three servings a day, for example. And what the scientists found is given those conditions, given those assumptions that they made, the exposure concentrations of the studied metals, did not pose an increased health. That is they found one to three servings of the most tainted protein powder. Out of all of the protein powders observed would not increase the risk of adverse health effects because of heavy metal exposure.
And ironically, coming back to the claim that whey protein in particular is infested with heavy metals, whey protein actually posed the least. Risk, uh, mask gainer products came out on top, but even those were not deemed dangerous. And so there is really no good evidence or good argument for saying that having one to three servings of protein powder per day is going to ruin your health or is going to increase your risk of disease or dysfunction.
And keep in mind as well that some protein powders are quote unquote, cleaner than others. Take legions, for example. When I was looking for a protein powder to use for that product, I had several criteria. It had to taste good, it had to have a good mouth feel. It also had to be very clean, meaning it had to contain as few unwanted substances as possible.
And the ones that are impossible to avoid, like heavy metals, for example, it had to contain as little as possible and not just an amount. That in and of itself doesn’t pose a risk, but an amount. Is as close to zero as we can get because it may have occurred to you that while an individual source of heavy metals, let’s say, and this applies to any toxal, let’s just say heavy metals may not pose a problem in and of itself.
What if you are getting that amount from seven different. Food products. And then maybe we throw in some beauty products as well, like makeup for example. And let’s say you’re getting 10 doses per day that if you looked at them one by one, you would dismiss them. Saying, that’s not enough to matter. That’s not enough to matter.
But when you add them all up, the accumulative amount can be problematic. And that is a perfectly valid point, and that is one of the reasons why I try to. Poisonous substances or toxins, so to speak, because while I know that I can’t bring my exposure down to zero, unless I went and lived maybe in Antarctica and even there, I’m probably still going to be exposed to some.
I know that I don’t have to bring it down to zero to stay healthy. I just have to keep my total exposure at a healthy low. And so in the case of Legion’s way, one of the reasons it is very clean is because of where it comes from. It comes from small dairy farms in Ireland, which have been noted for their high quality dairy.
And a lot of that comes down to how they manage their farms, traditional agricultural processes, chemicals that they don’t use, for example, and how they raise their animals. For example, the animals spend most of the year outside in fields, naturally grazing. They can’t be outside all year because of the.
but I believe it’s about three quarters of the year. Most of the year, the weather is good enough for them to live as they naturally have lived outside in sunlight, moving around eating actual grass as opposed to packed in a little pen in a warehouse. No movement fed, low quality food, stuff that cows wouldn’t normally eat, often sick.
Very happy. Those cows, unsurprisingly, produce worse milk than cows that are raised properly. And then when you take the poor quality milk and make whey protein out of it, you get poor quality whe protein. And when you take high quality milk, you get high quality whey protein. Anyway, all of that is to say that this point of contamination has been top of mind for me since the beginning of Legion because I use all of my stuff and I myself.
Am sensitive, not physically, but just cognitively sensitive to my exposure to toxins and poisons. It’s not something that I’m paranoid about, but it is something that I care about. It is one of the reasons why I. Eat organic produce, for example, because that limits my exposure to certain pesticides, which may or may not matter in the context of my diet and lifestyle, but in the chance that it does matter, even a little bit, I would rather just not be exposed to those.
Chemicals. That’s also why Legion has always been 100% naturally, or legion’s Products have always been 100% naturally sweetened and flavored since the beginning, and we’ve never used any artificial food dye since the beginning, and we don’t use any chemicals whatsoever. It’s not that those chemicals are as dangerous as some people would have you believe, but at this point, especially.
I would say that there is good evidence that having maybe eight to 10 plus servings of food dies and artificial sweeteners every day may not be great for your health, particularly your long-term health. And why eight to 10 servings? Well, just think about how many different supplements your average fitness feeded takes, right?
You’re gonna have a few servings of protein powder per day. There’s probably some pre-workout in there. There’s probably a post-workout in there. Intra workout, maybe a, B, C, a A. Not that you should be taking BCAAs, you shouldn’t. They don’t do anything, but many people like them, if nothing else, just for the tasty water, right?
And then there are maybe a couple of other powders that a person takes every day, like a Greens supplement or maybe a fat loss supplement that is flavored. And so when you start adding all of that up and when you realize that some supplements contain more than one serving, Sweetener again, the dose makes the poison per serving of supplement.
It depends how sweet they want it to be. It is not hard to get to that eight to 10 plus servings of these different chemicals every day. And one extra precaution that I take with Legion is all of Legion’s products get third party tested. They all get lab tested to make sure that they contain what they are supposed to contain to make sure that my manufacturer are not.
Corners, which they never have, not the ones that I work with. At least there is one manufacturer a long time ago, years ago, that I wanted to set up as a backup and I ran triumph with them and I told them that I was gonna send their stuff off to a third party lab. Eurofins, I believe is the lab that I was using at the time, and we still use FIN sometimes.
They’re a, a very big and respected lab. Covance is another one, but I told this manufacturer, I’m going to get whatever you make test. Just so you know, I wasn’t challenging them. I was just letting them know upfront, oh yeah, no problem, no problem. So they do a run of triumph and I send three bottles off to Eurofins.
I believe it was Eurofins testing in triplicate as it’s called, just to make extra sure that the tests are accurate. And they came back as mostly vitamin C. They did not contain. 80% of the ingredients they were supposed to contain, and they were mostly just vitamin C pills. And so that was the end of my relationship with that manufacturer.
And they tried to say that the tests were wrong, but they were not wrong. Not testing and triple kit with a lab like fins. No way. So those third party lab tests also tell me what is not in the product, and they ensure that, for example, heavy metal levels are not higher than they should be. It’s impossible to get them to zero in basically all cases.
Again, everyday foods that you eat, they are not zero. So we don’t need to try to do that. We just need to make sure that the exposure concentrations are. Low, and I actually share those lab reports on legion’s product pages. So if you go over to legion athletics.com and you check out a product, and if you scroll down on the product page, you’ll see a section that says, lab tested for potency, impurity.
That’s the headline. Then you’ll see a button view, latest lab results, and if you click or if you tap on that, you’ll see the last round of testing for that product, and it may have been done by. Lab door, or it may have been done by a different third party lab. We work with a few, but you can see for yourself, and we update those lab results with each new batch of testing, each new round of testing every couple of months or so.
All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or. Wherever you’re listening to me from, in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility.
And thus, it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well. And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes live. Simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com.
Just muscle f o r life.com and share your thoughts on how I can do this better. I read everything myself, and I’m always looking for constructive feedback, even if it. Criticism, I’m open to it and of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email.
That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at multiple life.com. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.