I chose to add fish once a week to my vegetarian diet a couple of years ago because deficiencies in my protein intake had reduced my lean body mass, muscle strength, and function. At 42 years old, people were noticing the decline in my physical appearance. (And frankly, so was I!)
Yeah, I know, having a little bit of fish now officially disqualifies me as a vegetarian but then, when I also found that my insufficient consumption of protein was the cause of my muscle cramping, weakness, and prolonged muscle soreness during and after my training sessions, I was extremely stressed out (mentally and physically). See, I live an active life, play 'friendly' competitive sport, and fitness train a couple of times a week.
But for me, (yep there's a BUT) getting that small amount of animal protein into my diet just wasn’t cutting it. I was still weak and tired and I just couldn't seem to increase my lean muscle mass. So, after doing the research, I began supplementing my diet with Marine Collagen powder and within a couple of months, my life (and health) changed dramatically for the better.
You see, what I discovered was that, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, for building muscle mass and for maintaining muscle mass through a positive muscle protein balance, an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day is needed for most exercising individuals, a value that falls in line within the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range published by the Institute of Medicine for protein.
Hell, I did the math and I was getting nowhere near that amount of protein in my diet.
And here’s the ‘double whammy’.
As we age we develop a resistance to the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis following meal intake. This ‘anabolic resistance’ makes our body protein compartments, notably skeletal muscle, unable to compensate for protein losses during the post-absorptive period. Net protein loss at the skeletal muscle level progressively causes a generalised reduction in skeletal muscle mass and function called ‘sarcopenia’. Sarcopenia is recognised as an actual disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and listed in the international classification of diseases.
Furthermore, the older we get we generally eat less animal products (well in my case it was almost nil), due to a blunted appetite for protein-rich foods, reduced chewing efficiency, metabolic abnormalities requiring a reduction of animal food products, and other socio-economic factors.
What I found out was, plant-based proteins have less of an anabolic effect on the body than animal proteins due to their lower digestibility, lower essential amino acid content (especially the amino acid leucine), and deficiency in other essential amino acids, such as sulfur amino acids or lysine. Plant amino acids are directed toward oxidation rather than used for muscle protein synthesis. No wonder people were commenting on my bony frame.
I learned that dietary protein quality is assessed based on the essential amino acid composition of a protein as it relates to human needs and the ability of the protein to be digested, absorbed, and retained by the body . The nutritional value of dietary proteins is, therefore, related to the bioavailability of its constitutive amino acids and depends on the efficiency of their metabolic utilisation to meet the amino acid requirements necessary for growth and body protein turnover .
Plant-based proteins are less digestible than animal proteins . This could be due to the different structure of plant versus animal proteins. The secondary structure of plant proteins is characterised by their resistance to proteolysis, (the breakdown of proteins or peptides into amino acids by the action of enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract). In addition, plant-based sources contain non-starch polysaccharides or fibers that impede the access of enzymes to proteins and could induce a decrease in protein digestibility . The presence of some bioactive compounds named antinutritional factors, such as phytic acid, protease inhibitors, hemagglutinins, glucosinolates, tannins, and gossypol, could also affect the digestibility of plant-based protein sources .
So What Source of Protein Powder is Best?
So began my quest to find a quality protein supplement that was bioavailable and suited my lifestyle and diet.
Along my journey I came across many studies comparing the benefits of dairy protein over plant based protein including this study by Wilkinson et al.  which showed that in young men who performed resistance exercise, the consumption of skimmed milk was characterised by a 43% higher muscle protein synthesis rate than in subjects who in the same condition consumed drinks containing soy protein isolate.
In older adults, the muscle protein synthesis rate was 30–40% lower following the consumption of a given quantity of soy or wheat protein hydrolysates than with whey protein isolate or micellar casein  ,8].
And this study on young men by Hartman et al.  assessed the impact of soy intake with resistance exercise on lean muscle growth and showed that the consumption of a drink containing ≈17.5 g soy protein during a 12 week period of resistance exercise training resulted in a 28% lower gain in lean body mass than when exercise was followed by a milk protein drink. Volek et al.  also demonstrated that the lean body mass gain in young men was 45% lower after consumption of 20 g of soy protein isolate compared to whey protein concentrate during a 36 week period of resistance exercise training.
Okay, that's all well-and-good if you’re a milk lover, but I just can’t eat and drink copious quantities of dairy. Lets face it, not many of us can. And anyway, I’m milk intolerant!
Will Collagen Peptides help Build Muscle?
Determined to find the optimal protein powder for my body and lifestyle, I dug deeper and found a recent double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical study (11) performed in the UK demonstrating that the subjects who were supplemented with hydrolysed collagen experienced 20% less muscle soreness at all time points after intense exercise, compared with those who received a placebo dose, and this study published in the British Journal of Nutrition  which demonstrated that the combination of resistance exercise and collagen peptide supplementation resulted in a more pronounced improvement of body composition, as indicated by a significant increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat mass, compared with placebo. In addition, the study says, muscular strength was significantly improved after collagen peptide intake compared with the training programme plus placebo.
Now I’m on to something I thought.
However, many believe that collagen is generally regarded as having a relatively low biological value, mainly due to the low amount of Branch Chain Amino Acids and lysine. But nevertheless, the mixture of amino acids has been shown to be superior compared with whey protein in maintaining the body’s nitrogen balance and body weight during a low-protein diet( 13 ). Eureka!
In addition, collagen powder contains relatively high amounts of arginine and glycine, both known to be important substrates for the synthesis of creatine in the human body( 14 ). Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise.
The Holistic Benefits of Marine Collagen Powder
The bioactive proteins and collagen peptides derived from marine fish have gained enormous interest in nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and cosmeceutical industries due to their broad spectrum of bioactivities, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-aging activities.
Recently, the development of cosmeceuticals using marine fish-derived proteins and collagen peptides has increased rapidly owing to their activities in antioxidation and tissue regeneration. Marine fish-derived collagen has been utilised for the development of cosmeceutical products due to its abilities in skin repair and tissue regeneration. Marine fish-derived peptides have also been utilised for various cosmeceutical applications due to their antioxidant, antimicrobial, and matrix metalloproteinase inhibitory activities. In addition, marine fish-derived proteins and collagen hydrolysates demonstrated efficient anti-photoaging activity.
So the takeout of all this is that high-quality protein consumption, like that found in pure marine collagen powder, optimises protein metabolism at both the whole-body and skeletal-muscle level, especially as we get on in years. Plant-based protein sources that are rich in fiber and micronutrients may be valuable, but they have lower anabolic potential than animal-based proteins.
With a unique amino acid profile, collagen peptides, like ‘Collagenx’ hydrolysed marine collagen, contain high levels of the amino acids glycine, hydroxyproline, proline, alanine and arginine – providing specific sports nutritional benefits. In short, they offer multiple benefits linked to muscles, recovery and connective tissue support.
It is clear that adding dietary supplements or functional foods and beverages to your diet can help achieve a preventative effect. Hydrolysed collagen powder is gaining widespread acceptance due to a growing body of scientific evidence. I mix a heaped tablespoon (around 10 grams) of 'Collagenx' with my favourite foods and drinks like coffee, smoothies and pancakes, once a day and I've achieved astounding results to my health and vitality.
Now, I'm stronger, have more lean muscle, and heaps more energy.