Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

By Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

(Last Used: 12/30/21)

Image by Jacob Lund / iStock

May 23, 2023

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When discussing collagen supplements, much of the focus is geared toward their beauty benefits—you know, skin elasticity and smoothness1, strong hair and nails2, and enhanced hydration3.* While these are amazing benefits of collagen, they’re not the only advantages to starting a regular collagen routine. Let’s not forget: Collagen is not only a beauty supplement but also a great exercise aid.* 

You’re probably thinking, How in the world does collagen help improve muscle mass?* Quickly followed by, How long does it take to work? (That second question is pretty common when you start taking a new supplement of any kind.) But don’t worry; we have you covered. Let’s get into it. 


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How long does it take to see muscle growth?

Let’s first discuss how collagen affects your muscles. Collagen is technically not a complete protein because it’s missing tryptophan, one of the nine essential amino acids. Still, it delivers close to 20 unique amino acids and can support muscle mass, particularly when combined with exercise.* (Collagen makes up 1 to 10% of muscles, in fact!)

In one small clinical study, men who took collagen daily while participating in an exercise program gained more muscle mass4 than those who only did the exercise program.*

Now, how long does it take to see these results? Well, the specific time frame for muscles varies, depending on the intended result studied. For enhanced muscle mass from collagen protein (peptides and amino acids), research points to about three months when combined with resistance training.*

For example, one study that focused on perimenopausal women found that the participants experienced a positive impact on body composition and regional muscle strength5; another study conducted in older men also observed benefits for their body composition and muscle mass6; finally, research in recreationally active adult men finds that collagen supplementation supports body composition7 as well as skeletal muscle8—all of these benefits fell within a three-month period.* 

Beyond all of that, collagen supplements have also been shown to improve recovery times—and this happens at a much faster rate than the impact on muscle mass and strength.* In fact, for a typical level of muscle soreness after strenuous exercise, one study found that you may see benefits by day two9.*

Let’s repeat that: You may start experiencing improved recovery time two days after starting supplementation.*

Check out our full guide here to see how long it takes for collagen to work for muscles, skin, joint health, and more.*

What to look for in a collagen supplement

Now that we’ve covered the benefits, let’s discuss what kind of supplement you should invest in and why. 

First up: While you’re browsing, always look for hydrolyzed collagen peptides. “Collagen is a complex protein made of three chains of amino acids, whereas hydrolyzed collagen is collagen that is broken down into small protein chains, called collagen peptides, that are made of a few amino acids,” Nour Zibdeh, M.S., RDN, CLT, previously explained to mbg

See, collagen by itself is too large of a compound to be absorbed by the body. But when broken down into peptides, your body is able to easily digest and utilize it.* “Hydrolyzed collagen is predigested, so it does not go through that first-pass digestion in the GI tract,” board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., previously told mbg. “The collagen fragments can be absorbed as is and circulate throughout the body to exert their effects.”*

Of course, with any supplement, you have to be sure you’re taking the correct dosage, as you can’t expect results if you don’t ingest the proper amount for the benefit you’re after. If supporting muscular health is your main priority, studies show that 15 to 20 grams per day can help muscle mass6, muscle strength5, and soreness after exercise9.*

If you’re interested in leveraging the full-body benefits of collagen overall, research points to a 10- to 20-gram-per-day range.* No matter what, though, make sure your supplement contains a dosage rooted in science, is grass-fed and pasture-raised, and features a clean, minimal excipient list. (Plus, make sure you see vitamin C somewhere in the lineup, as the antioxidant is a vital part of the collagen production process.)* 


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The takeaway

Collagen can help improve muscle mass—if this is news to you, you’re not alone.* While collagen’s beauty benefits receive most of the hype (to be fair, they’re pretty spectacular), we shouldn’t ignore the other ways collagen can support your whole-body health.* Just remember: Combine your collagen supplement with resistance training for at least three months to support an improvement in muscle mass, and always look for high-quality hydrolyzed collagen peptides.* 

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.