Does Collagen Protein Count Towards Your Daily Protein Intake?

Whether your goal is to build muscle, slim down, or support overall health, you know how important it is to meet your daily protein target.

You can meet your daily target protein through food alone, but protein supplements make it easier, more convenient, and often, less expensive.

However, you might wonder whether you can count collagen protein supplements towards your protein intake since collagen is not a complete protein.

This article explains what collagen protein is, how it compares to other types of protein, and whether you can count it towards your daily protein intake.

What is collagen protein?

Collagen protein makes up one-third of the total protein in your body (1).

Its primary role is to maintain connective tissue health and provide structural stiffness and elasticity to skin.

Collagen is made up of a bunch of building blocks called amino acids — the main ones being glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

These three amino acids are nonessential, meaning you don’t need to get them from your diet or supplements since the body can make them in adequate amounts, except in times of illness and stress.

There are different types of collagen, and they’re found in different parts of your body. For example, type l, the most abundant form, is mostly found in skin, bones, teeth, tendons, ligaments, and organs (2).

Collagen type ll is in cartilage, and type lll is common in the skin, muscles, and blood vessels, as are type IV and V.

Collagen can be extracted from various parts of cattle, pig, fish, or other sources like chicken, duck, and rabbit skin using a special treatment.

It can also be synthesized from genetically modified yeast and bacteria to make it vegan or vegetarian-friendly.

The collagen is then hydrolyzed using enzymes to break apart its long chains of amino acids into smaller fragments called peptides, making it easier for the body to absorb.

Collagen supplements most commonly contain hydrolyzed collagen, but they may also contain native collagen. 

Native collagen does not undergo hydrolysis, it remains in its natural structural form. Native collagen is closer to how collagen is found in your tissues.

Should you count collagen as protein?

Collagen — while easily digestible — is a very low-quality protein, meaning it’s missing or provides fewer of the essential amino acids your body needs in the appropriate quantities. 

The United States currently uses the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) to determine protein quality.

This method compares the essential amino acid composition of a food product or dietary supplement with the requirements of a preschool-aged child to provide an amino acid score, which is then adjusted according to the body’s ability to digest and utilize the amino acids it provides.

The PDCAAS exists on a scale that ranges from 0.0 to 1.0, with the former indicating the lowest quality, and the latter the highest.

Here’s a look at the PDCAAS of various protein sources (3):



Milk protein concentrate


Whey protein isolate


Whole milk


Soy protein isolate


Pea protein concentrate






Rice protein concentrate




Corn-based cereal


Hydrolyzed collagen


Hydrolyzed collagen, even though it’s primarily derived from animals, has a 0.0 PDCAAS since it lacks the essential amino acid tryptophan.

Because it has a 0.0 PDCAAS, supplement manufacturers cannot claim that it counts towards the percent daily value (%DV) of protein, which is set at 50 grams.

Despite this rule, one study suggests that collagen peptides can count towards a certain percentage of your total protein intake (4).

In either case, while a manufacturer can claim that their collagen supplement provides, for example, 20 grams of collagen peptides per serving, they must indicate on the supplement label that the 20 grams does not contribute to the %DV as shown below.

If a manufacturer does not make a protein claim, it doesn’t have to list the %DV. 

Instead, they can use a symbol in the %DV column that refers you to that same symbol at the bottom of the label followed by the statement, “Daily Value not established.”

However, most supplement companies always make a protein content claim by prominently displaying the number of grams of collagen protein the product provides per serving.

Some companies even leave out the “collagen” and just label or advertise the product as having a certain amount of protein to make the customer believe that protein source or quality does not matter.

Can collagen count as protein for muscle building?

Collagen protein is most beneficial for improving joint functionality, reducing joint pain, including pain associated with degenerative joint conditions like osteoarthritis, supporting skin health, and decreasing muscle soreness (1, 5, 6).

However, because of its low quality, collagen protein isn’t a great source for building muscle.

A review of 15 trials concluded that collagen protein had no significant impact on muscle protein synthesis — the process of building new skeletal muscle proteins — when compared with higher quality protein sources like whey, a primary milk protein (1).

While collagen can elevate muscle protein synthesis after exercise, it’s short-lived, especially compared with whey protein, which enhances muscle protein synthesis at rest and for up to four hours after exercise (1).

This isn’t surprising given that collagen has a PDCAAS of 0.0, and whey a score of 1.0.

A PDCAAS of 1.0 means that 100% of the essential amino acids are available to your body after digestion.

This is why milk protein products like PEScience’s Select Protein can claim all the protein it contains towards the 50-gram DV on its label.

Select Protein provides 23 grams of protein per serving, which equals 46% of the DV [(23 / 50) x 100 = 46%].

Whey is also a much better protein compared with collagen for building muscle since it provides three times the amount of leucine (7, 8).

Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that activates a certain pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis.

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, opt for a high-quality supplement that provides complementary plant-based proteins like peas and rice.

Just make sure the protein content has been adjusted on the label for amino acid profile and digestibility based on its PDCAAS.

Except for soy protein isolate, the PDCAAS for plant-based proteins typically ranges between 0.4 to 0.9, meaning that 40% to 90% of the essential amino acids you consume are available for absorption.

Therefore, the amount of protein a plant-based product provides per serving should be adjusted accordingly to prevent overstating the claimed amount.

For example, a pea protein concentrate powder might provide 20 grams per serving, but because the body can only use 90% of the amino acids, the label should read 18 grams per serving.

You can determine whether the product has been adjusted according to its PDCAAS by comparing the stated protein content per serving to the listed %DV.

Using the pea protein concentrate example, the %DV should be calculated using 18 grams instead of 20 to get 36% rather than 40%. 

Alternatively, you can choose to purchase your protein powders and products from a reputable brand that believes in label transparency and adjusts for PDCAAS, like PEScience.

How much protein do you need?

The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight.

For a 150-pound (68-kg) person, this translates to 54 grams.

However, the RDA is really a minimal amount rather than a “recommended” or “allowed” amount.

To this point, the acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) for protein allows anywhere from 10–35% of total calorie intake to come from protein, suggesting that intakes well above the RDA are associated with good health.

This range allows 50 to 175 grams of protein for the same 150-pound person who consumes around 2,000 calories daily. 

Indeed, greater health outcomes and benefits with regards to weight loss and maintenance and muscle preservation and growth can be achieved with protein intakes higher than the RDA (3).

Most people can benefit from an intake of 0.45–0.55 grams (1.0–1.2 grams per kg) of protein per pound of body weight daily, while athletes or anyone looking to build muscle and strength can benefit from up to 0.9 grams per pound (2 grams per kg) of body weight.

You can meet your daily protein target by consuming a mix of high-quality animal proteins like meats, dairy, and poultry, and plant proteins like beans, legumes, and peas.

For a convenient and relatively cost-effective way to increase your protein intake, you can include protein supplements or high-protein products like pancake and waffle mixes, oatmeal, and protein bars.

But remember, collagen protein supplements, while potentially beneficial for joint pain and function, among other benefits, don’t count towards your daily protein target based on its PDCAAS.

The bottom line

Collagen-based protein supplements have the potential to reduce joint pain, improve joint functionality, and provide other health benefits.

However, they lack the essential amino acid tryptophan, and most of the amino acids from which it’s composed are nonessential.

It’s this amino acid profile that also makes collagen a poor protein choice for building muscle, especially compared with high-quality forms like milk protein (whey and casein).

To reach your protein goal, eat a mix of high-quality animal and plant sources. Using protein supplements or high-protein products can be a convenient and cost-effective way to help you achieve your target.


Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD
Gavin Van De Walle holds a master’s degree in human nutrition and exercise physiology. He is also a registered dietitian. Gavin has a bias for the truth and aims to provide the public with the information they need to make educated and informed health decisions. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Healthline, Livestrong, the American Botanical Council, Underwriter Laboratories, Verywell Health, and many more.
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