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Is Whey Protein Healthy? The 5 Key Differences between Collagen and Whey

There’s a question we get time and time again in our Private Facebook Group


Should I be adding whey protein to my diet, too?


That’s a good question—and an important one at that.


With health gurus recommending protein supplements left and right, how are you supposed to know which ones to choose—and more importantly—which ones to avoid?


We all know that protein is essential for many things: Stronger muscles, aiding in digestion, curbing hunger, and more.


But which types of protein should you be consuming on a daily basis?


Collagen? Collagen and whey? Or some other protein altogether?


Read on to find out…

Collagen vs. Whey: The 5 Key Differences

Collagen and whey may both be proteins, but their similarities stop there. Read on to learn the 5 key differences between collagen and whey protein…

1. Collagen and Whey Come from Different Sources

Both collagen and whey are sourced from different places…


Collagen is derived from bovine, chicken, fish, and egg whites—with grass-fed bovine collagen powder being the highest-quality option. Whey, on the other hand, is one of two proteins found in milk—the other protein is called casein. When milk is made into cheese, the waterly liquid (called whey) separates from the solid curds (called casein).

2. Collagen Is Actually Needed by the Body

Collagen is a protein found in your bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, connective tissue, and other parts of the body (1).


It’s thought of as the “glue” that holds your body together—hence why it’s associated with benefits like stronger bones, pain-free joints, and more youthful-looking skin (2, 3, 4).

The Good News: We start off life with an abundance of collagen. In humans, collagen consists of 33% of the protein in the body (4).


The Not-So-Good News: As you age, that percentage starts to decline…Once you hit 30 years of age, collagen production begins to decrease by 1% every year. And by the time you’re 50-years-old, your collagen levels are half of what they used to be (5).


This is why it’s so important to supplement with a high-quality collagen powder every day—ideally starting in your 20s. You want to keep those collagen levels up—your body is literally begging for it.

Graph Showing the Decline of Collagen by Year

Unlike collagen, we don’t have whey in our bodies, and we don’t need to. For years now, whey has been marketed as the “best” protein powder for building muscle, staying lean, and curbing appetite, but current research is suggesting otherwise…

3. Collagen Boasts More Health Benefits (without the side effects of whey)

Yes, whey is associated with benefits like muscle growth, quicker recovery, and increased metabolism, but at what cost (6, 7, 8)?


Approximately 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, meaning that they’re unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products. So why supplement with a dairy-based protein like whey?


Not only that, there’s zero evidence that dairy positively benefits your bones…which probably comes as a complete shock considering what the USDA Food Pyramid and “Got Milk?” advertisements have been telling us for years on end.


But, it’s true…


Dairy products—including milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and yes, whey protein powder—are not as healthy as we once thought…


In fact, dairy consumption may increase one’s risk of cancer due to it increasing the body’s level of a growth hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). As if things couldn’t get any worse, dairy is linked to heart disease (thanks to it being high in saturated fats), worsens irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and does not enhance sports performance (9).


Thankfully, there’s a protein that doesn’t cause any of the ailments mentioned above: Collagen.

Collagen protein is essential when it comes to (2, 10, 11)…


  • Improving age-related muscle loss
  • Increasing bone density, reversing osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Increasing your resting metabolic rate (i.e. the rate at which your body burns energy at rest)
  • Reducing inflammation, helping to reduce joint pain
  • Restoring the plumpness of skin, helping to reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Healing the intestinal lining, helping to ease digestive issues


Collagen is most prized for its ability to “turn back the clock” on multiple signs of aging whereas whey is prized among bodybuilders for the quick muscle gains it provides.

4. Collagen Is Flavorless, Whereas Whey Is Bitter

Whey is known for its bitter taste, though many whey protein producers add artificial flavor and sweeteners to try to mask that bitterness. That said, it’s still possible to notice the harsh taste, even when the protein is flavored.


Collagen, on the other hand, tastes like nothing. Collagen is naturally flavorless, so it can be added to your coffee, tea, or smoothies without any taste. If you are wanting a naturally sweetened collagen product, you can choose from refreshing flavors like wild berry, peach, or chocolate—all without any bitter aftertastes.

5. Whey Contains Dairy, Whereas Collagen Is Dairy-Free

Because whey protein comes from dairy, people with dairy allergies may experience symptoms from it. Most whey proteins include a very small amount of lactose, and some forms of whey processing may be more friendly to dairy-sensitive people than others. However, it’s a factor lactose-sensitive and lactose-intolerant consumers will have to consider if they’re wanting to supplement with whey.


Collagen contains no dairy, so it’s a more friendly option for anyone who is looking to avoid lactose.

The Bottom Line: Which Protein Should You Choose?

Collagen peptides and whey protein are two proteins that couldn’t be any more different…


They come from different sources, share a different flavor profile, offer different health benefits, and more.


At NativePath, we prefer collagen protein over whey protein because we know that it’s a protein that’s “on the path”. Meaning, it’s free from dairy, gluten, and soy. It doesn’t have any artificial sweeteners. And it replenishes the collagen that your body naturally loses year after year.


Plus, we can’t ignore the youth-promoting, joint pain-relieving, bone-strengthening perks that it provides, too.

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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