How to Use Collagen & Optimize Protein to Lose Weight and Feel Better

Getting enough protein is essential to good health. But how do you know how much you need daily? And what do high-protein meals actually look like? In this episode, JJ answers these questions. She talks about why collagen is important and how to use it, along with how these peptides support muscle maintenance. She also provides her top tips and tools for losing belly fat. Whether you’re curious about how to get more protein or collagen into your diet, you’ll want to tune into this short, informative episode!


00:00:48 – Ideal protein intake depends on body weight. For a woman aiming to build muscle, it's one gram per pound of ideal body weight. For maintenance, it's 3/4 gram per pound, and for intermittent fasting, it's half a gram per pound
00:03:51 – Protein should be distributed between meals, with at least 30 grams in the morning and evening. Realistic sources include smoothies and yogurt
00:05:31 – Loaded morning smoothie great for protein efficiency ratio
00:10:50 – 40-50 grams of protein per meal, salads great for lunch, add leftover dinner protein
00:12:20 – Collagen plays a huge role in muscle function, less joint pain
00:14:56 – Start with protein first on your plate, non-starchy vegetables
00:19:45 – A scoop of collagen a day to yogurt or shake
00:20:20 – Belly fat is a good barometer for insulin and cortisol, get a bioimpedance scale

Mentioned in this episode:

Body Weight Calculator 

JJ’s Blog: How Much Protein Should You Eat In A Day? 

JJ’s podcast: What’s A Loaded Smoothie, And How To Make One

JJ’s Protein Shakes: Paleo-Inspired and Plant-Based 

JJ’s Collagen Peptides Powder

JJ’s blog How To Use A Continuous Glucose Monitor

JJ’s podcast How To Use A Body Fat Scale

JJ’s podcast Why You Want Brown Fat & How To Get It

Learn more about Dr. Joe Dispenza’s programs 

JJ’s book, The Virgin Diet 

JJ’s book, Sugar Impact Diet

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 518_Weekly Q&A
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin four time, New York Times bestselling author, celebrity nutrition expert, and fitness hall of famer. I've been on a lifelong quest for answers to the toughest health questions, and now, I'm sharing what I've found with you. Welcome to Ask the Health Expert. Each week I answer big questions directly from the folks in my community, and chances are they're topics you've been wondering about too.
If you'd like to submit a question for me to answer on a future episode, send it to
How much protein should the average woman aim to get every day? This was asked from Cynthia, and here's the thing. Oh my gosh, I'm [00:01:00] gonna say it depends. , so I know, I know, I know. Here's, here's what it depends on. Number one, it depends on your ideal body weight. This is not what you weigh right now. It's what you want to and should weigh.
How do you figure that out? What you do is you find one of those frame and height charts and you base it on that. So figure out your. There's multiple places on the internet, and we'll include in the show notes on how to do that. Most of us have a medium frame though. Then compare that to your height and you'll get a weight range and then choose the number that is the right one for you.
Right? So identify first that ideal body weight, let's say, just to make it simple that it's 150 pounds. Next up you have to think, am I in a burning? What I would call a I do like a breakdown, a building or a maintenance phase. Now, if you are under any kind of big stress, you're recovering from [00:02:00] an injury or an accident, or you're really looking to put on muscle, you are gonna wanna do a gram per pound of ideal body weight.
So for 150 pound woman that is 150 grams, I'm gonna talk about how it's distributed next. But first we're just gonna go through this. If you are looking to maintain where you're at, then shoot for three-fourths of a gram per pound by deal body weight, so about 113 grams, right? For that 150 pound woman, if you're doing some intermittent fasting.
You're triggering more autophagy. Maybe you're doing like a fasting mimicking diet type of thing for a bit. Make sure that you get at least half a gram per pound of ideal body weight, so that would be 75 grams. Now here's what's important. You wanna distribute that between your two and three meals each day.
And ideally you wanna make sure that you get at least 30 grams in your morning, you'll break the fast and your [00:03:00] evening, three to four hours before bed meals. So 30 grams is the baseline, and depending on how you're gonna divide it, you may be going up to 50 or 60 grams, kind of 60 is your threshold. What we wanna make sure is that the protein that we're eating, we're using for.
Restorative, rebuilding, not for fuel. If a little bit goes to fuel, it's fine. It's more thermic than, than the other macros, carbs and fat. And it's also more satiating, so you'll feel fuller longer. But I find for most of us women, kind of 50 is gonna be more of our high point. So for 150 pound woman who is building that would be dividing your protein really between three meals at.
You know, somewhere between 40 and 60 grams per meal. Ideally, your breakfast is the most important one. And when I say break breakfast, I mean breaking your fast. So that's the one you're gonna hit. Make sure you hit 50 grams in. And then you're gonna divide it across the other three meals. What you don't wanna do is drip your [00:04:00] protein.
What on earth is protein drip? That is where you have breakfast and then you have a little protein a couple hours later, then a couple hours later, no, your body doesn't actually work that way when it is using amino acids for muscle protein synthesis. So you really want to hit it, get that reservoir in, let your body utilize it, and then four to six hours later you have your next.
So again, ideal body weight. Figure out if you are really looking to build, you're looking to maintain, or you're doing some intermittent fasting where you're gonna have only say two meals and you can't have as much protein obviously, cuz if you way overload protein, it will have to go to fuel. Then you'll divide it down to that baseline amount of a half gram per pound of ideal body weight.
All right, up next. And this fits. We're gonna be talking all protein here, all protein all the time. And admittedly, I'm a little obsessed with protein, so I admit it. You heard it here first. [00:05:00] The next one is from Teresa from Facebook, and she asked what these high protein meals actually look like? How does someone realistically get 130 grams of protein in one day?
All right, let's walk through it. Cause I think real world examples are the most key critical. Obviously, if you've been listening to my podcast, if you've been watching Instagram, if you've been on my website, all you know that I love Loaded smoothies. That's what I call my, my Shakes a loaded smoothie.
It starts with my protein powder, and I especially love my paleo protein powder here. Bone broth protein, I've spiked it with branched chain amino acids, so that's the foundation for my smoothie is two scoops of that, that's giving me 20 grams of protein, and it's super bio available. You know, very good protein efficiency ratio, very well used by the body.
And that is one big challenge is animal protein is gonna be much, easily, much better used by the body than plant. You're gonna lose some of the plant protein [00:06:00] in the process, the animal protein. You get a lot better quality and a lot better of what we call efficiency, protein efficiency ratio. So, Two scoops of that, I then do a scoop of collagen.
So I use my collagen. That gives me 11 grams. Then I throw in I've been using this good karma, flax milk. I like it cuz a lot of these nut milks have you know, seed oils in them. And I'm really trying to focus on improving my omega-3 ratio. So the flax milk has some flax. And I've been using that one.
And what's cool about this Good karma flax milk is it has protein in it as well. It's called Good Karma, unsweetened protein plus flax milk. That's what I've been using. I use 10 ounces of that. That is giving me like 11 grams of protein there. And then I use two tablespoons of flax seeds. And I'm doing a neutra bullet so I don't have to pre grind them.
So I'm getting about three grams of protein there. I'm now gonna do math on the [00:07:00] fly that's giving me about 45 grams of protein right there. And that is generally what I'll do for a smoothie sometimes. And I'm gonna be really vulnerable here. I've got a little addiction. I'm trying to break, I admit it.
, I have found this Catalina Crunch. Cereal. Now, I will tell you, growing up that cereal milk was like my favorite thing and I don't know about you, like I was, I was a Captain Crunch girl, but not with the Crunch berries. I think that really messed everything up. And then I loved Cocoa Puffs. Then I went off to college and it was all about golden grahams.
And I'm totally dating myself, cracklin bran. And I just cereal milk. Oh. So, you know, for years now, I haven't had cereal milk because I don't do dairy and I don't do gluten and sugar. Then I wish I'd never found it. I found this Catalina Crunch. Now, what's great about this Catalina Crunch is I use it to make pie crust.
So I'm making a dairy-free pumpkin cheesecake with Graham Cracker Catalina Crunch. Oh my goodness. But there's no sugar in it and [00:08:00] it's basically fiber and protein. So then I throw a little bit of that on the top. And that's where I get my morning smoothie to 50 to 60 grams of protein. And honestly, it is like ridiculously filling.
Like I'm not hungry for hours. And what I really love to do is, if at all possible, like at home, I'll do a burst style training and then I'll do that. But if I'm going to the gym, I'll do that and then go work out about an hour and a half later. So that's the morning smoothie. Another thing that could be a morning is I've been using some of the different almond coconut.
Types of yogurts. You can make a cashew yogurt and I'll stir in collagen into that. So I'll do that and then add some with that. You're gonna have to do some other things like maybe some sausage or bacon or something else to get your protein up. But I really love the smoothie in the morning. I think it's the easiest way to ensure that you're getting what you need.
The one other thing I do add in that smoothie is half of a slightly green banana that I've frozen that. [00:09:00] Okay, that's my 50 to 60. Then I have lunch. Lunch is usually a salad. We always keep leftover protein from dinners. So when we make dinners, our dinners tend to be, we have a freezer full of wild salmon, wild halibut, prawns, grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb pastured pork, pastured chicken Super easy and every night at dinner we have one of those, we have loads of vegetables.
My husband generally has the slow low carb cuz he loses too much weight. I still love him even though that happens. But I generally don't, I generally have the veggies, maybe sometimes a little bit of a slow low carb or maybe sometimes a cup of blueberries after dinner. Sometimes not. But I always have the big protein and I'll generally do eight ounces of that.
Sometimes a little bit more. So that means that I'm getting 56 grams of protein right there. Figure about seven grams per ounce of whatever you're eating. Fattier will have less leaner, will have [00:10:00] more so, , you know, 50 to 60 grams right there. And then I use that protein to have salad for lunch. And generally my salad for lunch is bunch of lettuce.
Currently I'm addicted to arugula, extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes I might throw in a little bit of a garbanzos or a little bit of sunflower seeds, so I get a little bit of plant protein there. But my big focus, of course, is always on whatever was leftover from dinner the night before. So it might be having.
Steak cut up, chicken, cut up. We always have some sliced Turkey. We always have some chicken in the fridge to throw in there. So I am literally doing between 40 and 60 grams at each meal. Now you said 130 grams of protein in, in one day. So you see how easy that would be to get there and if I was, my requirements were 130 grams.
The way I would do that is try to do 40 to 50 in the morning. 40 to 50 in the evening and then do my middle, middle of the day because morning and evening, the bumper meals are gonna be the most important. [00:11:00] Alrighty. Protein one, protein two. Let's see, what else can we do? Talking protein. Ah, how about this one?
I keep hearing collagen is good for muscles. How, what role does it play? So one of the things I like about my Paleo inspired bone broth protein is it has collagen in it, and collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It's about 30% of the protein concentration, and it provides structure, support, and strengths.
To the skin, to the muscles, to the bones and connective tissue. And that's why you're hearing so much about collagen and beauty, collagen and body. Cuz collagen plays a huge role in both muscle function. You know, muscle flexibility, muscle adaptation. So here's what's cool, here's what some, some of the studies have shown that collagen you'll have less joint pain.
When you use collagen regularly and that was with people with osteoarthritis, it can help you recover faster from exercise. It can help you reduce what's called doms, delayed onset muscle [00:12:00] soreness. That's super cool. And then there was a double blind controlled study with 53 men. And it was a 12 week resistance training intervention with supplementation of 15 grams of collagen.
And the result was that the people who had the collagen, cause they had one group with collagen, one group without, had a significantly higher gain in fat-free mass and muscle strength. So, yay. There you go. So for me, I'm using collagen both for my hair, skin, and nails, but also for muscles. So I think it's a really important one, and it's so easy to do.
Again, I generally throw it into my smoothie. Plus it helps heal the gut. So that's the easiest thing to do is throw it into the smoothie. But you could also stir it into some, you could have it in your coffee. You could stir it into one of the nut yogurts. Make sure it's an unsweetened one though. Super duper important.
All right, so as you can tell, this, this episode is all about [00:13:00] protein. And here's, here's a little bit more about protein. I am so curious. Intrigued into our diet culture and how we focus so much. You know, we, we have three macronutrients, protein, fat, and carbohydrate. And if you really look at the diets, except for, I think it was Scarsdale, which was supposedly a high protein diet, but it wasn't really our diet seemed to be either manipulating fat or manipulating carbs.
And they have this protein recommendation. Now it seems like it's from the dark ages. Literally from what I can gather, our protein recommendations came during World War II. We were during a time of scarcity when we had to basically restrict things. That's where our protein requirements, what's the minimum that we really need.
And remember what you're getting here with the recommended daily intake. What's the minimum that we need? Now, I would argue that minimum 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Is even still a little low for the [00:14:00] bare bones minimum, right? I like with 0.5, half a gram per pound of body weight, so it would be a little higher than that, but just think about where this came from.
It's never like, what's the amount of protein we truly need for. Absolutely optimal health, and when you really look at protein, I believe that the most important thing we can do is start with protein and build our diet around that, and also start with protein first on our plate. Either start with your non-starchy vegetables or start with your protein.
But the research shows that when you do that, you have a better blood sugar response to the meal as. And if you eat slow and you start with protein, protein is way more satiating, so it should help you eat less. Same with if, like, if you had a big salad before you started, as long as you didn't turn the salad into a sundae with like fat-free raspberry vinegarette and, you know, some glazed nuts and, and craisans.
But really leading with protein first, building your plate around that, making sure that you eat your protein, eat your protein, eat your non-starchy vegetables, [00:15:00] and then see if you really want anything else. See how easy that is and start to watch your satiety. And also watch the impact on your blood sugar, cuz it can be just amazing.
All right. This will be a quickie. And this is another one that I get asked all the time. Collagen, collagen collagen. I keep hearing about collagen. So this one question from Instagram. I keep hearing collagen is good for the muscles. How, why? What role does it play? All right. Full disclosure, I am a bit obsessed with collagen.
So I do a shake every day, a bone broth protein shake, my bone broth protein shake from Reignite Wellness. And so it's got some bone broth, concentrated bone broth in it, which, which means it's got collagen in it. And then I add extra collagen. My reignite wellness collagen powder. So I do that every day.
And then I try to get bone broth in a couple days a week. Wish I could say I drank it every day, but I just don't. I do get in a couple times a week, and that's a rich source of [00:16:00] collagen, so why am I bothering to do that? Okay, so collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It's about 30% of the protein concentration, and it's providing the structure, the support, and the strength, your skin, your muscles, your bones, and your connective.
Pretty darn important. And it also plays a huge role in muscle functionality, including flexibility and adaptation. So one of the things I've seen with studies is less joint pain after collagen supplementation with healthy active participants and inpatients with osteoarthritis. I will tell you full disclosure Because I decided when I was young as a six foot tall teenager, that I should do point ballet in gymnastics.
And I think if you can think about that for a moment, you have, those were not the right sports. . I you know, I had knee and hip problems forever. Finally, at 52 and 50. Seven, I guess had to have a knee [00:17:00] replacement, a hip replacement. The hip was really because of a dog injury. But you know, I lasted for years with the knee being able to handle it and deal.
But I do have a lot of osteoarthritis plus a broken foot. Same thing. So I found major. Major improvement, especially in my broken foot from when I was doing gymnastics at 17 or actually 21 in Japan. I've found a lot of improvement with taking collagen total n of one, but you know, it's the important one.
So, you know, definitely one to do. It also shows collagen. Studies show faster recovery from exercise, a tendency to reduce muscle soreness. That's a biggie. And then there was a great double blind controlled study where they did a 12 week resistance training intervention combined with supplementation of collagen or placebo.
And the people that had the collagen had a significantly higher gain in fat-free mass and muscle strength than the other group. How [00:18:00] cool I look at this thing and I go, you know, especially as I'm looking at how do I make sure that I'm getting my protein grams in that I wanna make sure I get in each day, which for me, I'm doing right now, a gram per pound of ideal body weights about 150 grams a day.
Collagen is one of the ways that I can easily, I, I kind of look at it as turbocharging my smoothie in the morning. So it's one of the things I add to my paleo inspired shake every day. or I will stir in. I'm sort of obsessed with Kite Hill's almond yogurt, so I'll stir it in there so that I get some protein in there.
So it's just a great, easy thing to carry with you and to add to things and to boost them up you know, without any downside. There's no reason not to. All right, so you heard it here. First take, take your collagen and I just, I literally do a scoop a. It's, it's a product that I've been kind of obsessed with.
I always say when people say, which of your products do you use? I stare down the list and I go, I guess I pretty much use all of my [00:19:00] products, . But I'm rolling through a lot of collagen. All righty. Thank you for that question. And now on to the next. All right, Kara from Instagram asks if I wanna lose specifically belly fat fast, where should I start?
All right. You know, I would really like to answer if I want to lose weight, specifically belly. Where should I start and drop the fast ? Because what we really want to do is change this for the, the long haul. And in order to change this for the long haul, there's gonna be some things that shift. And it may not be fast, but I'd rather have forever.
How about that for a deal? So your, your belly fat is actually such a good barometer of two different hormones, insulin and cortisol. And so if you're seeing yourself start to gain belly fat, and I'm gonna talk specifically about what belly fat is. [00:20:00] The two things I'd really wanna look at lab wise is I'd wanna look at what's going on with your blood sugar and insulin.
You could insulin and cortisol. And glucose monitor to start getting your blood sugar in check, but, you know, again you could have perturbed insulin going on and, and not see it quite yet. I like to do a fasting blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin a1c and make sure that they are all in line, because if all of a sudden you see your blood sugar looks okay, your hemoglobin A1C is a little elevated, but your fasting elevates up, you know you've got insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is going to make you store more visceral fat that's fat around your waist. Now, when we're talking belly fat, there's two different types, right? There's the belly fat that pinch an inch, the stuff you can pull out, and then there's the. Internal. That's the really bad stuff. That's the reason I want you to get a bioimpedance scale that can tell you visceral adiposity.
That's the reason I want you to do a waste to hip ratio and a waste to height ratio. Make sure that you're in [00:21:00] the healthy ranges for those because that internal fat, the visceral fat, the fat that surrounds your organs is the damaging, dangerous fat. Okay? That's an important deal, so let's make sure that is happening.
The other side, so there's the insulin side of things. That could be causing the belly fat or there's the cortisol side of the things. That could be causing the body fat. Cortisol is gonna be catabolic breakdown, muscle raise, blood sugar, kind of goes, ends up in the same situation, makes you eat more. The bottom line is with either one of these things, they kind, you're gonna wanna start to look at really balancing blood sugar.
And reducing inflammation. So I always start with going through the Virgin diet, making sure you figure out which foods work for you and which foods don't. Getting out the high five foods. Then going through the Sugar impact diet, lowering your sugar impact, those are super important. That will take you couple months to go through.
A lot of stuff gets fixed right then and there. You [00:22:00] can't spot reduce, but by doing resistance training, you become more insulin sensitive. and when you are more insulin sensitive, you've got better blood sugar response. Your insulin doesn't have to come up as high to bring your blood sugar down, reduces inflammation, and when your insulin's coming down low, low, it's not up high, you can now access stored fat for fuel.
So it's gonna help you start to lose some of that visceral fat. Another thing that can help is cold plunging Now. This probably does not sound very appealing and I must say that I can't stand it, but I do it daily. We actually even got a cold plunge. I'll put the info in the show notes, and what cold plunging does is it turns your white fat.
Basically browns your fat. You've got white fat, beige fat, brown fat, brown fat being the most metabolically active, the most mitochondria. It's the most thermic. And so that's the fat that you wanna have. And cold exposure can help brown fat. Fat, [00:23:00] which is super important too. So biggest ways you can get that belly fat to get into a normal range.
Is number one. Make sure that you've got good blood sugar control and your insulin sensitive. Use a continuous glucose monitor. We'll put the information in the show notes to make sure you're really balancing your blood sugar. Work with the sugar impact diet that will help you do that. And get those labs I talked about monitor yourself, bioimpedance scale to see your, not just your body fat, but where that body fat is trunkly, like where's your visceral adipose tissue?
And combine that with a waist to hip and a waist to height ratio. Manage your stress. I was laughing with Dr. Joe Dispenza cuz I told him, you know, I started meditating and dropped five pounds and he goes, yes, the no thing diet. It was just my cortisol was, I was just very my nervous system. needed to go to the gym and learn how to take a chill pill.
And so you know, Elevated cortisol, your [00:24:00] nervous system, never being able to relax can be really challenging with belly fat. So look at what you need to do there. We'll put info on Dr. Jo Dispenza's programs in the show notes as well. And then of course, reducing inflammation. First step there is through the Virgin Diet and lowering your Hidden Food intolerances.
There you go. And do resistance training. Improve your insulin sensitivity. That and a good night's sleep does wonders for insulin sensitivity. All righty. Thank you for the questions. I'd love to hear more from you. And the way that you can do that is go to and leave me a question there, and if you've not yet subscribed, Holy smokes, you're missing out on the good stuff.
Make sure you go to and I will see you next time.
This is JJ with Ask the Health Expert. I answer your questions weekly. Plus I interview the top experts in health. And [00:25:00] wellness, so make sure you never miss a show by going to Yep, it's that easy. I'll see you next time.


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