A lot of discussions have been started recently around the usage of peptides for various health-related purposes, from fitness to skincare to cognitive enhancement and everything in between. As a result of these discussions, there have been controversies around peptide usage, as well as what it technically is.
Much of the buzz surrounding peptide usage come from their four main use cases:
We are going to dive into some of the more well-known peptide types. How they play into the three categories above, the benefits and drawbacks. How you obtain them, and finally how you use them. Our goal is to break down what peptides are and how they can affect your overall health and wellbeing. But to do so, we first need to nail down what peptides are.
What are Peptides?
If you find yourself in the gym or spend time around those looking to get fit and stay youthful, you’ve more than likely heard quite a bit lately about the wonderful world of peptides. Peptides come in endless varieties. Many, such as collagen, are known as staple items in a good quality nutritional plan. Others dive deeper into the wild and wonderful world of “biohacking”.
Some of the more common peptides that you may remember from your science classes include:
…and many, many more. Don’t be alarmed if the only one of the above you recognize is insulin. We aren’t going to cover these today. Our focus is peptides that promote improvements to the norm of your human body.
Breakthrough Peptides in Health and Wellness
Many peptides are very new to the scene, and more are being utilized and added into products by the day. Most are unknown outside of the fitness and skincare communities, though. Some may seem experimental, others may seem useless. Some others might even be completely off-putting when you hear what they are meant to do and how to get them into your body.
However, peptides are something that should be considered for anyone looking to truly get an edge up on the world in a variety of ways. Peptides, when used astonishingly, can have an incredibly positive impact on your physical capacity, performance, wellbeing, and youthfulness.
Peptides assist in burning fat and building muscle, to the point where some of the most potent peptides are classified as PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs). Like these examples in Major League Baseball. Additionally, peptides have superpowers when it comes to muscular or joint-related injury healing and recovery. Finally, peptides are a miracle cure for anti-aging, promoting a youthful glow, and general skincare activities and improvements.
We are going to discuss a small array of peptide types in this guide. From the more common ones that are readily and widely available, to some of the niche peptide types that are more experimental.
Digging Deeper into Peptides and How They Work
When we were researching information for this article, we had a serious struggle trying to come up with a way to best describe what are peptides. Finally, we came upon the perfect descriptor: Protein’s Little Brother.
Peptides and Proteins both contain chains of amino acids. If a chain has over 50 amino acids (roughly), it is a protein. Conversely, if a chain has under 50 amino acids, it is a peptide. Companies that sell health and workout supplements will often break these proteins down into peptides, making them far easier to absorb both externally and internally.
One solid example of this is collagen. The human body struggles to digest collagen proteins, regardless if it is for topical application (for skincare), or ingestion (for overall health and wellness). However, the human body easily can digest collagen peptides.
Additionally, we can find extensive amounts of natural peptides in the body. Often, peptides will act like hormones. This means that they will transmit information via the bloodstream between tissues. For this reason, some of the more experimental and controversial peptides (like those that we consider “performance-enhancing drugs”) will attempt to influence or mimic the body’s natural peptides. This can directly cause a boost in both HGH (human growth hormone) and testosterone. Which, in turn, will boost fat loss, muscle growth, and the healing of cartilage after injury or excess wear and tear.
The Most Common Peptides and Their Uses
Below, we are going to dive deeper into four of the most commonly-known peptide types available today. They range from easily accessible (collagen), to absolutely experimental (follistatin).
The Beauty and Aging Product Juggernaut: COLLAGEN
Collagen is everywhere. It is the body’s most abundant protein. It is in the chemical makeup of your hair, skin, bones, nails, and connecting tissues. The body produces collagen constantly. However, as you age, the production of collagen starts to slow, leading to the joints and the skin beginning to age.
Shockingly, after age 30, the human body loses one percent of its remaining collagen every year. The effective channels of “communication” in the skin begin to slow, and the aging process starts.
There are three different amino acids the body needs to build collagen properly: proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine. You may remember these from your science classes. We can commonly find these three amino acids in meat (beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, etc.), but also in egg whites and fruits.
Unless you find yourself chowing down on connective tissue and animal skin on a regular basis, you likely could use a bit more collagen in your diet, especially if you are over 35. And it is here that supplementation comes into play.
Why is Collagen Beneficial?
Collagen supplementation provides the body with the building blocks necessary to generate more collagen effectively. This, in turn, works to promote the youthfulness and elasticity of the skin, lessening the depth of wrinkles, and maintain the flexibility of joints.
However, the human body struggles immensely in the process of attempting to digest collagen proteins when they are whole. Therefore, the most effective collagen-centric supplements are hydrolyzed collagen peptides. This means that the proteins have been pre-digested in a way into collagen peptides. These collagen peptides, in turn, are far simpler for the body to absorb, leading to a more effective supplementation.
Collagen Use Externally/Topically On The Skin
When we introduce exogenous (external, not injected or ingested) peptides onto the skin, typically in the form of a serum, lotion or moisturizer, we “trick” the skin into believing that some type of wound or injury has occurred. It then stimulates the collagen-boosting processes directed towards the skin.
There are ample products on the market today that contain collagen peptides. These products are more commonly referred to as “hydrolyzed collagen powder” when meant for ingestion but come in a wide array of lotions and serums when meant to be applied topically.
The Superhuman Recovery Formula: BPC 157
BPC 157 is one of the newest peptides to break into the mainstream. Its main goal is to assist in more rapid muscle recovery after injury or strain. Please note, though, that if you are a competitive athlete, it is likely that BPC 157 will be classified as a performance-enhancing drug in the future. So far, it is not in the WADA list of prohibited substances and methods, but that might change soon. Being tested and testing positive for PEDs can easily lead to disqualification from any competition you may be entering. However, it is safe for now. With this in mind, let’s hop in.
The acronym BPC is short for Body Protecting Compound. Which is short for an incredibly long fifteen amino acid chain called :
glycyl-L-alpha-glutamyl-L-prolyl-L-prolyl-L-prolyl-glycyl-L-lysyl-L-prolyl-L-alanyl-L-alpha-aspartyl-L-alpha-aspartyl-L-alanyl-glycyl-L-leucyl-L-valine (or Gly-Glu-Pro-Pro-Pro-Gly-Lys-Pro-Ala-Asp-Asp-Ala-Gly-Leu-Val ). That’s why we prefer sticking with BPC.
This peptide type truly lives up to its namesake. It is a very new peptide and hasn’t had much in terms of research on the human body. However, studies performed utilizing BPC on mice in lab settings make this peptide seem very much like a miracle recovery drug. Additionally impressive are individual reports from those who utilize BPC for the healing of compound soft-tissue focused injuries and strains.
Some of the results of research performed on the effects of BPC 157 include, but are not limited to:
What’s even more impressive than the above is that the lab tested animals experienced no noticeable side effects across any time frame of any of the above studies. And this is the beauty of peptides in general. They have very low toxicity compared to other substances. However, it is worth remembering that these are tests, that performed on the simple makeup of rats and mice. Not on humans.
Having said that, there are a rising number of human reports that note BPC 157 performs similarly in human subjects than their rodent counterparts. If this is the case, BPC 157 could genuinely become the superhuman recovery peptide.
How to Take BPC 157
There are 3 ways you can take BPC 157. Orally, in a nasal spray, or(more commonly) inject it directly into damaged joints or muscles. However, if you plan to inject BPC 157, we highly recommend you ensure you know what you are doing. If you don’t, please find someone who does know what they’re doing.
Injecting BPC 157 comes with a multi-step process for most commercially-available kits. Many of these kits come with a box of insulin syringes, a bottle of bacteriostatic water, alcohol cleaning wipes, and of course, the BPC 157.
The process for ingesting or injecting BPC 157 is complex:
It is not as scary as it seems at a glance. Like most things in life, there is a learning curve involved. However, it’s important to note that this peptide is incredibly new, and is very much in experimental phases of research. However, the potential benefits are mind-blowing. As such, don’t be dumb, proceed with caution and use at your own risk.
The Beacon for Muscle Growth, Strength and Memory: CREATINE
Creatine is likely the most well-known of the peptide types. This product has been a stalwart presence in the world of bodybuilding and weightlifting for a very long time. The main reason for this is that it is one of the few products on the market that demonstrate time and time again to effectively contribute to build muscle and increase strength in lifters of all shapes, ages, and sizes.
If you have found yourself pushing through a heavy lifting session or powering through high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you have likely felt the burnout moment. This usually happens between 10 to 15 seconds into this intense exercise and is where your energy levels just plateau and start to plummet. It is here where continuing on with your lifts, or your sprints can become quite a challenge. It is here that you have reached your anaerobic threshold, which is when the muscles being worked have depleted stored adenosine triphosphate, or ADP (think of this as energy).
How Creatine Peptides Work
Creatine works by increasing the ATP that the muscles can store. It also recharges stored ATP while the muscles take a breather when you aren’t working out. Ingesting creatine can earn you those few extra moments of intense power before needing to take a break. In that break, you will inevitably begin “burning” oxygen as a source of fuel.
The goal is to avoid this use of oxygen, and creatine the peptide chain is the answer. Creatine provides those couple of extra heavy reps in a set of deep squats, or another 50 yards in a sprint training workout.
In addition to the above benefits, creatine also works to increase the synthesis of proteins. It is thought that this can provide a significant boost in muscle growth. Moreover, creatine is a known nootropic, which is defined as:
…drugs, supplements, and other substances that may improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.
In short, creatine assists in the improvement of memory retention while simultaneously reducing muscular fatigue. Sound too good to be true? What if I told you that your body produces creatine, and is doing so right now? Creatine is found in the muscles, which is why red meat also contains trace levels of creatine. However, supplementing with far more than what the body produces naturally is where the enhancements start to play in.
How to Take Creatine Peptides Properly
In most cases, creatine containers recommend a loading phase in which you ingest gratuitous amounts of creatine for 7 to 10 days, and then, when the muscles become saturated adequately with it, drop down into a maintenance dose.
A week to ten days of loading time can be quite disturbing to a few people who are pushing themselves to the limit. Rapid onset of creatine in the body could lead to a few unfavorable side effects, including stomach issues, headaches, severe dehydration, and nausea and vomiting. These are a few common side effects. But they aren’t serious or permanent. It is simply the body’s way to adjust to the onslaught of creatine entering the muscles. There are no long-term downsides to the use of creatine.
Science is torn on whether a loading phase is truly necessary, or if starting with the standard maintenance dose and maintaining that level of ingestion is fine. Additionally, there is a debate on whether it is better to keep a routine maintenance dose static, or take part in creatine cycling, which, in a series of loading, maintaining and pausing, is meant to provide more effective use of creatine in the body.
Creatine peptides can assist with easing the process. Peptides are far more bioavailable in the body. This means that you can chop a few days off of the loading phase of creatine build-up, which helps to decrease or bypass the side effects mentioned above.
Lose Fat and Gain Muscle With the Miracle Drug: FOLLISTATIN
Have you seen news articles about “Hercules” type children? The kids who are maybe six years old, but can deadlift a car and have six-pack abs and defined biceps? This typically arises from a genetic mutation that suppresses the presence of myostatin in the body. Myostatin works against the body to prevent the growth of muscles. With biologically-low levels of myostatin, these children gain muscle with minimal actual effort put into the process.
This is where peptides come in, namely follistatin. Follistatin is a peptide that works to mimic what these muscle-bound toddlers experience: the suppression of myostatin, leading to rapid muscle growth. Much like creatine, follistatin occurs naturally in the human body. However, as a supplement, it’s extremely new to the scene. In fact, there is only one study that has been performed on healthy humans.
What Science says
In this study, men ingested follistatin for an eight-week period, while also completing rigorous resistance-based training. The results of the study showed that muscle growth increased exponentially, threefold in some. Straight from the first sentence of the conclusion of the study’s abstract:
Our findings indicate that MyoX (which is follistatin derived from fertile chicken egg yolk isolate) supplementation is efficacious in increasing muscle mass in recreationally trained males.
In addition to the above study, ample animal-tested research has been performed, centered around the use and supplementation of follistatin. Providing lab mice follistatin proved to increase muscle gain and boosted fat loss. These factors carried over even when the mice’s diet should have been detrimental to muscle growth and fat loss. Additionally, there have been studies performed on the use of follistatin in primates (closer in makeup to humans), which noted still ample increased in the growth of muscle.
Follistatin has also shown promise as a cancer-fighting agent. As Self Hacked reports: follistatin has been found to play a beneficial role in many different types of cancer, including: breast cancer, lung cancer (non-small cell lung cancer), liver cancer, and ovarian cancer. However, follistatin may play a negative role in other types of cancers, including: esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, skin cancer (melanoma, basal cell carcinoma), and prostate cancer.
But, Is Follistatin Peptide Safe For Use?
Based on the studies mentioned above, it sure does seem that follistatin has the power to increase results when paired with rigorous weight training and cross-training routines. The study performed on humans provided test subjects with either 30 grams or 10 grams of follistatin, administered daily via the mouth. With both the larger and smaller doses, these groups showed the same level of muscle growth.
This being the case, if you plan on orally taking follistatin, we recommend going with the lower dose of 10 grams. Much like creatine, taking more than the recommended dose will cause you to excrete the excess follistatin through your urine, as your body can only store so much.
Many users inject follistatin directly into the body. While there is not an official “dosage” per se, many who publicly note follistatin use, inject 100 to 300 micrograms directly into muscles for muscle growth and fat loss.
However, we should note that, much like the BPC 157 covered above, follistatin is still very much in the experimental stage. Proceed with caution and know the potential risks of injecting any substance into your body. Always consult your doctor and follow the best practices and recommendations when taking any supplement.
Peptides Are The Future (?)
The use of peptides to get the edge up in skincare, muscle growth, cognitive abilities, and restorative properties are still firmly in the realm of biohacking. However, they are beginning to claw their way out and push into the mainstream.
From cancer-fighting agents to nootropic memory enhancement, the world of peptides is complicated but full of incredible potential. Take the words of Ryan Smith, a medical school student who helped open one of the first pharmacies in the US focusing on peptide synthesis and formulations for pharmaceutical preparations: “Peptides are changing the landscape of how we support neurological health and enhance neurological functioning”.
The bottom line is this. Build muscle, burn fat, and run faster. Promote a more youthful appearance and glow. Recover from an injury like Wolverine. Improve cognitive abilities. Peptides do have the prowess to truly be the future of improvements in the human body. We have only scratched the surface of what peptides are capable of. The rest is up to science, research and medicine.
Disclaimer: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctors or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding your condition.