Athletes and bodybuilders used to drink raw eggs. Then we decided that was stupid. Now, a new study shows that maybe it wasn’t. Check it out.
I don’t remember a lot about the first Rocky movie. Sure, I have some vague recollections about Rocky’s pet turtles, Apollo Creed, and the scene in the ring where Rocky begs Mick to cut his swollen eyelid open so the blood can drain out and he can see the next haymaker coming towards what was once his face.
I do, however, have clearer memories of the training stuff: Pounding sides of beef with his fists and hearing the ribs crack, the classic training montage, and most of all, drinking down five raw eggs first thing in the morning. Was he actually on to something?
Why We Decided This Was Stupid
That movie inspired a lot of athletes and wannabe athletes to train like Rocky, but I’m guessing that most quickly found out that pounding a chicken carcass suspended from the basement ceiling wasn’t quite as dramatic or effective as punching a slab of beef in a meat locker (a practice adopted from real-life boxer, Joe Frazier). A lot of athletes were also inspired to eat raw eggs, a practice I’ve called “stupid.”
My major concern was that consuming uncooked eggs repeatedly would possibly result in a biotin deficiency and make your once-pretty pores and skin seem like Mick with a foul case of mange. The issue is that uncooked egg (particularly, the egg white) incorporates a chemical named avidin, which binds to biotin when ingested, presumably resulting in a deficiency.
My recommendation was to all the time cook dinner eggs as the warmth would denature the avidin and stop it from binding up your biotin provide.
I’ve additionally poo-poohed the uncooked egg factor due to protein dynamics. Fairly merely, the protein digestion and amino acid absorption of uncooked eggs has been reported to be solely 51%, whereas cooked eggs clock in at 91%.
However protein digestion and absorption are totally different from muscle protein synthesis, notably post-exercise muscle protein synthesis, and nobody has ever gotten round to evaluating how uncooked eggs evaluate to cooked eggs in these departments, till now.
Shocking New Findings About Uncooked Eggs
Dutch researchers randomly assigned 45 healthy, resistance-trained young men to one of three experiments. Each test subject performed 15 minutes of cycling followed by 45 minutes of resistance exercise, after which they received a low-protein control breakfast, 5 raw eggs, or 5 boiled eggs.
Biopsies of the vastus lateralis were taken before breakfast, 2 hours after training, and 5 hours after training.
Sure enough, eating boiled eggs led to 20% higher peak plasma concentrations of amino acids than raw eggs. HOWEVER, post-meal protein synthesis was 20% higher after eating raw eggs and only 18% higher after eating boiled eggs (compared to the control breakfast).
Essentially, there was no difference in post-prandial muscle protein synthesis between eating 5 boiled eggs and eating 5 raw eggs.
Egg-Splain These Weird Findings to Me
What they found reminds us that higher plasma amino acid availability doesn’t necessarily equate to additional muscle protein synthesis. True, the boiled eggs digested better, and their proteins were more readily available, but it didn’t matter when it came to building muscle.
Now, things might have been different had the experiment used fewer eggs. Let me explain.
Five eggs provide about 30 grams of protein, which is right smack dab in the middle of the range that’s been shown to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis (20 to 40). Ingest fewer than that (20 grams or so), and you might not be growing the maximum amount of muscle; take in more than that (40 grams or so), and you might be putting on an extra coat of paint when you didn’t need it.
But don’t assume that any “extra” protein gets wasted because it’s not just the muscles that need protein. Protein is used to build and repair cells and tissues, including hair and skin, not to mention being necessary for the production of hormones and enzymes.
This may be the origin of the whole “the body can’t absorb more than 30 grams of protein” myth. The purveyors of that hogwash might be confusing plasma levels of protein and the amount of protein needed to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Regarding the latter, sure, more than 30 grams is “wasted,” but the body certainly puts it to use – just not in building more muscle.
Eating Raw Eggs Not All That Stupid
So, Rocky’s practice of quaffing raw eggs in the morning wasn’t all that stupid. He probably didn’t compromise his skeletal muscle response to training at all.
Still, one wonders about the wisdom of eating raw eggs. The avidin/biotin issue still exists, but you’d probably have to eat a lot of eggs for an extended period to develop a deficiency in that B vitamin. Besides, you could thwart any biotin deficiency by taking a daily 10 mg. biotin supplement.
Then there’s the salmonella issue, but it doesn’t appear to be a big deal. The risk of developing this type of food poisoning from eggs is less than 0.06%.
So, neither of those issues is probably reason enough to eschew raw eggs. But why eat them in the first place? I guess it makes sense if you’re in a hurry, or don’t have access to kitchen implements or electricity, or are a big Rocky Balboa fan.
- Fuchs CJ et al. Raw eggs to support post-exercise recovery in healthy young men: did Rocky get it right or wrong? J Nutr. 2022 Aug 9;nxac174. PubMed.