Eggs are many a bodybuilder's best friend. In the days before protein powder, people looking to bulk up would drink these down raw. For many people, eggs are an important, versatile, and tasty ingredient in a high protein diet.
Additionally, many people supplement their diet with egg protein powder. It is a high quality alternative to dairy proteins, and a common ingredient in protein blends. Like everything, egg protein has its pros and cons. Let's take a look.
Egg Benefits and Side Effects
Egg protein has a number of benefits. Biological value is a measure of protein quality, which is based on the proportions of amino acids and the digestibility. Egg is second only to whey in terms of biological value, making it one of the best protein sources available.
Egg protein is free from lactose and milk proteins, which makes it great for people who suffer dairy allergy or intolerance. Eggs are low in carbohydrates, and the whites, from which egg protein powder is made, contain next to no fat. Egg white is also rich in vitamins such as A, B and D, and whole egg, including the yolk, contains almost every vitamin and mineral that the body needs.
Egg protein, however has a number of side effects – some of these are more serious than others.
Is Egg Protein Safe?
Egg protein powder is produced from egg whites only, through a process called dry spraying. The egg white is not cooked at any point during this process, which has generated concerns among some people about the possibility of Salmonella contamination in this product. Although it is not cooked, egg powder does undergo a pasteurisation process, which is designed to kill pathogens. Egg powder sold in Australia is under the regulatory control of the Food Standards Authority who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of food items. In addition, the incidence of Salmonella contamination is extremely low in the Australian egg industry, so unlike the US, where it is inadvisable to consume raw eggs due to concerns about bacterial contamination, eating raw eggs is not considered a health risk over here (1).
Side Effects of Egg Whites
Uncooked egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which is known for its tight binding to biotin, also known as vitamin B7. The pasteurisation process that egg protein powder is subjected to deactivates avidin, but it is still present in high levels in raw egg whites. Biotin is usually made in the intestines by bacteria, but If excessive amounts of raw egg white is consumed over a long period of time, the avidin can bind the biotin and prevent absorption, causing biotin deficiency. This is characterised by dry hair, and hair loss, dry, infection prone skin, brittle nails, lethargy, and mood swings (2).
There are a number of ways to avoid bioin deficiency. Firstly, cooking the egg will not only inactivate avidin, but it will improve the absorbability of the egg protein. Secondly, egg yolk is a very rich biotin source – consuming the whole egg can protect against deficiency. If these options are not appropriate, biotin supplements are available, and can prevent deficiency.
Egg White Protein Powder Side Effects
Egg shares a number of side effects with other types of protein like whey. The most common side effects experienced by people who use egg protein are digestive. These are generally mild, and may include bloating, gas and diarrhoea. In many cases, these symptoms can be reduced by splitting protein intake into smaller doses.
There are some people out there who are allergic to egg protein, which is a well known allergen. These people will generally be aware of their condition, but allergies can present at any time. People who experience allergy symptoms, including skin rash or swelling, stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhoea, wheezing or runny nose, should avoid egg products and consult a doctor. Severe allergic reaction may cause difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis – In this case emergency medical treatment must be sought immediately.
Egg Protein Dosage
Egg protein can be used to fulfil daily requirements, just like any other protein. Egg protein powder is generally about 80% protein, so a 30g scoop will deliver 24g of protein. People trying to build muscle are recommended to consume between 1-2g of protein/kg bodweight per day, including the protein they are obtaining from meals.
A single large egg, yolk and white, contains about 6g of protein, and the white alone contains about 4g. People watching their cholesterol intake are advised limit their intake of egg yolk, because it is comparitively high in this type of fat.
(1) Chousalkar KK, Roberts JR. Recovery of Salmonella from eggshell wash, eggshell crush, and egg internal contents of unwashed commercial shell eggs in Australia. Poult Sci. 2012 Jul;91(7):1739-41.
(2) Stratton SL, Henrich CL, Matthews NI, Bogusiewicz A, Dawson AM, Horvath TD, Owen SN, Boysen G, Moran JH, Mock DM. Marginal biotin deficiency can be induced experimentally in humans using a cost-effective outpatient design. J Nutr. 2012 Jan;142(1):22-6.