Muscle Mystery: Does Denatured Protein Still Make You Grow?

Think you can't heat protein and still reap all the benefits? Think again. Learn the truth behind this nutrition-based myth.

If there's one thing that, in the words of Peter Griffin, "grinds my gears," it's hearing that you can't heat up protein powder because it's "ruined" in the process.

The argument goes something like this: "If you cook protein powder, the protein becomes denatured. If the protein denatures, your body won't be able to absorb it!"

Over the years, I've gotten dozens of questions from readers alluding to this argument. People traveling to the Caribbean have wondered if the climate will denature their protein, travelers packing protein on flights have been concerned that the heat of the cargo hold will affect their powder, and the flames of the stove have been avoided at all cost. After all, "Heating is the worst idea. It denatures protein!" Right?

In a word: no.

The idea that heat ruins protein has kept hundreds (if not thousands) of people from enjoying protein cake, protein muffins, and protein cheesecake. I'm issuing a call to action: It's time we come together and actively put a stop to this nonsense by learning and educating others about what denaturing actually is.

Defining Denaturing

In simple terms, denaturing happens when the structure of the amino acids found in protein change shape after cooking. The protein molecule, which you can imagine as being naturally wound-up in coils, uncoils when cooked.

This doesn't damage the protein, though. Our bodies absorb the exact same amino acids from the protein whether we cook it or not.

"Our bodies absorb the exact same amino acids from the protein wheather we cook it or not."

Think about when you cook an egg; the protein becomes denatured. Does that mean the protein gets ruined and your body can't absorb it? Certainly not. Otherwise, we'd all be downing raw eggs like Rocky Balboa. This also applies to meat. In fact, it applies to pretty much all proteins we cook.

You see, when we consume these denatured proteins, their molecules are broken down into individual amino acids that are then brought together in our cells to become a source of dietary protein.

Cooked or uncooked, our body absorbs the same essential amino acids, and the nutritional content of the protein remains unchanged.

So, why deprive yourself of delicious protein cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, or, dare I say, pancakes? Put the rumors about denatured protein to shame with this take on a breakfast classic. It will be sure to give you a jump start into the delicious land of protein-powder cooking. Just grab a fork and dig in. I promise you'll never turn back.

Recipe: Apple Pie Protein Pancakes ///

  1. Slice and steam your apple. I steam mine for five minutes, but you can steam it for longer if you want your apple to be softer. Just don't steam it for ages—we're not after baby food here.

  2. Once the apple is nice and soft, put it aside and make your pancakes by blending all the above ingredients together and frying up the batter on a nonstick pan with a nonstick agent (i.e. coconut oil, low-cal spray, or even butter). I used PAM.

  3. Make sure your pan is sizzling hot when you pour your pancake batter on it. As soon as your pancakes are poured, lower your light to medium. Flip and brown evenly on both sides.

  4. When they're done, layer your pancakes with the steamed apples. Add your cinnamon and syrup of choice. I used Walden Farms calorie-free maple syrup, but regular maple, nut butter, or protein fluff would all work.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 5 pancakes (recipe makes one serving)
Amount per serving
Calories 389.6 kcals
Total Fat 9.1 g (1.7 g saturated)
Total Carbs 38.9 g (4.7 g fiber)
Protein 38.6 g

If you want to make these pancakes lower carb, substitute the oat flour with ground almonds and/or some pea protein powder.

Apple Pie Protein Pancakes PDF (163 KB)

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