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Muscle Mystery: Does Denatured Protein Still Make You Grow?

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.

XXX
"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 ///

Ingredients
Directions
  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 Fat9.1 g (1.7 g saturated)
Total Carbs38.9 g (4.7 g fiber)
Protein38.6 g
Notes

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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About The Author

Anna's passion for exercise and nutrition inspired her to create proteinpow.com while she was still in the last year of her Ph.D. program.

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jos777

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jos777

My first reply to this statement is along the lines of 'do you also not cook your meat or eggs?' Thanks for putting up the article tho, I'll try out the recipe!

Aug 13, 2013 5:36pm | report
 
Molinski44

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Molinski44

Wow...I was very misinformed. Solid article.

Aug 13, 2013 5:38pm | report
 
twixz

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twixz

So we can drink our egg whites out of the carton with no problem

Aug 13, 2013 5:41pm | report
 
JRose13

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JRose13

yes, raw egg whites do not contain the stuff that may be dangerous to drink raw, the yokes do. So drinking straight outof the carton is perfectly fine

Aug 13, 2013 8:20pm | report
KyleHaney

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KyleHaney

I've been drinking egg whites straight, every morning for the past year or two. Mix with milk and/or protein powder, some peanut butter, a banana, some strawberries, and blend it all up and you can't even taste them, its awesome. Don't leave them out on the counter overnight and then drink them though....did that. Worst weekend spend on the pot ever haha

Aug 14, 2013 1:16am | report
guitarshredda

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guitarshredda

I would be careful about consuming raw eggs, they can lead to a biotin deficiency. here are some journal articles confirming this.

Biotin
Janos Zempleni and Toshinobu Kuroishi
Adv Nutr March 2012 3 2): 213-214

Shawna L. Stratton, Cindy L. Henrich, Nell I. Matthews, Anna Bogusiewicz, Amanda M. Dawson, Thomas D. Horvath, Suzanne N. Owen, Gunnar Boysen, Jeffery H. Moran, and Donald M. Mock
Marginal Biotin Deficiency Can Be Induced Experimentally in Humans Using a Cost-Effective Outpatient Design
J. Nutr. 2012 142: 1 22-26

Aug 14, 2013 1:45am | report
TheHairyGeek

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TheHairyGeek

Makes complete sense. I ignored the rubbish about heating it being bad anyway.

After all, if you couldn't absorb cooked protein, that would mean you couldn't utilize it for energy production wouldn't it? It would become zero calories? Everyone could gorge themselves on egg white omlettes!! :D

Aug 13, 2013 5:48pm | report
 
ianmagus

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ianmagus

It would be helpful to add that denaturing isn't only a cooking-related term. Proteins must be denatured naturally during the digestive process in order for the amino acids to be absorbed...which makes the claim that "If protein denatures, your body won't be able to absorb it" all the more ridiculous.

Aug 13, 2013 8:08pm | report
 
mrrockyjones

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mrrockyjones

Protein pancakes rock! Lately Ive been doing one scoop Phase8 vanilla, the volume equivalent (of the protein scooper) of 2 scoops flour, pinch of cinnamon and baking powder, mix with water. Top with banannas and fat free caramel or light maple syrup!

Aug 13, 2013 8:10pm | report
 
jwethall

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jwethall

THANK YOU! I've been trying to say this to people for years. What do you think the pH of your stomach is? around 2. Proteins are HIGHLY sensitive to pH, and outside of physiological pH (around 7.4) they denature. Your body MUST denature proteins in order for proteases to cleave them into their constituent amino acids and incorporate them into new proteins such as myosin, actin ect (muscle proteins).

Article Rated:
Aug 13, 2013 9:22pm | report
 
Saltus

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Saltus

In fact, denatured proteins can often be absorbed more efficiently.

Aug 13, 2013 11:16pm | report
 
suryabb

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suryabb

I have a question I hope it is answered. I have been trying to add skim milk powder in my diet (35% protein). But when I dissolve it in water and have it cold, I heavily suffer from flatulence however, when I heat the milk (milk powder water) in a microwave, flatulence is greatly reduced. Can you please explain this phenomenon ?

Aug 14, 2013 2:37am | report
 
fmxrdr

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fmxrdr

You suffer from food sensitivities. I have the same problem, dairy tends to make me bloated and flatulent. Alot of people tend to think that food allergies are the same as sensitivities, but they're not.

Aug 16, 2013 10:09am | report
MarinoMike

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MarinoMike

Can we just hold down the whole fitness community and force them to read this??

Aug 14, 2013 7:21am | report
 
jmsharr

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jmsharr

Thank you for clarifying!

Aug 14, 2013 9:44am | report
 
Nikadawn

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Nikadawn

Thank you for such a simple, clear explanation!

Aug 14, 2013 1:31pm | report
 
msymphony

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msymphony

Chocolate protein pancakes here I come...

Aug 14, 2013 2:10pm | report
 
timeastwood

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timeastwood

Is there any scientific evidence to support either argument? If not, it's really just one opinion vs. another....
Awesome recipes BTW....thanks!

Aug 14, 2013 2:28pm | report
 
jos777

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jos777

years and years of science. Those who have taken a class in micro and molecular biology or biochem come across this everyday. To the scientific community its common sense but for some reason the fitness community keeps getting confused haha

Aug 26, 2013 11:07am | report
XxmetallicaxX

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XxmetallicaxX

I work at a dairy industry where whey protein is processed, I just want to clear up a few things, I could go on and on but will not, I want to explain about whey protein isolate, this form is actually already denatured through the filtration and processing, it is the reason why it is easier to absorb because the protein bonds are broken down through denaturing hence what this article explains

Aug 14, 2013 5:18pm | report
 
SaraSolomon

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SaraSolomon

very relevant topic! well done!

Aug 14, 2013 6:03pm | report
 
BerserkElite

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BerserkElite

If protein was denatured during cooking, then meat wouldn't be such an important part of people's diet... LOL. The pancakes look delicious BTW :P

Aug 14, 2013 7:31pm | report
 
jays2653

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jays2653

really interesting

Aug 15, 2013 12:50am | report
 
corebound

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corebound

Excellent article, settles a discussion a buddy and I had on the effects of cooking on protein.

Aug 15, 2013 12:04pm | report
 
NadjaFit

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NadjaFit

This is so not true... You're "killing" proteins and nutrients by cooking (or baking) food, the same way you do with the bacterias or microbes...

Aug 22, 2013 1:45pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 32 Comments

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