Muscle Mystery: Does Denatured Protein Still Make You Grow?
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.
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.
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.
- 1/2 thinly sliced Apple
- 1/4 cup of Oat Flour
- 1/4 cup of Sunwarrior Warrior blend, Vanilla
- 1 Whole Egg
- 1 Egg White
- 3 tbsp of Milk
- 1/2 tbsp of Cinnamon
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serving Size 5 pancakes (recipe makes one serving)
Apple Pie Protein Pancakes PDF (163 KB)
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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
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
I would be careful about consuming raw eggs, they can lead to a biotin deficiency. here are some journal articles confirming this.
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
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
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.
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!
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).
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 ?
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.
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
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