Eating egg whites? Here’s why “healthier” may be holding your muscles back

Eating egg whites? Here’s why “healthier” may be holding your muscles back

It turns out the entire incredible, edible egg may be better for building muscle than its whites, according to a new study.

University of Illinois researchers found that people who consumed 18 grams of protein from whole eggs had a 40 percent greater post-workout muscle-building response than those who ate the equivalent amount of protein from egg whites.

The egg yolks in particular are the key to boosting the body’s ability to utilize the protein in the muscles, said lead researcher Nicholas Burd, in a press release, as they contain protein and other nutrients that are not present in egg whites.

“This study suggests that eating protein within its most natural food matrix tends to be more beneficial to our muscles as opposed to getting one’s protein from isolated protein sources,” said Burd.

During the study, 10 men engaged in resistance exercise and then ate either whole eggs or egg whites containing 18 grams of protein. The participants provided blood and muscle biopsy samples before and after exercise and eating.

“We saw that the ingestion of whole eggs immediately after resistance resulted in greater muscle-protein synthesis than the ingestion of egg whites,” said Burd.

Elizabeth Zawila, a registered dietitian at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital’s Health and Wellness Center in Downers Grove, Ill., says the key takeaway from the study is that although we can turn to protein powders, shakes, bars and other supplements, the way our bodies benefit from whole foods may be more complex than we realize.

“There is a lot that we might not know about how eating nutritious foods benefits us more than isolating the parts of the food we find to be beneficial and packaging them up as convenient little powders and supplements. For the average person, there really is no supplement more beneficial than a healthy diet,” she says.

Zawila reminds us that building and maintaining lean muscle mass is critical to a leading an active lifestyle.

“We all lose muscle mass as we get older, unless we are actively taking steps, such as exercising and strength training, to help reduce this muscle loss. Maintaining lean body mass is a great strategy to helping ourselves stay active and engaged in our favorite hobbies as we go through life,” she says.

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  1. Not one word about cholesterol. We are in our early 70’s. Our cholesterol is ok. Both have family histories of heart attacks with relatives on one of our sides. We eat 3 eggs a day, 4 days a week and egg beaters with spinach and cheese 3 days a week, on average. What do you think? Ed

About the Author

Johnna Kelly
Johnna Kelly

Johnna Kelly, healthe news contributor, is a manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly 10 years as a public relations professional working for state and county government. During her time as a communications staffer for the Illinois General Assembly, she was integral in drafting and passing legislation creating Andrea's Law, the nation's first murderer registry. In her spare time, she volunteers at a local homeless shelter, enjoys traveling, photography and watching the Chicago Bulls.