Maybe Drinking Raw Eggs Isn't So Bad

Was Rocky Right After All?

Athletes and bodybuilders used to drink raw eggs. Then we decided that was stupid. Now, a new study shows that maybe it wasn’t. Check it out.


Rocky Drinks Raw Eggs. Should You?

I don’t remember a lot about the first Rocky movie. Sure, I have some vague recollections about Rocky’s pet turtles, Apollo Creed, and the scene in the ring where Rocky begs Mick to cut his swollen eyelid open so the blood can drain out and he can see the next haymaker coming towards what was once his face.

I do, however, have clearer memories of the training stuff: Pounding sides of beef with his fists and hearing the ribs crack, the classic training montage, and most of all, drinking down five raw eggs first thing in the morning. Was he actually on to something?

Why We Decided This Was Stupid

Why We Decided This Was Stupid

That movie inspired a lot of athletes and wannabe athletes to train like Rocky, but I’m guessing that most quickly found out that pounding a chicken carcass suspended from the basement ceiling wasn’t quite as dramatic or effective as punching a slab of beef in a meat locker (a practice adopted from real-life boxer, Joe Frazier). A lot of athletes were also inspired to eat raw eggs, a practice I’ve called “stupid.”

My primary concern was that eating raw eggs regularly might lead to a biotin deficiency and make your once-pretty skin look like Mick with a bad case of mange. The problem is that raw egg (specifically, the egg white) contains a chemical named avidin, which binds to biotin when ingested, possibly leading to a deficiency.

My advice was to always cook eggs as the heat would denature the avidin and prevent it from binding up your biotin supply.

I’ve also poo-poohed the raw egg thing because of protein dynamics. Quite simply, the protein digestion and amino acid absorption of raw eggs has been reported to be only 51%, whereas cooked eggs clock in at 91%.

But protein digestion and absorption are different from muscle protein synthesis, particularly post-exercise muscle protein synthesis, and no one has ever gotten around to comparing how raw eggs compare to cooked eggs in those departments, until now.

Surprising New Findings About Raw Eggs

Surprising New Findings About Raw Eggs

Dutch researchers randomly assigned 45 healthy, resistance-trained young men to one of three experiments. Each test subject performed 15 minutes of cycling followed by 45 minutes of resistance exercise, after which they received a low-protein control breakfast, 5 raw eggs, or 5 boiled eggs.

Biopsies of the vastus lateralis were taken before breakfast, 2 hours after training, and 5 hours after training.

Sure enough, eating boiled eggs led to 20% higher peak plasma concentrations of amino acids than raw eggs. HOWEVER, post-meal protein synthesis was 20% higher after eating raw eggs and only 18% higher after eating boiled eggs (compared to the control breakfast).

Essentially, there was no difference in post-prandial muscle protein synthesis between eating 5 boiled eggs and eating 5 raw eggs.

Egg-Splain These Weird Findings to Me

Egg-Splain These Weird Findings to Me

What they found reminds us that higher plasma amino acid availability doesn’t necessarily equate to additional muscle protein synthesis. True, the boiled eggs digested better, and their proteins were more readily available, but it didn’t matter when it came to building muscle.

Now, things might have been different had the experiment used fewer eggs. Let me explain.

Five eggs provide about 30 grams of protein, which is right smack dab in the middle of the range that’s been shown to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis (20 to 40). Ingest fewer than that (20 grams or so), and you might not be growing the maximum amount of muscle; take in more than that (40 grams or so), and you might be putting on an extra coat of paint when you didn’t need it.

But don’t assume that any “extra” protein gets wasted because it’s not just the muscles that need protein. Protein is used to build and repair cells and tissues, including hair and skin, not to mention being necessary for the production of hormones and enzymes.

This may be the origin of the whole “the body can’t absorb more than 30 grams of protein” myth. The purveyors of that hogwash might be confusing plasma levels of protein and the amount of protein needed to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Regarding the latter, sure, more than 30 grams is “wasted,” but the body certainly puts it to use – just not in building more muscle.

Eating Raw Eggs Not All That Stupid

Eating Raw Eggs Not All That Stupid

Do-Whole-Eggs-Act-Like-Steroids

So, Rocky’s practice of quaffing raw eggs in the morning wasn’t all that stupid. He probably didn’t compromise his skeletal muscle response to training at all.

Still, one wonders about the wisdom of eating raw eggs. The avidin/biotin issue still exists, but you’d probably have to eat a lot of eggs for an extended period to develop a deficiency in that B vitamin. Besides, you could thwart any biotin deficiency by taking a daily 10 mg. biotin supplement.

Then there’s the salmonella issue, but it doesn’t appear to be a big deal. The risk of developing this type of food poisoning from eggs is less than 0.06%.

So, neither of those issues is probably reason enough to eschew raw eggs. But why eat them in the first place? I guess it makes sense if you’re in a hurry, or don’t have access to kitchen implements or electricity, or are a big Rocky Balboa fan.

Reference

Reference

  1. Fuchs CJ et al. Raw eggs to support post-exercise recovery in healthy young men: did Rocky get it right or wrong? J Nutr. 2022 Aug 9;nxac174. PubMed.
5 Likes

Another great article. I appreciate you taking the time to break it down. I haven’t had a raw egg in many years might be a nice change of pace in the morning. I think I’ll try putting one in my morning shake.

My LOL for the day. I’ll bring up Tarzan again :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I personally love raw egg yolks

I’ve been using egg whites instead of milk/water as the base of my protein shakes for a few years now. No going back for me. Pure protein, so I get to decide how I want to manipulate fats and carbs.

It’s funny, even though I wrote the damn article, I still don’t have the huevos to put raw eggs in my shake!

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Wha’chu mean, Willis? Like, the taste, or is it the convenience?

both.

The convenience is definitely in raw eggs favor, especially if you mix in a tiny bit of orange juice to make them go down way easier!

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Been putting 2 in my (whole-food-protein-infused) shakes for a thousand years now.
Yummy for the tummy.

If you live in a society that freaks out over the littlest spore of salmonella and etc = these foods are regularly n heavily monitored, i wouldnt worry too much (unless youre old, frale, and suffering from this or that)

I spoke to a Dutch (what is it?) egg farmer once, he does/ did business in Russia.
He said not to worry about all that in NL, or large parts of the EU, but over there in Russia (or any country with a less refulated food chain)… is another story completely.

I’ll have to try that. Thanks!

As I understand, many countries store raw eggs on the shelf instead of the fridge. It’s unsettling at first to see it, but it makes sense.

I’ve heard that US eggs need to be refrigerated bc the washing process makes the shells more proud => bacteria gets in

Hey, I just looked that up. You learned me something! Thanks!

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Here also.
I wondered about that too.

Never found a conclusive answer to that. Heard once it doesn’t extend the shelf life. Concsensus seems to be (also): They’re not in the shop long enough to generate a dangerous situation.
I do store them in fridge also.
My mom does not.

And truth be told, eating 4-6 minimum, 6-8 max, per day, then no, from shop to my belly doesn’t take long… ;-p

Just back from Asia though, where average temperature is much higher, I did (more often than pleasant) did run into some over-date (to put it mildly)(or just exposed to these temperatures for too long) batches. Shifting to more regular brands fixed that.

I drank down 5 to 6 raw eggs everyday for over 20 years. Did it for convenience and never once got sick. Kept it up until I started skipping breakfast.

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I guess it’s a small price to pay cuz’ Salmonella is, by all accounts, no fun.

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No second head grew from your shoulders? No third or fourth nipples? Then that’s good enough for me.

I don’t eat them raw or cooked, I eat them as a lumpy custard rice sauce. Cook for a long enough time to heat right through but not become solidified. Add that to rice and it is ridiculously easy to get down. One of the many tricks I used when bulking.

I’m curious if you sous vide the eggs, if they still act the same as a raw egg, with the safety of a cooked egg. I suppose the results in the article were similar enough that it really doesn’t matter. But it gives you another form factor for consuming high quality aminos. Here’s a great article about pasturizing eggs via sous vide
How to Pasteurize Eggs Sous Vide - StreetSmart Kitchen