Shaun Ward MSc ANutr
Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein from animal or plant foods. The main types of these supplements are whey, casein, soy, rice, hemp, and pea protein.
Egg white protein powder is a newer form of protein powder and is just how it sounds - a powdered form of egg white.
Egg whites are the white portion of an egg that surrounds the yolk, consisting of ~90% water and ~10% protein. In fact, the egg white contains almost 70% of all the protein found in an egg .
On paper, egg white protein powders are very similar to the other popular protein powders, containing a high amount of protein (~80%) with minimal fat and carbohydrates. This similarity is good as these protein powders have been shown to improve muscle mass, strength, and overall performance.
1. Egg White Protein Is A Very Good Quality Protein Source
Not only does egg white protein powder contain a very high amount of protein, ~25 grams of protein per 30 gram serving, but it is also very high-quality.
In fact, that could even be an understatement, as out of all whole foods, eggs have the highest “protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score” which measures a protein's quality and digestibility.
Eggs are also high in the essential amino acids that need to be obtained through the diet and are well-known to be responsible for initiating protein synthesis. It is only second to whey protein powder in terms of its leucine content (2682mg per 30 gram serving) – the amino acid that has the largest role in muscle health .
2. Egg White Protein May Improve Body Composition and Performance
As expected from the nutritional profile, egg white protein powder is able to have similar effects on body composition and performance compared to more traditional protein powders.
The studies on egg white protein powder is limited, however so far it has been demonstrated to significantly increase strength in resistance training populations .
Animal studies have also shown an effect for this supplement to reduce body fat mass by accelerating β-oxidation in the liver .
3. It's A Dairy-Free Alternative To Whey
Many people are intolerant to dairy products as they are unable to digest lactose, thus causing many gastrointestinal issues such as bloating and stomach cramps.
Egg white protein powder therefore offers a convenient and high-quality alternative to more traditional dairy proteins such as whey and casein.
4. It Avoids the Additional Calories from Whole Eggs
Although only eating egg whites misses out on most of the vitamin and mineral content that is concentrated in the yolk, the yolk is also the component where most of the calories, fat, and cholesterol are found.
For people wanting to lose weight, it may therefore be more suitable to remove the yolk portion of an egg.
Considering that egg white protein powder is just a more concentrated source of egg whites in their natural form it can also be an alternative option, especially for athlete who have an increased dietary demand for protein. For example, it would take 4 whole eggs to match the amount of protein in just 1 serving of egg white protein powder (but with an extra 20 grams of fat!).
5. Egg White Protein Is Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
Many animal sources of protein, including eggs, are naturally consumed alongside a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
The issues with high saturated fat intakes are still being heavily debated in the scientific community. Some evidence has suggested that saturated fat has the ability to raise LDL levels in the blood by reducing the activity of LDL-cholesterol, as well as increasing the rate of LDL oxidation which causes chronic inflammation . It is for this reason that saturated fat is linked to causing cardiovascular diseases, as LDL is a substance that attaches to the lining of arteries and results in plaque formation on arterial walls .
A similar debate is seen with dietary cholesterol and whether this impacts blood cholesterol levels. Limited evidence links dietary cholesterol to elevated blood cholesterol levels, however there is considerable counter evidence to suggest otherwise . The reason dietary cholesterol may have this effect is by facilitating the build-up of fatty deposits on blood vessel walls by increasing the uptake of oxidized LDL-cholesterol particles . There are also biological “hyper-responders” that have genetic predispositions to high cholesterol – called the ApoE4 gene .
For eggs specifically, scientific meta-analyses are also currently undecided on whether eggs are harmful or not. Some studies highlight the potential harm of eggs , whilst others find no link between egg intake and health risks .
Either way, egg white protein powder is an option for people who are wary of the potential risks with these nutrients as it is very low in fat (<1 gram per 30 gram serving) and is completely free from cholesterol.
Things To Keep In Mind
It should be kept in mind that egg white protein powder has not been studied anywhere near as much as whey or casein. Although it is similar in terms of its nutrition profile, it can’t yet be viewed as an identical replacement. For example, some research suggests that egg white protein powder has less of an effect on reducing hunger compared to casein and pea protein .
In addition, if eggs are a main source of nutrition in an individual’s diet, then swapping to only egg whites is going to significantly reduce the vitamin and mineral content of the diet - such as vitamin A, a range of B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, and selenium .
Egg yolks are even high in two important antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent eye degeneration, and an essential nutrient called choline which is hard to access in most foods. If people are going to start avoiding the intake of the yolk, then they need to make sure to source these nutrients from elsewhere in their diet.
Egg white protein powder is a concentrated and powdered form of egg white.
This is a very good quality protein source, with evidence that it can increase strength levels and reduce body fat.
It offers a great alternative to more popular protein powders, especially for people who are lactose intolerant and cannot consume dairy.
However, the vitamin and mineral content of egg white protein powder should not be viewed as a direct replacement for eggs.