Many a hard training athlete has taken part in the debate, either for or against, as to whether or not the naked egg can stand up against a slab of beef steak, as far as protein sources go, or do the egg macros in that plate of scrambled eggs fall short? It's an age old question really. Athletes are hell bent on finding the best protein sources and the comparison is inevitable. And, that's just as far as food goes. When it comes to supplemental protein, egg macros are always held in high regard – even higher than whey in some cases, with athletes continually debating the best egg white protein powder, or what goes into making the best egg protein shake.
It wasn't always like that though. Back in the day, even the best egg white protein powders made horrible tasting, lumpy, egg protein shakes. Modern technology has revitalized the egg protein powder market with great tasting, easy mixing products that make it easy, not to mention enjoyable, to get the nutrients out of eggs. But, are eggs as good a source of protein as a beef steak, or other animal source proteins?
Dietary protein is made up of chains of amino acids. The proteins from animals - poultry, fish, beef, pork, lamb, game meats and eggs are considered “complete proteins” because they contain all of the amino acids that your body needs – including the nine essential amino acids that your body doesn't produce. To further highlight the importance of complete proteins is the fact that the body can only benefit from complete proteins. Incomplete protein is pretty much useless as far as muscle growth and recovery are concerned.
Gram per gram however, meat is heavier in protein content than eggs. Eggs on the other hand, can be a healthier and more versatile alternative to meat. A gram of whole egg contains about 1/8th of a gram of complete protein. Conversely, a gram of meat (flesh of any animal) has about a 1/5th of a gram of complete protein. So, as you can see, in a gram-to-gram comparison, meat contains more protein than eggs.
I emphasized “whole egg” above because most of you are obsessed with not eating egg yolks. So, you have to remember that a large whole egg contains about six grams of protein, just a little over half of which come from the white. You throw out the rest with the yolk along with other beneficial nutrients. Just to get the same protein as a whole egg, you have to eat two egg whites. It's not unusual to see athletes throwing down 10 – 12, or more, egg whites at a sitting.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, compared to meat, what eggs lack in protein they make up for in cholesterol. One large egg has about 3.5 grams of fat and 140 milligrams of cholesterol. A 3 ounce serving of animal flesh ranges between 1.5 to 5 grams of fat and 50 to 60 milligrams of cholesterol. What's interesting though, is that while saturated fats are known to increase cholesterol, the egg macros, while higher in cholesterol than meat, eggs reflect fewer saturated fats. The only other food I know of that contains high cholesterol, but is low in saturated fat is shrimp and other shellfish. It's kind of an odd dichotomy, but nevertheless prudent, that people with high cholesterol should avoid both egg yolks (the obvious) and shrimp (the not so obvious). However, those people with normal cholesterol, can not only eat shrimp, but should also not be tossing all the yolks because they think they're high in saturated (bad) fat – because they're not. And, because the nutrients in eggs are contained in the yolk, including all the valuable vitamins and minerals you get from the egg. So, it boils down to calories. Many athletes go by the “four whites and a yellow” ratio when they construct their egg meal. This gives them all the complete protein contained in the egg whites, a bit more from the yolk, and all the vitamins and minerals, with less fat. But, a lot of lifters don't want to worry about how many calories are in one scrambled egg and they just go online and look for the best egg protein powder. (https://gasparinutrition.com/products/proven-egg?variant=33802534584451)
At the end of the day though, a complete protein is a complete protein. It doesn't matter if it comes from a cow, a fish, an egg or a 3LB plastic tub. So, are eggs as good a source of protein as beef steak as far as protein quality goes? The answer is yes.