Protein Quality, Digestion, and Bioavailability

Protein, it's what's for dinner...and breakfast and lunch and snack

Protein, it’s what’s for dinner…and breakfast and lunch and snack

Protein Quality, Digestion, and Bioavailability

We have discussed many times here just how important protein is and we’ve discussed how much protein you should ingest on a daily basis, but we have yet to cover protein bioavailability. Bioavailability is the measure of how much protein is actually used and digested by the body. The scale tops out at 100 meaning 100% of the protein is digested and used by the body, of course this is ideal as no protein is wasted. Certain types of whey protein powders called hydrolysates go through a process that pre-digests the powder making them actually over 100% bioavailable and are the main outlier in the scale. A breakdown of the bioavailability of some popular proteins is below:

Protein Source

Bio-Availability Index

Whey Protein Isolate and Hydrolysate

100-159

Whey Concentrate

100

Whole Egg

100

Cow’s Milk

91

Egg White

88

Fish

83

Beef

80

Chicken

79

Casein

77

Rice

74

Soy

59

Wheat

54

Beans

49

Peanuts

43

As you can see whey protein powders rank at the top of the chart for bioavailability with whole eggs leading the pack for whole food sources. Remember that score is for the yolk and white while white alone trails behind. The most interesting part about the bioavailability scale is how highly animal proteins score as opposed to plant based proteins. Plant based proteins may in theory contain a good amount of protein but when it comes down to it only some of that protein is usable by the body.

Bioavailability is something important to consider when choosing protein sources as it allows you to see what may be the best bang for your buck. For example you would need to eat twice as many servings of beans to equal one serving of whole egg protein. The healthiest and best way to get your protein is through various sources, for instance using whey powder in a few shakes throughout the day, some eggs for breakfast and beef for dinner. By varying sources you will take advantage of each proteins unique range of amino acids and accompanying vitamins and minerals ensuring you are taking in a wide spectrum of nutrients.

Scott Mailman

Atlasathletics1@yahoo.com

Twitter: @atlasathletics

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