Eggs are one of the most common food choices for athletes. Most athletes consume eggs to pack on its proteins; however, eggs are chock-full of other nutrients as well. It is a power house of many vitamins & minerals which are important for a healthy diet that supports everything from bone to brain function.
Eggs are not only readily available but are inexpensive source of nutrients. In the past, the yolks were thought to elevate blood cholesterol levels. However, the recent studies show that it increases HDL level, which is heart protective “good cholesterol”. Also it is now clear that the reason for heart problems, diabetes, obesity etc. is the saturated fat accompanying eggs like bacon, butter toast, hash browns etc.
Eggs should be a part of sports diet. So let’s see why eggs are important & how to be incorporated into a diet.
- Complete Source of Protein – Eggs contain high quality proteins. 1 Egg white gives 3 g proteins whereas yolk provides another 3 g, which means 1 whole egg gives 6 g of proteins & this is equivalent to 12% of the daily recommended protein. The protein in Egg is so high that WHO uses it as a reference standard against which all other foods are compared & judged for the protein quality. Since eggs provide complete protein, it is rich in amino acids like leucine, isoleucine, valine, methionine & other essential amino acids which are important for muscle building & repair.
- Helps Fat Loss – Eggs are known for being satiating, which contributes to less hunger. In one study, overweight individuals who had an egg breakfast experienced greater satisfaction so they ate fewer calories at lunch compared to those who ate a bagel breakfast. So eggs can help in weight management.
- Increases Muscle Mass – As explained eggs are a rich source of protein so they are super post workout food. Studies also show egg cholesterol supports testosterone hormone production which is important for muscle building.
- Rich Source of Omega 3 – Egg yolks are rich in omega 3 fatty acids in the form of DHA (docosahexanoic acid) which is important in reducing inflammation in the body.
- Improves Cholesterol Markers – inspite of containing around 200 mg of cholesterol in an average egg, studies have found that frequently eating eggs can improve cholesterol markers as eggs are rich in antioxidants, lutein, zeaxanthin & selenium.
- Improves Bone Health – Egg yolk is a rich source of Vitamin D which is important for stronger bones. According to the USDA, one large egg, which weighs about 50 g, contains approximately 50 IU vitamin D3, which is concentrated in the yolk. Along with Vitamin D, yolk also contains choline, vitamins & minerals which are important for bones & these in turn help in peak athletic performance.
- Healthy Brain Function & Better Cognition – Eggs are a good source of choline which is used to make neurotransmitter acetylcholine & this improves mental focus. Alertness mental focus & better cognition are very important for an athlete.
- Rich Source of Vitamins & Minerals – Eggs are a good source of Vitamin A, B2, B5, B12, Vit D, E, biotin, folic acid & iron. They are also a good source of Magnesium which is important for recovery & better sleep and Zinc, which is required for testosterone production.
How to Incorporate Eggs
Eggs can be prepared in a number of ways but for an athlete boiling or poaching are the healthiest ways as no oil is involved in this. Scrambled or omelette options are also good provided little amount of oil is used & they are combined with some vegetables for a complete meal.
Prefer to cook on low temperature as it will preserve antioxidants in it. Athletes can include in the following ways:
- Pre Workout – Oatmeal with a boiled egg OR Toasted whole wheat bread with egg omelette combined with spinach & mushrooms
- Post Workout – Greek / Plain yoghurt smoothie OR Milk shake with couple of egg whites & 1 yolk.
Avoid eating raw or undercooked or half boiled eggs as the chances of Salmonella bacteria infection is high. Researches also show egg proteins are more bioavailable & better digested when cooked (94%) compared to raw ones (55-64%). Cook eggs till the yolk is firm.
So, do not fear eggs, instead make them a part of your sports diet.
Author: Rashmi Cherian
Registered Dietitian (License No 61/08), Certified Sports & Exercise Nutritionist
Founder, Wellness Vows
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