Many people think that cooking protein causes it to either lose its nutritional quality or it hinders the muscle building properties of the food. Even more think that when choosing the right whey protein shake, you need to choose those that do not use high heat processing since it causes denaturing and renders the protein useless. Time to debunk those big protein myths!
While heating a protein molecule will cause it to denature, all this means is that it changes the shape of the molecule without loss of it’s content. Unless of course we are talking about completely charring or destroying the protein beyond recognition, simple heat or cooking applied to a high protein food will not cause that protein to disappear.
On the other hand, the other active component of high protein foods is the bioactive allergen molecules. These allergens are those molecules responsible for binding to our bodies own immune mediating structures…namely immunoglobulin E. When the two bind together, your body experiences an enhanced immune response, unless you are allergic to the allergen.
Heat can cause this allergen to either become enhanced in it’s effectiveness (or allergy inducing abilities) or it can cause it to be destroyed entirely. This depends on the source of the protein. In the case of whey protein supplements, the allergen (lactoferrin in particular) is destroyed so choosing high heat methods of whey preparation will sacrifice the immune boosting benefits. That said, it does nothing to lower the protein content of the whey protein.
Many will ask “are whey protein supplements necessary or needed”. Lots of the confusion comes from those that are unsure of this whole protein myth in the first place. Some will even turn to “raw protein” in favor of cooked for this same mistruth.
If you’re training or working out hard, high quality whey protein has been shown to provide muscle building benefits. Sticking to cold processed micro filtration methods will help to preserve the additional immune enhancing benefits of whey without obviously sacrificing any of the protein content (regardless of the preparation method).