Updated: Jan 7
When most people hear the term "protein," they immediately think of a particular brand of supplement.
First and foremost, I'd like to emphasize that supplements are not the focus of this article.
Instead, we'll look at different types of proteins and how they're processed by the body.
It's worth noting, however, that the protein you get from supplements and the protein you can find in food is almost the same.
The only exception is that certain powdered proteins are well-isolated and absorb more quickly than others.
That simply means that whey powders aren't particularly potent or effective.
Supplements were designed to complement and improve your diet plan.
They're also handy and can be used in a pinch, such as after a workout or even for breakfast if you're running low on calories.
Let’s Talk Protein
As you probably already know, your body is technically a big, protein-based biological machine.
Aside from water, protein is the most common element we see in the body and more importantly, it regulates a variety of vital processes.
In a sense, protein is the building block of most of your tissues, enzymes, and hormones.
However, not all protein was made equal, meaning that the protein coming from different food sources, will be metabolized by the body in a slightly different way.
That is to say, there are high-quality sources of protein, but also, low-quality ones.
The Biological Value (BV) Of Proteins
Proteins' biological value is used to determine how well they are digested, absorbed, and preserved by the body after consumption.
To put it simply, the biological value can be used to demonstrate the efficiency of the consumed protein.
Now, there are two primary measures that help us understand more about the biological value of proteins.
Firstly, we have the amino acid profile of each protein-containing food.
For those of you who do not know this, proteins are made from amino acids.
There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential, meaning that the body needs them but can’t produce them on its own.
That is to say that the more complete a certain food’s amino acid profile is, the higher its biological value.
The second thing used to measure the biological value of proteins is protein retention, or in other words, how long the protein stays in the body.
The BV Standard
Now, in nutritional science, the biological value of proteins goes on a scale from 0 to 100.
Whole eggs (both yolk & egg white) are the standard for the biological value of proteins, measuring at 95-100 BV.
If we take the yolk out of the egg, the biological value drops with 5-10 points, down to 90-95.
With whole eggs being the golden BV standard, other foods are compared to them, in order to determine the bioavailability, as opposed to optimal quality protein (whole eggs).
Side note: Whey/isolate protein supplements have a BV of 100+.
Now, this theoretical information is important, but it brings us to the next logical question.
What Are The Best Protein Sources?
Below, we have listed the biological value of the most common protein sources we can find on the market nowadays, including both food and supplements:
Whey isolate protein blends - 100-150 BV
Whole eggs - BV 100
Cow milk - BV 91
Egg white - BV 88
Fish - BV 83
Beef - BV 80
Chicken - BV 79
Casein - BV 77
Rice - BV 74
Soy - BV 59
Beans & legumes - BV 49
Peanuts - BV 43
Now, what this 12-point table means for you, is that your primary sources of protein should be the ones on the top of the list, which have higher biological value.
Nevertheless, you can combine those with other, lesser bioavailable sources of protein, such as plant protein.
Ultimately, your best bet is to put a couple of food sources at the core of your protein intake, while also diversifying with a variety of other food sources.
The biological value of proteins (BV) tells us more about the amino acid content of each food, as well as how long its protein is retained in the body and how efficiently it is used.
Animal sources of protein appear to be superior, due to the better amino acid profile, as well as overall bioavailability.
This is why, if you are not vegetarian or vegan, foods like beef, eggs, fish, and chicken, should make up the majority of your daily protein intake.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below!