It may be incredible, and it may be edible, but it's also the undisputed champ when it comes to cholesterol content. Nothing symbolizes dietary indiscretion more than a couple of over-easy eggs snuggled between a couple of pieces of crisp bacon on one side and hash browns on the
other. Along with advising us to keep our dietary fat levels under 30 percent of total calories, the American Heart Association also recommends restricting the number of eggs we consume to four per week for healthy individuals and two per week for those who have heart disease
problems or a family history of the same.
Where do bodybuilders fit into that equation? Are you setting yourself up for heart disease later in life by including eggs in your muscle building diet? Should you be limiting your intake to no more than four per week, or, as some muscle gurus advise, should you banish the egg yolk entirely while downing great numbers of egg whites? Why not take it one step further and simply swear off eggs altogether? The answer is, because it's not necessary.
An egg provides high-quality protein. In fact, its net protein utilization, or NPU, value is the highest of any food. Pure and simple, that equals muscle growth. Eggs are cheap. Pour eggs cost less than 80 cents yet supply 28 grams of protein. Eggs are also rich in other nutritional elements. Besides the high-quality protein, they contain iron; vitamins A, B2, Be, B52 and folic acid; phosphorous; iodine; zinc; biotin and pantothenic acid. Each egg has approximately 80 calories. Eggs do contain fat, hut it's not all bad fat. Of the five grams of fat found in an egg, two grams are the desirable monounsaturated fat, one is polyunsaturated fat and the other two are saturated. Most serious bodybuilders need to take in a lot of calories in order to maintain their muscle mass, so the 45 fat calories per egg are inconsequential, except during a pre contest period.
Then there's the cholesterol content. Yes, eggs are loaded, containing about 220 milligrams per egg yolk. The question is, is this harmful to the bodybuilder? The assumption is generally yes. More cholesterol in the diet should lead to more cholesterol in the bloodstream. As with many nutritional hypotheses, however, A plus B doesn't always equal C. Take a look at the research. In a 1986 study that involved bodybuilders and was published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, high egg intake did not equate to increased risk for heart disease.
In fact, the subjects who consumed more eggs had a more favorable risk profile. According to the researchers, "Plasma l-IDL-cholesterol the so-called good cholesterol levels were higher, and plasma triglyceride [a fat associated with higher risk of heart disease] levels were lower at a high egg intake compared with that at a low egg intake."
This study involved 76 bodybuilders whose egg intake varied from none to 81 eggs per week, some consuming as many as 12 per day. The bodybuilders who ate more than six eggs per day averaged 188 milligrams per deciliter total cholesterol level, which is well under the 200 mg/dl level that the average person is advised to strive for. The subjects who ate fewer than 1.5 eggs per day averaged a 175 mg/dl total cholesterol level, slightly better than the high-egg group; however, the high-egg subjects averaged a higher HDL cholesterol level at 56 mg/dl vs. the low-egg group at 50 mg/dl. The high-egg bodybuilders also showed a lower triglyceride level at 124 mg/dl vs. 172 mg/dl for the low-egg lifters.
The obvious conclusion was that these bodybuilders did not have elevated plasma total cholesterol levels, despite their consumption of a high-cholesterol diet." Research involving healthy, non-bodybuilding subjects also finds that liberal egg use is not harmful. A study reported in a 1985 issue of Nutrition Review concluded by stating that "cholesterol intake is the least important of the dietary variables influencing plasma lipoprotein which includes cholesterol, FIDL and WE, the so-called bad cholesterol concentrations in healthy persons.
As another researcher, Alexander Macnair, stated in a 1984 study reported in The Lancet, "1 see no reason to alter my view that in healthy subjects of normal bodyweight and taking adequate, regular physical exercise, the number of eggs eaten as part of a varied diet has no significant effect on the serum cholesterol level or, therefore, on the ischemic heart disease risk."
In a 1987 study involving 25 black males who worked on an egg farm and ate five to six eggs per day, serum cholesterol levels were a very desirable 181 mg/dl, and HDL cholesterol levels were a surprising 62 mg/dl-which is very high for a man and is even higher than the levels of the bodybuilders in the study mentioned above, who averaged 56 mg/dl. As reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers concluded that the subjects may well have been able to handle so much cholesterol because their overall diet was low in fat, which made up only 20 percent of total calories.
A 1985 study reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association stated that "eating eggs appears to be associated with increased HDL-cholesterol" levels. In two other studies, both reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which the subjects ate three to six eggs per day, the re searcher came to the same conclusion-that if eggs raise cholesterol levels, it's primarily the beneficial HDL-cholesterol level that increases. Surprisingly, one of the studies stated that "hyper-responders in the present study might be at a lower risk for developing premature cardiac heart disease due to cholesterol consumption."
The general consensus seems to be that cholesterol levels are affected far more by total fat in the diet than by dietary cholesterol, A 1989 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that as long as the diet was low in fat and high in fiber, nine eggs per week had no significant effect on serum cholesterol levels. In a 1991 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Antonio Gotto says essentially the same thing in his concluding remarks: "For people who do consume large amounts of cholesterol, it is possible that reducing the intake of total dietary fat or saturated fat in conjunction with increasing the fiber content of the diet will decrease the absorption of cholesterol."
The egg is a nutritional powerhouse for bodybuilders, so it seems almost criminal to push liberal amounts of egg whites on them based on nutritional misinformation. Eating whole eggs is a great way for a new bodybuilder to put on muscular weight and for a veteran to add additional mass. Based on sound nutritional studies, there's no reason to continue the unpleasant ritual of forcing down scrambled egg whites and egg white omelettes.
Since most other fats are of little nutritional value and add empty calories to your diet, you should avoid the foods that people often eat with eggs, such as bacon, hash brown potatoes, sausage and sweet rolls, as well as the butter, margarine or oil they're frequently cooked in. Eggs should be soft- boiled, hard-boiled or poached. If you want your eggs scrambled or fried, you can use a vegetable spray such as Pam. You can add vegetables-especially onions, tomatoes and peppers-as well as nonfat cheese and 98 percent fat-free ham.
You should not under any circumstances, however, eat raw eggs- and that includes yolks as well as whites. A popular bodybuilding drink of the past was made with milk or juice, raw eggs and fruit blended on high. The real men- like Rocky-just blended the raw eggs. No one knows how many cases of stomach flu experienced back then were really salmonella poisoning, but with the incidence of food poisoning presently on the rise, it's not worth the risk. Cook your eggs!