Eggcellent Protein

By: Jose Antonio PhD
Date Published: April 2011.

Yes, eggs are indeed wonderful for your body and brain. We know the harmful effects of eggs have been completely overblown(1). In fact, one study showed that eating eggs more frequently, up to almost daily, was not associated with an increase in coronary heart disease incidence for middle-aged Japanese men and women(2).  And we know that egg yolk has two very important carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which have been shown to be great for eye health. But there’s also another ‘story’ to eggs. For instance, scientists have known that reduced brain serotonin function is involved in stress-related disturbances and may occur under conditions of chronic stress. We also know that serotonin production depends on the availability of tryptophan (TRP). Recently, an egg protein hydrolysate (EPH) was developed that showed a much greater effect on brain TRP availability than pure TRP and other TRP-food sources. So does that mean EPH might be effective for performance under stressful conditions? Scientists looked at the effects of EPH compared to placebo protein on plasma amino acids, stress coping and performance in subjects with high and low chronic stress “vulnerabilities”. In a placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study, 17 volunteers with high and 18 participants with low chronic stress vulnerabilities were monitored for mood and performance under acute stress exposure either following intake of EPH or placebo.

And here is what they found. EPH significantly increased plasma TRP availability for uptake into the brain, decreased depressive mood in all subjects and improved perceptual-motor and vigilance performance only in low chronic stress-vulnerable subjects. The scientists in this study concluded that the acute use of a TRP-rich egg protein hydrolysate (EPH) is an effective way of increasing plasma TRP for uptake into the brain and therefore may be beneficial for perceptual-motor and vigilance performance in healthy volunteers(3).
So this benefits you because for one thing, EPH is an excellent protein source. Heck, whole eggs are a great food. But also, for those of you who are trying to get cut and lean, dropping calories, albeit temporarily is a strategy that you need to do. And to do that most effectively, you need to maintain optimal protein intake. For instance, a recent study looked 20 young healthy resistance-trained athletes were fed fewer calories (but with the same calories but one had higher protein and the other lower protein).

They discovered that about 2.3 grams of protein per kg of body weight or approximately 35% protein was significantly superior to approximately 1 gram per kg or approximately 15% energy protein for maintenance of lean body mass in young healthy athletes during short-term hypoenergetic weight loss(4).  For a 200 lb athlete, that is roughly equal to 209 grams of protein or about 35 eggs or 4-5 chicken breasts. So anytime you try to lose body fat or weight, just make sure to take out some carbs and jack up the protein. And while you’re at it, add an egg or two to your diet.

About the Author:

Jose Antonio is an author, speaker, radio show host, sports nutrition scientist, and avid outrigger paddler.


  • Egg-cellent news for most, but not those with diabetes. The harmful effects of eggs were overblown, but the studies show that people with diabetes should still limit how many they eat. Harv Health Lett. Jul 2008;33(9):6.
  • Nakamura Y, Iso H, Kita Y, et al. Egg consumption, serum total cholesterol concentrations and coronary heart disease incidence: Japan Public Health Center-based prospective study. Br J Nutr. Nov 2006;96(5):921-928.
  • Markus CR, Verschoor E, Firk C, Kloek J, Gerhardt CC. Effect of tryptophan-rich egg protein hydrolysate on brain tryptophan availability, stress and performance. Clin Nutr. Feb 16. 2010.
  • Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Feb;42(2):326-337. 2010.