Biological Value of Proteins – How Well are Proteins Digested?

Written by Tihomir Stefanov, M.S.(C), PT

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When most people hear the word “protein”, what first comes to mind is a certain brand of supplements.

Now, first and foremost, I’ll just mention that supplements are not the main topic for this article.

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Instead, we’ll be looking at all kinds of proteins and how they get absorbed by the body.

It is worth noting however that proteins from supplements and proteins from meat for example are pretty much the same.

The only exception is that some powdered proteins are well-isolated and get absorbed quicker.

That simply means that whey powders are not really powerful, nor enhancing.why is protein important

Supplements were simply created to add up to your nutrition plan and make it better.

Furthermore, they are convenient and can be used in case of need, such as after a workout or even upon breakfast, when you are limited on cooking time.

Now, as you should all know by, proteins are the building blocks of every living organism.

Besides water, proteins are the most common substance we see in the body.

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Literally every tissue in your body is made out of proteins – The eyes you look at this article with, the neurons in the brain that process this information – All of this is protein.

There are about a 100,000 proteins that make up the human body.

Before we start talking about means of measuring the quality of proteins (Biological value), let’s see what are the most important things you need to know about proteins:

1 .Proteins serve an energetic function

If you’ve seen our article on “Energy systems of the body”, you would know by now that the body can use proteins as the last resort source of energy, via the aerobic energy pathway.

That is of course, if glycogen and fats are unavailable for use.

If you’re depleted of carbohydrates, the liver makes protein in a process called “Gluconeogenesis”.

2. Proteins serve a transmitting function

Needless to say, proteins are responsible for the transmitting of important cell-to-cell information in the body.

3. Proteins serve regulating functions

Proteins are one of the substances that regulate the endocrine (hormonal) system, as well as the digestion enzymes and the function of the immune system.

4. Proteins serve recovery functions

Last but not least of course, are proteins’ constructive function.

The proteins which the body breaks down to amino acids are used to help the body recover, grow and adapt.

This fourth and last point is probably the most important for people who are active trainees.

To sum it up, the most important functions of proteins, are the following – Regulative, protective, constructive, transporting, buffering and energetic.

Why do I need to know this?

protein in the body

Well, logically, to produce the needed enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, we need to grant our bodies sufficient amounts of daily protein.

Following that way of thinking, we can say that if we systematically deprive the body of protein, we will experience a stall in growth, loss of organ and muscle tissue, impaired hormonal functions and lower immunity.

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In worse cases, when the lack of protein is combined with bad habits like smoking, drinking and drug use, the individual may experience severe, lethal diseases and drastic declines in health.

Biological value of proteins (BV)

The biological value of proteins is used to measure how well the protein is digested, absorbed and retained by the body once consumed.

In other words, the BV can be used to show protein efficiency.

The efficiency is based on the ratios of the different amino acids, as well as how long the protein remains in the body (retention).

Of course, if you consume more proteins of a higher biological value, the body will be more efficient with what you are giving it.

Now, when you measure something, there has to be a standard to compare it to.

In nutrition science, whole eggs are the standard for highest BV of proteins.

The BV Scale goes from 0 to 100, with eggs being valued at 100.

Other proteins are compared to eggs, which are the standard for highest biological value of proteins.

It is worth mentioning that BOTH the egg white and the yolk, together, are measured at a BV of 100.

If we take the yolk out, that leaves the white with a BV of about 93.

Which foods contain the best protein?

To make it easy for you, we have inserted a table that shows the biological value of the most common protein sources available – Both foods and supplements

biological value of proteins

So, should you just consume foods that are of the highest BV possible?

Well, not really.

While it would be good to focus on those, it would never be too bad to combine them with other, valuable sources of protein, such as beans, peanuts and all kinds of legumes.

The more variety and diversity you have in your nutrition, the more nutrients you’ll be getting in.

Bottom line

The entirety of your being is made out of tens and thousands of proteins, that have a vast array of functions.

Trainees should focus on sufficient daily protein intake, simply because it is important for the proper recovery of the musculature, endocrine and central nervous systems.

Each source of protein has different ratios of the different amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.

This is exactly why it is good to check out the BV scale and determine which should be the primary sources of protein in our daily diets.

Ultimately, we should aim for a good amount of animal products, as they will provide us with essential amino acids.

Essential amino acids, as you may or may not know, are the amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own, hence why they must be derived from food.

Nevertheless, our daily nutrition should be diversified, in order to get as many nutrients as possible.

The best approach would be a balanced ratio of all 3 macronutrients (proteins, fats & carbs), derived from various sources – Some meat, some fish, some dairy, some eggs, some seeds, some legumes, etcetera.

In doing so, we will give the body just what it needs to recover from our workouts and sustain energy levels for all our mental and physical activities outside of the training room.

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