The Truth About Egg Yolks

The Truth About Egg Yolks

In the 50’s, eggs were put near the top of the food pyramid with beef thanks to a generous donation from industry lobbies to political campaigns.  Then in the 70’s, eggs incorrectly got blamed for heart disease.  The dairy industry countered with decades  of advertising and propaganda.  In a twist of fate, researchers have completely withdrawn their claims of eggs causing heart disease.  This reversal, in conjunction with decades of marketing campaigns by the dairy industry now has people worshipping eggs as “the perfect food”.  Why do bodybuilders eat egg whites instead of whole eggs which contain the revered egg yolks?  Eggs ARE great for bodybuilders but you need to stop quoting stupid things like “eggs have lots of vitamins and minerals” and look at the actual facts to see how eggs are best used.

Heart Disease

There was a time when the medical establishment thought that eating cholesterol gave you high blood cholesterol which in turn was responsible for causing heart disease and heart attacks.  Research has shown this to be incorrect.  Eating egg yolks does not cause you to need statins and clog your veins.  Eggs are no longer a villain, read about eggs and saturated fat.

Eating fat makes you fat

There was a time when low fat diets were the rage because everyone knows that eating fat makes you fat.  So all these people started eating wonderful carbs like bagels, spaghetti, and cake – and the obesity problem got far worse!  Once again, research showed that fat is not the enemy.  Highly processed simple carbs have done more damage to the health of Americans than pretty much anything except smoking and this was all done in the name of health.  Many people successfully lose weight with the high fat diets like keto so its very clear that eating fat does not make you fat.  When it comes to health, research has indicated that eating certain fats actually improves health.  The omega 3/6/9 fatty acids are *very* important to health and building muscle and you can only obtain from eating fats in nuts, seeds, fruits, shellfish, and cold water fish.

So am I endorsing chowing down whole eggs and lots of egg yolks? NO! Not at all and here is why!

Plant fat vs egg yolk fat

Why not 8-12 whole eggs in a single sitting?  Two reasons, calories and pesticides.  Poultry is one of the most contaminated food sources in America.  Very few people buy organic eggs which would solve my contamination objection to egg yolks.  I can’t prove this but its a reasonable educated guess that since most pesticides are fat soluble that the pesticides in eggs reside in the yolks and not the whites so by using only the whites in non-organic eggs you can reduce your exposure to pesticides.  Thats the first reason I feel its important that egg yolks only be consumed in moderation.  The other is calories.  People seem to forget that obesity is a huge problem in the developed world.  This problem isn’t just with sedentary people, many gyms are filled with strong and fat people which leads me to …

Why do bodybuilders eat egg whites?

First of all, bodybuilders eat egg whites because the protein quality is the highest available.  Depending on how you calculate it, eggs have higher quality  protein than virtually every type of meat including beef and chicken.  This is why vegetarian bodybuilders are at no disadvantage whatsoever when it comes to building muscle.  Everything in nutrition is a balancing act.  There are so many things your body needs to build muscle and stay healthy and only so many calories you can eat in a day.  If you eat 10,000 calories a day its no trouble at all to get enough protein, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and good fats.  On the other hand, if you are on a cutting diet it becomes a lot trickier and the more the caloric deficit is, the harder it becomes.  This is why a lot of bodybuilders end up losing muscle when they cut, its because their caloric deficit is so extreme that there is no way to get all the nutrients they need even if they eat clean.

Lets compare the macros of two very similar meals, both are egg scrambles with spinach and salmon but one uses egg whites and the other uses whole eggs.  If you want to look at the recipes:

egg white scramble whole egg scramble
calories 400 400
protein 78.0 44.6
fat 1.7 19.4
carbs 18.1 12.3

Egg yolks have lots of vitamins and minerals?

People who promote eating whole eggs love to scream “EGGS HAVE LOTS OF VITAMINS AND MINERALS!!!!!” Well yes, vitamins A, D, E and K are not found in egg whites, only in egg yolks.  The important vitamin is D because very few foods contain it, all the other vitamins are easy to get naturally in foods.  The thing is that egg yolks are not really that great of a source for vitamin D.  A 6 ounce salmon fillet has 28 more vitamin D than an egg.  You would need to eat 2072 calories worth of whole eggs (74cals/egg x 28 eggs) to get as much vitamin D as is in one 274 calorie salmon fillet.  You can also get vitamin D in fortified milk (the normal kind) a 16 ounce glass of skim milk (159 calories) has as much vitamin D as 444 calories worth of whole eggs (74cals/egg x 6 eggs).  So much for eggs being a “great source” of vitamins.

Now lets talk about those important minerals in eggs which are include calcium and iron.   Is this a reason to chow down on eggs?  Lets take a look starting with iron.  Turns out eggs do have iron but they are a pathetic source of it, they do not appear on any top 10 lists for iron.  Much better sources of iron are:

  • shellfish
  • spinach
  • liver and organ meats
  • lentils, chickpeas, peas, soybeans
  • red meat

OK well how about calcium?  Eggs are really high in calcium, right?  Lets take a look.  Well turns out that eggs are not on any top 10 food lists for calcium either!  Good calcium sources are:

  • dairy products
  • spinach
  • cowpeas
  • okra

If calcium is what you need, a 16 ounce glass (159 calories) has 625mg.  To get this much calcium from whole eggs, you would need to eat 5 eggs (625mg / 129mg/egg) which would have 370 calories.  Eggs are not a good calcium source.

This all points out a huge problem in bodybuilding.  People who accept what they hear without thinking about it or doing research to see if its true or not.

Eggs are a horrible source of vitamins and minerals.

Egg Yolks are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids?

People who love their whole eggs also like to pretend that they are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids – they are not.  A whole egg has 105mg of omega-3 fatty acids. The recommended daily amount for a bodybuilder is 3000mg a day.  If you do the math you see getting enough omega-3 fatty acids from eggs would require eating 28 whole eggs a day or 2094 calories worth (74cals/egg x 28).  By contrast, a 4.5 ounce piece of grilled salmon has 3000mg of omega -3 fatty acids but only 275 calories.

Eggs are a horrible source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Allocate fat calories carefully

The people who promote eating lots of whole eggs because they are good fat are missing several important points. First is the fact that it makes cutting very difficult nutritionally as I point out above.  The second problem is one of fat allocation.  You only get so many calories in a day and only a certain percent of them are fat.  Lets say you are 2000 calories a day and 20% fat so you get 400 calories of fat or 44 grams of it.  Its not just eggs that have good fats, in fact there are some other essential ones you need to be aware of.  First are the omega 3 fatty acids which are as you suspect, fat.  You can get these from fatty cold water fish like salmon and you can get it from chia or flaxseed.  A recommended amount for a bodybuilder is 3g of omega 3 a day which means if you get it from real food (always the best) you will need a 275 calorie portion of salmon which is 133 grams.  That salmon will have 150 calories worth of fat.  Of our 400 calorie fat budget, we have just taken 150 calories leaving 250. MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) like olive oil are very good for you , lets give you a tiny amount 1/3 ounce which is 90 calories, that leaves us only 140 fat calories left.  Next up, oleic acid which is an omega-9 fatty acid.  This is a really important fat which appears to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and is suspected to help prevent cancer as well.  The best source of these omega-9 fatty acids are avocados so lets have a two ounce portion of avocado each day (90 calories).  OK, we have gotten our important omega 3s, our MUFAs, and our omega-9s, of our 20% fat (400calories) how many fat calories do we have remaining to use for eggs?  70 calories, thats it.  One jumbo egg has 6.3g of fat or 56 calories.  Yep, you get one single egg.  Nutrition is a budget and you simply cannot have as much of one food as you want “because its healthy”.  There are lots of nutrients you need and  you need a balanced diet to get them all.  DO NOT GET ALL YOUR FAT CALORIES FROM ANIMALS!

Wasting food

Many people’s objection to eating egg whites is that they do not want to waste food.  To keep from wasting food, buy egg whites in a carton.  In corporate America where every penny is saved, you can be 100% assured that the egg yolks will be used.  They probably put the Hollandaise sauce factory right next to the egg white factory :)  Also please read about wasting food. Throwing something away is not the only way to waste it.

Whole eggs are only appropriate when one is bulking (adding bodyfat), otherwise, use egg whites.