When it comes to building muscle, protein gets all the attention. But what role do the other macronutrients, carbohydrates and fats play in building muscle? And what about vitamins and minerals? I was certainly surprised by what I found. Read on to find out!
A study in 2017 compared the effect of whole eggs versus egg whites in building muscle. While each got the same amount of protein from either the whole eggs or egg whites, the effect on building muscle was different. The whole eggs stimulated a greater muscle building effect than the egg whites.
Before we can explain this, let’s discuss the nutritional difference between the whole egg and egg whites. The egg yolk is the source of fats. Many people who are watching their weight, remove the egg yolk as a way of reducing calories. However, the egg yolk is also an important source of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). When we remove the yolk, we also remove these important nutrients. From a nutrient perspective, whole eggs are a clear winner.
More than just the amino acids from protein play a role in building muscle. Research suggests that vitamins and minerals, such as the fat-soluble vitamins, zinc and selenium, also play an important role in the muscle building pathway. Additionally, fats such as the saturated fatty acid palmitate and the omega-3 fatty acids play a role in building muscle. Clearly, protein is only one factor when it comes to building muscle.
What is the take home message from this information? Whole food sources of protein are superior for building muscle. While protein powders and supplements may be convenient, they don’t provide the same vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that can be obtained from whole foods. When deciding on your post-workout recovery meal or snack, don’t focus only on protein content, but also nutrient content. Aim for foods that are rich in both protein and nutrients.