The internet is packed with recipes for creative ways to use all that protein powder you have stored away – covering everything from pancakes to pasta and soups.
But, people are sometimes afraid to cook with protein powder out of fear of denaturing the precious titular macronutrient. What is denatured protein? Does cooking with protein powder somehow ruin its nutritional value?
Although it sounds like a pretty terrible thing, the reality is that denaturing is a natural part of processing and digestion. Lots of things, including the human digestive system, can denature foods.
But what, exactly, is a denatured protein? Essentially, denaturing refers to the partial breakdown or restructuring of a specific substance. A denatured protein, then, is one that has been slightly broken down or had its shape changed.
Is It That Bad?
Even after that explanation, though, the situation likely doesn't sound all that much better to you. After all, you logically want your food to be whole, complete and in its natural state, right? If a protein has been broken down or changed, isn't it less effective? No, probably not.
In fact, we regularly cook high-protein foods like meat and eggs without giving any thought to the impact that that could have on protein. While cooking could change the way that protein works within your body – and even make some of it harder to digest – the macro will not be destroyed.
The Bottom Line
Really, this discussion comes down to technicalities. Cooking protein does not destroy it but could denature it. That denatured protein might be a little bit harder for your body to digest but likely isn't completely useless.
You might have noticed that we're using a lot of vague terms like “might” and “could,” though. And that's because there is no solid research available to settle this controversial argument. Really, then, you need to decide what you're comfortable with.
If you prefer to take a raw-food approach to nutrition, you can still find many “no-bake” protein powder recipes that will provide you with creative ways to use the supplement without risking changing its shape or function.