What are Proteins of High Biological Value?

We are going to tell you what proteins of high biological value are and the reasons why they should appear in the daily diet in sufficient quantities.
What are Proteins of High Biological Value?
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 20 December, 2022

Proteins of high biological value are nutrients that are closely related to health. It’s important that they appear in the diet on a daily basis to ensure the proper functioning of the body, thus avoiding alterations in physiology.

For this reason, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about this specific type of protein. Also, we’ll tell you in which foods they can be found so that you prioritize their appearance in your regular diet. This way, you’ll make sure that you meet the requirements.

Proteins of high biological value are the most complete

We can define proteins of high biological value as those that have all the essential amino acids, as well as a good score in terms of digestibility. The body absorbs them almost entirely and reduces the risk of presenting a deficit in those amino acids that the body can’t synthesize on its own, as is the case with leucine.

According to a study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism journal, one must ensure a contribution of at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of weight per day in sedentary people. These requirements could be tripled in the case of elite athletes. However, half of these nutrients must be proteins of high biological value.

These are found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. For this reason, it’s essential to ensure their appearance in the daily diet.

Of all these foods, it’s eggs that have the highest quality protein, referenced as the gold standard. Even so, the rest of the products mentioned also provide elements of great value.

Contrary to what was thought in the past, the consumption of several eggs a week doesn’t negatively affect the state of health. Nor does it significantly change a person’s cholesterol levels or lipid profile.

To achieve an optimal daily protein intake, it’s important that these foods of animal origin appear in each of the main meals. Otherwise, a deficit of certain amino acids could be generated. Some of them, like leucine itself, have been shown to be especially important for recovery and muscle building.

What happens if the intake of proteins of high biological value isn’t adequate?

In the case of experiencing a protein deficit of high biological value, the proper functioning of muscle mass could be put at risk in the medium term. Gradually, a progressive loss of tissue would develop with a reduction in strength. It’s a disease known as sarcopenia, which is especially worrisome in older people.

According to a study published in the journal BioMed Research International, it’s necessary to consume protein in sufficient amounts on a daily basis, as well as to practice resistance exercise on a regular basis. Only with both habits will it be possible to reduce the incidence of a disease that conditions motor skills.

Even protein supplementation could be an effective strategy to avoid these types of problems and also to promote recovery after intense exercise, according to an article published in the journal Nutrients. This way, tissue repair is stimulated after an attack derived from the practice of intense physical exercise.

Proteins of high biological value for muscles.
Proteins of high biological value, included in the diet, prevent the appearance of sarcopenia.

What about vegan diets?

If you’ve read up to this point, you know that proteins of high biological value are only found in foods of animal origin, which generates an important conflict with vegan diets. Protein nutrients from plants are deficient in essential amino acids and present digestibility problems.

The best for your health is to plan a flexible diet, without being restrictive in any specific food group, beyond certain poor-quality ultra processing.

However, if for ethical reasons, the consumption of meat and derivatives is restricted, it will be important to implement certain strategies to prevent the lean mass from being destroyed. It should be borne in mind that the combination of vegetables can prevent deficiency in terms of essential amino acids in their proteins.

In this regard, it’s advisable to combine grains with legumes, cereals with nuts, and introduce soy protein into the diet. This way, a relatively complete supply of the constituent units of the proteins will be achieved.

Now, you must also ensure an optimal supply of nutrients throughout the day. For this, the requirements will have to be increased with regard to those stipulated under the context of a flexible diet.

Increasing the presence of proteins up to 1.2-1.3 grams per day per kilo of weight in sedentary people will be necessary in order to avoid a negative nitrogen balance. However, it’s not all bad news. The consumption of proteins of vegetable origin is linked to an improvement in the state of health.

This is due to the fact that fruits and vegetables have a large amount of phytonutrients and flavonoids with antioxidant capacity inside them, which improves the prevention of many chronic and complex diseases. However, scientific literature states that it’s best to opt for a combination of plant and animal nutrients.

Is taking protein supplements necessary?

Keep in mind that protein supplements provide nutrients of high biological value. Generally, these products are manufactured from whey, although it’s possible to find those of meat and even vegetable origins. In the latter case, there are no essential amino acid deficiencies.

Of course, it’s important to note that it’s best to plan a varied diet that meets protein requirements before considering taking supplements. There’s nothing wrong with these products, but they’re the icing on the cake. The best thing to do is always to optimize your diet first to get the most out of it.

Once this premise is met, it’s possible to include certain supplements in the diet that improve sports performance, among other things. For example, the introduction of a whey or casein supplement has been shown to be capable of improving muscle gains, as long as the physical work accompanies it.

Even its combination with other ergogenic aids, such as creatine, could be beneficial. In this case, muscular adaptations to exercise will be promoted, promoting an increase in the athlete’s strength and power values.

High biological value protein supplement.
Protein supplements are useful if the needs have been met before with a regular diet.

Is it bad to take a lot of proteins of high biological value?

For years, it was claimed that high protein intake could cause medium-term damage, both to the liver and the kidney. The truth is that it’s not possible to find scientific evidence in the literature that confirms these premises.

For this reason, failure to meet daily requirements should be more worrisome than exceeding protein intake. The excess can be used to promote energy genesis if necessary, through a process known as gluconeogenesis.

However, there are certain scenarios in which it might be necessary to moderate protein intake. The clearest has to do with kidney disease. In these cases, it may be necessary to facilitate the filtering function of the kidneys, so certain measures will have to be taken at a dietary level.

However, these are quite specific cases. As a general rule, the benefits of a high consumption of proteins of high biological value seem clear.

Proteins of high biological value: Nutrients that are beneficial to health

Proteins of high biological value are nutrients that have health benefits, especially in terms of maintaining lean mass. For this reason, it’s crucial to ensure their intake in the daily diet.

Keep in mind that, to achieve proper functioning of the body, combining adequate protein consumption with other healthy lifestyle habits is essential. Among them, the regular practice of physical exercise and good rest stand out.

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