I just want to give some clarification in regards to a question that I was asked this morning:

“Can I use my protein powder in my overnight oats and then warm them in the morning?”

It is true that heat will denature the protein, but what ‘exactly’ does that mean?

“Denaturation is a process in which proteins or nucleic acids lose the quaternary structure, tertiary structure and secondary structure which is present in their native state, by application of some external stress or compound such as a strong acid or base, a concentrated inorganic salt, an organic solvent, radiation or heat…”

Essentially this means that the protein structure is broken down into its most basic form, amino acids.

What does this mean from a nutritional perspective, and is denaturing protein a good or bad thing?

The answer is: it depends.

Foods, such as eggs, poultry, meat, and grains, are cooked deliberately to denature the proteins, break them down, and make it easier for our bodies to absorb them.

Because denatured protein is already broken apart structurally, it will be able to get to your muscles quickly. The protein that you put into your body will be used to maximize your workout by rebuilding your muscles and giving them the energy they need to come back stronger.

One example where this is not optimal would be dairy.  When you break down milk proteins with heat, new proteins form that may elicit an allergic reaction and lactose intolerance.

So does denaturing affect the nutritional value of the protein itself?

No.  What may happen is that other nutrients may be degraded in the cooking process.  For example, heat breaks down all of the B vitamins, vitamin C, and all of the fatty acids, either killing their nutritional value as with the vitamins, or creating harmful rancid variations as with the fats.  In other cases such as lycopene, the nutrient value actually increases in cooking tomatoes as opposed to eating them raw, but this is a topic for another post.

So what now?

I know that as in training, there is no one size fits all answer in nutrition.  But to answer the question in regards to putting protein in your overnight oats?  Absolutely.  You’re good to go.

Any other questions or comment you may have in regards to this topic, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to chat and sort through your confusion. 😉


As always, much love and light to you all for an amazing weekend.


Roberta J Gizen BHK, CPT, PN1

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