What really happens when you drink raw eggs

We've probably all watched the cringe-worthy scene in Rocky where the prizefighter unabashedly slurps down a glass of slippery raw eggs in preparation for the big fight (via YouTube). But what's the science behind it all? There are countless versions of semi-cooked and raw egg, from steak tartare to eggs Benedict. Also, there was a particularly unappetizing social media trend that encouraged participants to eat raw eggs in 2020 (via ABC News). We can't help but question whether eating eggs Rocky-style is actually beneficial — or more trouble than it's worth.

For well over a century, the practice of drinking raw eggs has been touted by fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders as a quick and efficient way to gain weight (via Slate). Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted to chowing down on a protein shake laden with milk powder, honey, and raw eggs as a young man (via Twitter).

Unless you're really into the texture of raw oysters, we doubt you're clamoring to sip on a glass of six raw eggs (note that Rocky doesn't bother to beat the yolks, either). So you might be relieved to learn that raw eggs don't really have any health benefits over cooked eggs⁠— plus, consuming raw eggs can pose a small health risk, while the main risk that comes with making an omelet is burning the bottom when you forget the stove is still on.

Getting your protein fix with eggs

According to Healthline, a large raw egg contains around six grams of protein. The same source confirms that a large boiled egg also contains six grams of protein. And according to Slate's exploration of raw-versus-cooked, cooking an egg has "little effect on its nutritional content."

Rocky didn't have to subject himself to raw eggs. What was he thinking? He could have poached them and sprinkled them with a little coarse salt. No? Perhaps the appeal (if you can even call it that) is not pleasure, but efficiency. Had Rocky chosen to cook his eggs properly, the audience would have been subjected to a grueling four minutes of waiting for the eggs to cook. Drinking down the raw eggs, or mixing them into a shake, happens a lot faster, and for athletes looking to pack on muscle, it's not so time-consuming.

The power of pasteurization

Of course, we can't talk about raw eggs without warning you of the potential dangers. If you're not a boxer, you still might encounter them in rich ice cream or a tasty, creamy hollandaise sauce. However, the source of your egg can make a difference, health-wise, as the United States Department of Agriculture says you should stay away from unpasteurized eggs. 

However, if a raw egg is pasteurized, the risk of contracting salmonella poisoning is extremely low. You can actually pasteurize eggs yourself, by heating (but not cooking) them for a little over six minutes (via Medical News Today). Still, even pasteurized raw eggs can pose a risk for foodborne illness. Paying attention to temperatures, antibacterial spices, and adding acidic substances like vinegar can mitigate the risk even more, but if you're at risk of developing severe problems if you do develop salmonella disease, it's best to avoid raw eggs entirely, no matter how small the risk (via HuffPost). 

The bottom line? Drinking a raw egg isn't guaranteed to make you sick, but it's also not guaranteed to not