Whey Protein 101: What’s the hype?
As I write this article, I particularly have my clients in mind. I get tons of questions on whey protein, especially where I recommend it to clients. I hope this article will help you understand what whey protein is, what it isn’t and decide if it’s a dietary property you want to add to your diet.
You are familiar with the three most important macronutrients for the body: carbs, protein and fat. Whey protein, is a protein (duh. LOL!).
There are different kinds and quality levels of protein. Whey protein is superior because it is a complete protein. That is, it has all the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make. These amino acids are crucial and beneficial to our bodies. Plant proteins are incomplete protein because, depending on the type of plant protein, you will find several essential amino acids missing. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Where does it come from?
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, which is the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production. When cheese is produced, the fatty parts of the milk coagulate and the whey is separated from it as a by-product. Have you ever opened a yogurt container and found some liquid floating on top? Well, that’s whey! Cheese makers used to discard it before they discovered its commercial value.
Whey protein doesn’t taste very good on its own, which is why it’s often flavored – from chocolate, cookies & cream, a variance of vanilla flavors, strawberry and coffee and caramel, the flavors (and brands) are endless.
The best-known use of whey protein supplements is for the purpose of increasing muscle mass and strength. Taking whey protein is a convenient way to add 24–30 grams (per average scoop) of protein on top of your daily intake. This can be important for bodybuilders, gym enthusiasts, people trying to lose weight, and yes, people with certain health issues.
Protein and Weight Loss:
It’s well known that protein can aid weight loss, as protein is by far the most satiating macro nutrient. Protein can boost energy expenditure by 80–100 calories per day, and make people automatically consume fewer calories per day. Some studies have also shown that high-protein meals improve satiety and curb cravings by 60% (check out this 2010 study by the National Institute of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847729)
Taking whey protein is a great way to increase your protein intake, which should have major benefits for weight loss. If you’re trying to lose weight, a whey protein supplement can help you both lose weight and hold on to your muscle.
Whey Protein and Muscle Building
The best-known use of whey protein supplements is for the purpose of increasing muscle mass and strength. It provides protein and amino acids, which serve as building blocks for increased muscle growth. It increases the release of anabolic hormones that stimulate muscle growth. It’s high in the amino acid leucine, which is known to stimulate muscle protein synthesis at the molecular and genetic level. Whey protein is absorbed and utilized very quickly compared to other types of protein. Whey protein has been shown to be particularly effective at increasing muscle growth when consumed right before, after or during a workout. Muscle protein synthesis is usually maximized in the time period after training.
Other health benefits of whey protein:
Whey is more than just a high-quality protein source; it also contains other beneficial nutrients.
- Whey protein may lower blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure. This is due to bioactive peptides called lactokinins. One study in overweight individuals showed that whey protein supplementation, 54 g/day for 12 weeks, lowered systolic blood pressure by 4% (NIH, 2010 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19893505)
- Whey Protein May Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes; Insulin is a hormone that is supposed to stimulate the uptake of blood sugar into cells, keeping it within healthy limits. Whey protein is effective at moderating blood sugar levels, especially when taken before or with high-carb meals. It has been found to be effective at moderating blood sugar, increasing both the levels of insulin and the sensitivity to its effects. It is important to ensure the whey protein of your choosing has no refined sugar in it, or it will be counter-productive.
- High doses of whey protein have been shown to reduce blood levels of C-reactive protein, indicating that it can help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is part of the body’s response to damage.
- Consuming too much protein is useless. The body can only utilize a limited amount of protein at a given time.
- Excessive consumption may also cause digestive problems, such as nausea, pain, bloating, cramping, flatulence, and diarrhea.
- If you’re already eating plenty of meat, fish, eggs and dairy — all high in quality protein — the benefits of adding whey will probably be minimal. If you hitting your daily protein macros, then you probably don’t need it.
- If you are lactose intolerant, whey protein hydrolysate or isolate may be more suitable than concentrate. If you have ever had liver or kidney problems, then consult with a doctor before taking a protein supplement.
- If you’re goal is weight loss, chugging down whey protein shakes every day isn’t the only way to get you there. If you are consuming more calories than your body needs, no whey protein in heaven will help you. It works hand in hand with a strategic, calorie regulated diet.
- Most flavored whey proteins taste good and can be used to add an incredible taste to healthy recipes like muffins, brownies, pancakes and smoothies.
Do you have any other questions regarding whey protein? Or anything else you wanna add into this conversation? Drop a comment below and let’s talk about it.