Not all proteins are the same. Some are better than others and their fame is not only in sports circles, but also among people who value movement and health care. Such is whey protein, which contains an incredible range of rapidly absorbable essential amino acids.
Numerous studies have shown that whey protein helps to increase strength, increase muscle mass and lose significant amounts of body fat.
Whey, from which this type of protein is derived, is one of the most carefully studied supplements in the world. It is more than just a protein because it is made up of all sorts of other nutrients, some with powerful effects that support multiple functions in the body.
You are about to read a comprehensive article dedicated to whey protein. You will learn what it is, what its beneficial properties are, how it is taken and how it can help you achieve your fitness and health goals.
What is whey protein
Whey protein is essentially a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, a natural milk serum that is produced as a waste product in the manufacture of various dairy products.
Once separated during the production of cheese or yoghurt, for example, whey goes through various processing stages to become what people usually recognise as whey protein.
Whey protein itself doesn’t taste very good, which is why it’s usually flavoured. Protein shakes flavoured with cocoa, vanilla, banana, strawberry and biscuit are popular options that Active Choice offers to its customers. Our high-quality whey proteins are sweetened with stevia and can be added to healthy recipes such as smoothies, cupcakes, ice creams, etc.
Taking whey protein is a convenient way to add protein to your daily intake. This can be important for bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts, active people, as well as men and women who want to lose weight.
Whey protein is generally well tolerated, although people with lactose intolerance should be careful.
Whey protein – what it helps for
Whey protein supplements can help increase protein and BCAA intake.
Proteins are essential building blocks in the human body. They are used to create and maintain the function of tendons, organs, skin, hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and various molecules.
Proteins also build the contractile elements in muscles. They are made up of amino acids linked together in a common chain. Some amino acids are produced by the body’s cells, while others are supplied by food. The ones you are supposed to get by eating are called essential amino acids.
Proteins that supply all nine essential amino acids are the most valuable. Whey protein is just that. It is particularly high in important branched chain amino acids (BCAA) such as leucine. It also contains a large amount of cysteine.
Studies show that leucine is the most anabolic (growth-promoting) amino acid, and cysteine can help boost levels of the cellular antioxidant glutathione.
Whey protein is particularly effective for stimulating growth in humans. In fact, human breast milk is 60% whey, compared to 20% in cow’s milk.
Types of whey protein
There are several popular types of whey protein. Their main difference is in the way they are processed.
- Concentrate: about 70-80% protein; contains little lactose (milk sugar) and fat, and tastes best.
- Isolate: 90% protein or more; contains less lactose and fat, and lacks many of the beneficial nutrients found in whey protein concentrate.
- Hydrolysate: Also known as hydrolyzed whey, this type of protein has been pre-digested so that it is absorbed more quickly. It causes a 28-43% greater spike in insulin levels compared to the isolate.
Whey protein concentrate is generally the best option. It comes at an affordable price and retains most of the beneficial nutrients found naturally in whey. Many people also prefer its milky taste due to the lactose and fat.
If you have trouble tolerating concentrate or are trying to emphasize protein while keeping carbs and fat low, whey protein isolate or even hydrolysate may be a better option for you.
Note that although concentrate is the most popular form, most studies have looked at whey protein isolate.
How whey protein affects muscle mass
The most well-known use of whey protein supplementation is for the purpose of increasing muscle mass and strength. Whey protein is popular among athletes, bodybuilders, fitness models, and people who lead an active lifestyle.
Ways in which whey protein promotes muscle and strength gains include:
- provides proteins and amino acids that serve as building blocks for increased muscle growth;
- increases the release of anabolic hormones that can stimulate muscle growth;
- has a high content of the amino acid leucine, which is known to stimulate muscle protein synthesis at the molecular and genetic level;
- whey protein is absorbed and used very quickly compared to other types of protein.
Whey protein has been shown to be particularly effective in increasing muscle growth when consumed before, after or during exercise.
However, a recent review of the evidence concluded that total daily protein intake is the most important factor in muscle growth. Whether protein is consumed around the workout or not doesn’t seem to have much impact.
However, it’s worth mentioning that whey is effective in the short term and casein stimulates muscle growth over a longer period.
In a 12-week study in older adults with adequate protein intake who weight trained, there was no difference in muscle growth with whey protein supplementation. Therefore, it must be concluded that the influence of whey protein on muscle and strength varies greatly between different organisms.
If you eat a lot of meat, fish, eggs and dairy – all high in quality protein – the benefits of adding whey are likely to be minimal.
It’s good to know that all protein powders are a dietary supplement. On their own, they will not lead to supernatural muscle mass growth. They are not “doping”, “chemistry” or anything to harm you.
They are best used specifically as food – a way to add more protein to your diet to reap all of the benefits listed above.
If you want to lose weight, replace a main or intermediate meal with a protein shake. In case you want to gain weight/muscle mass, add a protein shake to your normal meal.
Read our article“Nutrition plan for muscle mass gain“.
What else does whey protein help with
It is well known that protein can aid weight loss as it is the most satiating macronutrient. It can increase energy expenditure by 80-100 calories per day and make people eat up to 441 calories less daily.
Studies have shown that replacing other calorie sources with whey protein combined with weight lifting can lead to weight loss while increasing lean muscle mass.
If you’re trying to lose weight, supplementing with whey protein can help you both lose weight and keep your muscle.
And more health benefits…
Whey is more than a high-quality protein source. It also contains other beneficial nutrients such as lactoferrin, beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin and immunoglobulins.
Whey protein can provide many health benefits – lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as reducing symptoms of stress and depression.
It also protects against cancer, increases bone mineral density and improves immune function in HIV patients.
The fact that whey protein is very high in the amino acid cysteine seems to support health in multiple ways. Cysteine is responsible for increasing levels of glutathione, the main antioxidant substance in the body’s cells.
How to take whey protein
Usually the recommended dose is 1-2 teaspoons (about 25-50 grams) per day. Keep in mind that if your protein intake is already high, adding whey protein may be completely unnecessary.
Are there side effects
Concerns that the protein causes kidney damage and contributes to the development of osteoporosis are unfounded. In fact, the protein has been shown to protect against osteoporosis without affecting healthy kidneys.
However, people with kidney or liver problems would do well to consult a medical professional before incorporating it into their daily routine.
Taking too much whey protein can cause digestive problems such as nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, pain, and cramping, and some people are allergic to whey. If you can’t tolerate regular whey protein concentrate, isolate or hydrolysate may be better for you. Alternatively, you can simply avoid whey protein and focus on other protein-rich foods instead.
But overall, whey protein has an excellent safety profile and most people can consume it without problems.
Whey protein is an extremely healthy way to include extra protein to your diet. Whey is a source of quality protein that is efficiently absorbed and used by the human body.
When it comes to muscle gain and fat loss, protein is the king of nutrients.
Active Choice offers a choice of high quality whey protein in several different flavours. The composition of the products contains a high percentage of fiber, which plays a key role in a complete diet. By choosing protein powders from Active Choice, you make the most of their beneficial effects on the body.