Whey protein is a commonly used supplement in bodybuilding. Alongside resistance training exercise, whey protein can help promote muscle mass growth and improve protein synthesis in the body. Researchers are constantly finding new ways to add whey to our diets for its therapeutic properties. But, what exactly is whey? Does it live up to the hype? Let’s take a look.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey is one of the two byproducts of milk. It makes up 20% of milk’s total content, with the other 80% containing casein. Modern cheese manufacturers separate whey during production and go through several steps before it’s recognized as whey protein powder. Since it tastes awful on its own, the manufacturer will flavor it with vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry additives.
While whey protein is a convenient way to add more protein to your diet, you probably won’t need it. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to maintain muscle, which is achievable for the majority of Americans.
Still, bodybuilders can benefit from taking in extra protein, especially if they’re above 200 lbs. The higher your body mass, the harder it is to achieve your daily protein recommendation.
Concentrate vs. Hydrolysate vs. Isolate: What’s the Difference?
When bodybuilders talk about the battle of the proteins, they’re mostly talking about whey concentrate versus isolate protein, but don’t forget about hydrolysate. When comparing all options, whey concentrate is typically the favorite option due to the way it’s processed.
- Concentrate: Contains lactose, fat, and the best flavors. 70-80% protein.
- Isolate: Contains less lactose and fat. Lacking nutrients. 90% protein.
- Hydrolysate: Contains pre-digested whey for fast absorption. 35% protein.
Whey concentrate tends to taste better because it’s full of lactose and fat, but if you want to keep carbs and fat low, choose isolate. Isolate and hydrolysate are best for lactose intolerance.
What are the Benefits of Whey Protein
Whey protein is best known as a protein supplement that increases muscle mass and strength in high-performing athletes. At the same time, they can also be used as a weight-loss aid because protein satiates us for longer than the other macronutrients, carbohydrates, and fat.
The ways that whey protein promotes muscle growth, strength, and weight loss include:
- Hormones: Encourages the release of anabolic hormones, like insulin.
- Improved Absorption: Whey metabolizes in the body faster than other proteins.
- Leucine: Stimulates muscle protein synthesis at a genetic and molecular level.
- Protein Building Blocks: Contains every protein amino acid required for health.
- Boosts Energy Expenditure: On average, whey makes people eat fewer calories.
- Cuts Cravings: Reduces the desire for late-night snacking by half.
- More Muscle, Less Weight: Whey supplements help reduce fat and increase muscle.
Protein is proven to aid in weight loss, boost our metabolism, and reduce our appetites, but muscle growth isn’t the only reason you should add whey to your after-workout smoothie.
Some other health benefits of whey protein include:
- Lower Blood Sugar Levels and Blood Pressure
- Reduces Symptoms of Depression and Stress
- Protects Against Cancers
- Reduces Hepatitis Symptoms
- Improves Immunity in HIV Patients
- Increases Bone Mineral Density
- Could enhance the immune response in children with asthma.
- Could minimize weight loss in humans who are HIV positive.
Most of the studies conducted for whey protein involve whey protein concentrate under the recommended dose of 25-50 grams a day. The benefits of whey protein are likely due to the amino acid cysteine, which often produces the above health outcomes. Cysteine raises glutathione levels, which is an important antioxidant that improves cell function in the body.
What are the Dangers of Whey Protein?
Whey protein is deemed a safe product to consume as recommended. Never go over the recommended serving size per day before speaking to your doctor. Whey protein should be treated like a vitamin supplement, not a whole food.
In high doses, whey protein won’t necessarily turn deadly, but it can cause:
- Stomach Cramps
- Stomach Pains
- Reduced Appetite
Overall, whey protein has an excellent safety profile. Unless you’re allergic to milk or another ingredient in the product, you likely won’t have any problem consuming the product.
Whey is an excellent way to add an extra amount of protein to your diet. Whey protein is one of the most effective and potent protein sources around and can be found at a low cost. When absorbed by the human body, whey is utilized efficiently thanks to its antioxidant profile.
Bodybuilders and athletes benefit the most from whey protein intake, but if you want to lose body fat, lower your blood sugar or protect yourself from osteoporosis, whey is a sure bet.
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