What is Whey Protein?
Casein and whey represent the two main types of proteins in milk (x). Once the whey has been separated from cheese, it undergoes a series of processes before it becomes whey protein. This type of protein is a common ingredient in shakes and protein bars. Because whey protein is naturally quite bland, it is usually mixed with flavors, including chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, among others.
How Whey Protein Works
Whey protein is mostly used to stimulate muscle growth and enhance athletic performance (x, x). Many people take whey protein supplements before or after a workout to optimize muscle repair and development.
A significant benefit of whey protein is its fast absorption rate in the body (x). Compared to other types of proteins, whey protein is processed by the body relatively quickly. Besides aiding muscle growth, whey protein can further promote weight loss.
Once ingested, whey protein creates the feeling of satiety much longer, which can help to minimize snacking. In addition, whey protein may boost energy expenditure, so it can play a role in weight management.
Whey Protein Benefits
Muscle Mass and Strength
As mentioned, a common use of whey protein is for enhancing muscle mass and enriching one’s strength. Many athletes, fitness models and bodybuilders use whey protein to improve their athletic performance in various ways.
Whey protein is rich in amino acids that comprise the main building blocks for muscle growth. In addition, it encourages the production and release of anabolic hormones such as insulin that also promote muscle growth (x). It is also rich in amino acids (such as leucine) that stimulate the synthesis of muscle proteins at both genetic and molecular levels.
Whey protein can encourage muscle growth when consumed before, during or after a workout, but it is advisable to supplement with whey protein only if your diet lacks protein. If your diet already consists of protein-rich foods such as fish, eggs, dairy products and meats, then you may experience only minimal results by supplementing with whey protein.
Whey and Weight Loss
Protein can help with weight loss as it is an incredibly satiating micronutrient and amplifies energy expenditure. Supplementing with whey protein helps you to eat fewer calories per day and can reduce cravings. Despite its ability to aid weight loss, this does not impact its ability to maintain muscle mass (x).
Apart from increasing muscle mass and aiding in weight loss, whey protein may also work to lower blood pressure, decrease blood sugar and lessen the symptoms of stress and depression. In addition, whey protein could even possess anti-cancer properties (x) and help to lower levels of bad cholesterol in the blood (x).
Side Effects of Whey Protein
Whey protein is not recommended for people with a history of kidney disorders (x) because it could worsen the condition. In addition, long-term use of whey protein may cause kidney stones in some cases. To minimize whey protein’s possible side effects, experts encourage the consumption of lots of dietary fiber and water.
Unwanted Fat Gain
Some whey proteins contain sugars that may add to your carbohydrate intake. They may also have added fats, which can contribute to unwanted weight gain in some instances.
Although a clear link (x) has not been established between gout and whey protein consumption, many people have noticed whey protein seems to worsen the symptoms of gout. Therefore, consult a physician before supplementing with whey protein if you have a family history of gout.
People with cardiovascular disorders are always advised to consume the recommended dosage of whey protein since an overdose may provoke cardiac arrest, heart arrhythmia and loss of cardiac functions altogether (x).
Long-term, excessive consumption of whey protein may cause a mineral imbalance in your bones, which could lead to loss of bone density and osteoporosis.
Whey protein is not recommended for people who are lactose intolerant because it may cause adverse reactions, including wheezing and facial swelling. Contact a doctor if you experience any of these side effects.
Dosage and Instructions
The proper dosage for whey protein is 15 to 30 milligrams per day. However, weightlifters can take 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.
It is imperative to follow the serving instructions on the product packaging. Remember, whey protein supplementation is only recommended for people whose diet lacks in proteins. If you experience adverse side effects such as nausea and headaches when supplementing with whey protein concentrate, consider switching to whey isolate or hydrolysate.
Generally, whey protein is considered safe for use by adults due to its solid safety profile. Many users do not experience any adverse reactions.
Cooking With Whey Protein
It is possible to cook with whey protein. This supplement does not have a great taste on its own, so many people add it to food before taking it. You can mix the supplement with raw or even cooked food. You may mix it up with water, shakes or fruits before consuming.
Types of Whey Proteins
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein is a relatively pricey supplement. However, whey protein concentrate is the least expensive of all types of whey proteins. In addition, this type of protein comes in a wide range of flavors.
The downside to using whey protein concentrate is that it is derived from cow milk that may contain harmful hormones to users. Experts reinforce the need to buy whey protein concentrate that does not have fillers, contains low quantities of carbohydrates and is free of aspartame (x).
Whey Protein Isolate
This is a better version of whey protein concentrate because it contains 90 percent proteins, fewer fats and less lactose. However, it does not have a great taste and is relatively more expensive than the other types of concentrates.
This type of whey protein is free of aspartame and rich in glutamine. Whey protein isolate is easily digested and absorbed, making it the ideal option for muscle recovery and strengthening.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
This much-improved type of whey protein is the most pricey, but also the most bland. On the bright side, whey protein hydrolysate provides much faster results because it does not need to be hydrolyzed by the body. This type of whey contains 80-90 percent of proteins.
Organic Whey Protein
As the name suggests, organic whey protein is derived from cows that have been fed 100 percent organic feeds. The diet of the cows that provide milk for the production of organic whey protein consists of 30 percent grass and 70 percent organic, supplemental feeds (x). In addition, the cows are humanely treated and are not administered with antibiotics or growth hormones.
Organic whey protein is relatively more expensive than other types of whey proteins because of the extra work required to feed and care for the cows. This type of whey protein is becoming increasingly popular because consumers have learned the importance of better quality foods from humanely treated animals.
When to Take Whey Protein
Although you can take whey protein at any time of the day, it is ideal to use the supplement as part of a pre or post workout regimen. The timing of your nutrient intake is critical, so you will want to consume your whey protein before or after exercise.
You can also take whey protein on the go. Many people take whey protein in the following forms:
- In the morning as an easy-to-absorb breakfast
- About an hour before exercise
- Two hours after exercise
- As a late-night snack
The Bottom Line
Supplementing with whey protein is a good way to add proteins to your diet. It can help to minimize the symptoms of asthma, support cardiovascular health, improve muscle mass and even promote weight loss. It is available in different types, including organic, concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate form.