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Whey Protein: What is it & Is it good for me?

Whey protein is very popular in the fitness industry and among athletes to improve their performance. It has a very high nutritional value, and scientific studies have revealed numerous health benefits.  

Whey protein increases muscle protein synthesis (MPS) which promotes muscle growth by 31% more than soy protein and 132% more than casein protein following resistance exercises. Journal of Applied Physiology (2009, Sept) 

Deciding on which whey protein is the best for you can be very confusing and overwhelming as not all whey proteins are created equal. Some forms are better than others.  

What is Whey Protein

Whey Protein is a form of milk protein. Whey, the watery portion of milk, is typically produced as a byproduct of cheese making. Whey goes through various processing steps to become what people generally recognize as whey protein. This powder is typically used for protein shakes, meal replacements and protein bars.  

Types of Whey Protein

  1. Whey Concentrate- The least expensive and least processed whey protein. Slower absorption rate. Contains 70-80% protein. Contains Lactose (milk sugar) and fat which may cause stomach issues. (Gas and Bloating).    
  2. Whey Protein Isolate- 90% protein. Contains less lactose and fat. Quicker absorption rate and less stomach issues.  
  3. Whey Protein Hydrolysate-(AKA Hydrolyzed Whey). The most processed whey protein and the most expensive due to the amount of processing steps. This protein has been predigested so that it gets absorbed faster then the Concentrate and Isolate. Has the least amount of stomach issues.  

Health Benefits of Whey Protein

  • Whey protein contains an enormous range of Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s). Research studies reveal that supplementing with whey protein can aid in increasing your strength gains, muscle mass and help lose body fat.  

There are a total of 9 Essential Amino Acids which must come from diet or supplementation since the body  cant make them. Of these 9 EAA’s, 3 of them are referred to as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Leucine has shown to have the biggest impact on your body’s capacity to build muscle protein. Isoleucine and Valine has shown to be effective at producing energy.  

  • Building Blocks-Whey provides a complete protein which serves as building blocks for increased muscle growth. Strength training coupled with consumption of high protein foods or whey supplements, has been shown to increase strength gains.  
  • Hormonal stimulant-Whey increases the release of anabolic hormones that can stimulate muscle growth, such as insulin synthesis. 
  • Quick absorption-Whey is protein is absorbed and utilized very quickly compared to other types of protein. 

 Whey Protein can help you lose weight

Here are some of the ways that whey protein can help you lose weight and aid in total fat loss.  

  • Suppressing appetite, leading to reduced calorie intake (British Journal of Nutrition. 2014, Oct 28) 
  • Boosting metabolism, helping you burn more calories 
  • Helping maintain muscle mass that when losing weight 

Other studies in normal weight, over weight and obese individuals suggest Whey protein can improve body composition by decreasing fat and increasing lean muscle mass. (Journal International Society Sports Nutrition, 2015, Sept), (Journal of Nutrition, 2011:Aug14), (Journal of Nutrition, 2015: Sept 7) 

Whey Protein Dosage and Timing

There are a lot of theories on how much protein should I consume daily and when to take it.  

I recommend consuming  20-25g of Whey Protein post workout as it seems this is the optimal window for your cells to absorb and utilize the protein to establish (MPS). There is evidence that in some situations protein intake timing matters. (J, Int. Society Sports Nutrition. 2018 Feb 27; 15:10).  

 What I feel matters the most is the  amount of protein you consistently consume over the course of the day. Recent literature reveals to maintain current lean muscle mass you need to consume 0.5-1.0 g/kg/day. if indeed you are training frequently and the primary goal is to build muscle. Using the upper limits of protein intake of 2.0 g/kg/day throughout the day would maximize acute anabolic responses (muscle growth) as well as chronic anabolic adaptations.  

Remember that this is a model to start from. Everyone is an individual and so will respond differently as there are so many variables. You will nave to find what works best for you.  

If you are looking to lose weight, gain muscle mass and strength, make sure you are eating enough protein through the day. Remember that consistency is the key!