What exactly is whey protein?
If you’re a regular visitor to the gym or a keen sportsperson, chances are you’ve heard of whey protein and may even know people who use it. It seems these days it’s the popular buzzword around health and fitness circles and has grown increasingly ever popular, especially amongst those who perform resistance weight training to gain muscle.
But what exactly is whey protein and where does it come from? If you ask your local gym buddies, you’ll likely get a mishmash of different answers that will be fairly inconclusive and be left more confused than when you started.
Although the actual facts around how whey protein is produced is fairly straightforward, knowing how it is created and how it compares to taking other forms of protein can help you make an informed decision as to whether it’s right for you.
Where does whey come from?
Whey protein is essentially a by-product of cheese production and is sourced from milk. Milk is made up of two proteins - casein and whey. When milk is used to produce cheese, the watery liquid that is separated from the curd is essentially the whey. So the curds are used to make most types of cheese, whilst the whey is used to make products like ricotta cheese and whey protein supplements.
What makes whey so popular is the fact it is considered as a complete protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose. As we know, it is commonly used as a supplement, alongside resistance exercise, to help improve muscle mass and promote lean tissue growth.
However, it is common to hear the argument that there are different types of whey protein and this is when the confusion starts surrounding which whey is best and which is to be avoided.
How many types of whey protein are there?
There are three primary types of whey protein. They are:
Whey protein concentrate
This contains low levels of fat and carbs (lactose). The percentage of protein depends on how concentrated it is. Lower end concentrates tend to have 30% protein and higher end up to 90%, so from a protein perspective, the quality can vary.
Whey protein isolate
A form of whey protein that is further processed to remove all the fat and lactose, essentially to increase the protein percentage, usually at least around 90%.
Whey protein hydrolysate
A pre-digested form of whey protein that has already undergone partial hydrolysis. This is a process necessary for the body to absorb protein, as it doesn't require as much digestion as the other two forms of whey protein. More commonly, it is used in medical protein supplements and infant formulas because of it's improved digestibility and reduced allergic potential.
Is whey protein a healthy choice?
According to numerous studies, there are a number of benefits associated with the consumption of whey protein. As well as therapeutic properties, many experts believe they also offer health benefits including:
People who take whey protein high in leucine, lost significant amounts of body fat and displayed greater preservation of lean muscle compared to those using other supplements according to Nutrition & Metabolism
According to the journal Anticancer Research, using whey protein concentrate and glutathione showed promising results in cancer treatment.
According to a study published by the The British Journal of Nutrition, participants who took whey protein showed a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol after a 12 week period.
A study published by the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, found that children who suffered with asthma had improved cytokine response.
Research published in the International Dairy Journal found that patients with hypertension who drank supplements with whey protein significantly reduced blood pressure and the risk of developing heart disease and chances of a stroke.
So it is clear that whey protein offers a number of benefits for health and wellbeing. But what makes them a better choice of protein than others?
Why is whey different from other sources of protein?
One of the major differences between whey and casein is absorption and digestion. Whey is quickly digested, whilst casein can typically take several hours. Also, more people typically experience allergic or digestive reactions to casein protein than they would to whey protein.
Eggs for example are another good source of protein but contain high levels of cholesterol and are less effective at suppressing appetite. Whey proteins on the other hand, can help to reduce cravings as the slow digestive process leaves you feeling fuller for longer.
Soy is also another good source of protein however, is far less effective for building lean muscles compared to whey. Rice protein has been found to improve body muscle mass and enhanced performance levels too but, isn’t a complete protein as it doesn’t contain all nine essential amino acids and is therefore considered inferior to whey.
Is whey protein right for me?
Like any supplement, whey is not considered the golden ticket to success in isolation. If taken as part of a calorie controlled diet, whether for weight loss or muscle gain, along with a healthy and active fitness regime that is suitable, you will without doubt achieve your goals.
What whey protein does offer is a number of great additional health benefits and if taken at the correct quantities, can help you live a more active and healthier lifestyle. If however you want more advice on the benefits of whey protein, then contact us at AnyProtein and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.