Not all protein is created equal. Some forms of protein, such as whey, are better than others. Whey protein contains an incredible range of essential amino acids, which are absorbed quickly. Numerous studies show that it can help you increase strength, gain muscle, and lose significant amounts of body fat. However, whey is more than just protein. It contains many other nutrients, some with potent biological effects. In fact, it’s one of the best-studied supplements in the world.
So what is whey?
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, which is the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production. Milk contains two main types of protein: casein (80%) and whey (20%). Whey is found in the watery portion of milk. When cheese is produced, the fatty parts of the milk coagulate, and the whey is separated from it as a byproduct. If you’ve ever opened a yogurt container to see liquid floating on top — that’s whey. Cheesemakers used to discard it before they discovered its commercial value. After being separated during cheese production, whey goes through various processing steps to become what people generally recognize as whey protein — a powder that is added to shakes, meal replacements and protein bars.
Whey protein doesn’t taste very good on its own, which is why it’s usually flavored. It’s important to read the ingredients list, as some products may have unhealthy additives like refined sugar (which is why we have all-natural ingredients). Most flavored whey proteins are also rather delicious and can be used to add an incredible taste to healthy recipes like smoothies (keep an eye out for our recipes within our newsletters and on social media).
Taking whey protein is a convenient way to add protein on top of your daily intake. This can be important for bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts, as well as people who need to lose weight or are simply lacking protein in their diet. Whey is generally well tolerated, though people with lactose intolerance need to be careful, and some people may even be allergic to it. So always consult your primary care physician before adding supplements into your diet.
Proteins are the main building blocks of the human body. They’re used to make various important things, including tendons, organs, and skin, as well as hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and various molecules. Proteins are also the building blocks of the contractile elements in your muscles. They’re assembled from amino acids, smaller molecules that are linked together like beads on a string. Some amino acids are produced by your body’s cells, while others are supplied by the food you eat. The ones that you must get from foods are termed essential amino acids.
Proteins that supply all nine essential amino acids are the best, and whey protein is loaded with them. It’s particularly high in important branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) like leucine, and also contains a high 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 appears to be particularly effective at stimulating growth in humans. In fact, human breast milk is 60% whey, compared to 20% in cow’s milk.
There are three main types of whey and their main difference is in the way they have been processed.
Concentrate: About 70–80% protein; contains some lactose (milk sugar) and fat and has the best flavor.
Isolate: 90% protein, or higher; contains less lactose and fat and lacks a lot of the beneficial nutrients found in whey protein concentrate.
Hydrolysate: Also known as hydrolyzed whey, this type has been pre-digested so that it gets absorbed faster. It causes a 28–43% greater spike in insulin levels than isolate.
Whey is more than just a high-quality protein source, it also contains other beneficial nutrients. This includes lactoferrin, beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin and immunoglobulins. Beyond just muscle, strength and leanness, whey protein may provide numerous other health benefits. This can include lowering blood pressure, blood sugar and reducing symptoms of stress and depression. It also can protect against cancer, reduce symptoms of hepatitis, increase bone mineral density, improve immune function in HIV patients and increase your lifespan. The fact that whey protein is very high in the amino acid cysteine seems to mediate many of these health benefits. Cysteine does this by raising levels of glutathione, the main antioxidant substance in your body’s cells.
So what we’re saying is…
Whey protein is an exceptionally healthy way to add more protein to your diet. It’s a quality protein source that is absorbed and utilized efficiently by the human body. This is particularly important for athletes, bodybuilders or people who need to gain muscle mass and strength while losing fat. When it comes to muscle gain and fat loss, protein is the king of nutrients, and whey protein seems to be even better than other forms of quality protein.
*As always, consult your primary care physician before adding supplements into your diet.
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