What comes in your mind when you think of Whey Protein?
Yes, building muscles. Getting ripped.
This is exactly what whey is nowadays best known as – The Muscle Building Supplement.
Well, let me tell you that it is much more than mere food for bodybuilders and it is always been a part of your diet. You just did not know it.
This article answers almost every query that you might have regarding Whey Protein.
So let us dive into it.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey is the name given to the watery substance that is left as a byproduct when milk is coagulated.
Milk consists of two types of protein Casein and Whey. Which are in the ratio 80 to 20 respectively.
Casein Protein is present in the solid mass of milk, that is, the curd or cheese when milk is processed while the leftover part consists of the Whey Protein.
Yes, even the watery part of the curd that you see when you open a curd container is whey.
Traditionally, whey was seen as a waste product of the cheese manufacturing process. But nowadays, whey finds several commercial uses, owing to its lactose, minerals and protein content and the functional quality it brings to the food.
Whey Protein is the product of concentrating the protein found in the whey and separating the rest of the mixture through industrial processing.
It contains all the nine essential amino acids or the EAA’s that your body requires for building tissues and growth.
There are other amino acids which the body can manufacture on its own but the EAA’s are required from the food we eat.
Hence the Whey Protein holds its importance especially in the bodybuilding community for muscle growth as it supplies EAA’s in adequate amounts.
Uses of Whey
Whey has a number of uses besides being widely used as protein supplements all over the world. There are two forms of whey that can be extracted from milk by processing it in different ways.
Acidic Whey – It is the liquid that is leftover when dairy producers make yoghurts or soft cheeses and other fermented milk products. It contains numerous nutrients that support good health including vitamins, minerals, branched-chain amino acids, lactose etc.
Acidic whey finds several uses in human food products like whey protein concentrates, fertilizers, electricity production etc.
Sweet Whey – It is a byproduct of the manufacture of rennet types of hard cheese, like cheddar or swiss cheese. It is called sweet whey because it contains a high concentration of lactose, which is milk sugar.
Sweet Whey is used in many food products like processed cheese, frozen desserts, sauces, meat emulsions, confectionery, soups, ice creams etc.
You can also make good use of whey at home by preparing it yourself.
There are lots of ways you can use whey at home since making it is free and it could replace vinegar, lime juice or milk in many items. If you are interested check this link.
How is Whey Protein Powder Made?
Whey protein is one of two major proteins found in cow’s milk, with about 20 percent of the protein found in raw milk being whey protein. The whey protein powder that we see as protein supplements are produced going through a number of steps:-
1) The cows used for milk production in the dairy farms are milked two to three times a day to collect milk. It is then refrigerated to prevent spoiling.
2) The milk is transported to manufacturing facilities using large liquid containers where it is tested for safety.
3) The milk is then pasteurized to remove the harmful bacteria or pathogens in the raw milk.
4) It is added with enzymes, causing it to separate into its constituents, i.e, liquid portion and casein. The casein is utilized to make cheese.
5) The liquid part contains whey, carbohydrates (lactose) and fats. It is filtered to remove the Whey Protein Concentrates through a web of huge ceramic filters and turbines.
6) The liquid whey concentrate is left with almost 90 percent of whey is passed through the dryer which supplies hot and cold air to dry out the liquid and produce solid whey powder.
7) The processed whey powder is added with flavours and tastemakers using high-speed benders to be used for commercial purposes.
Types of Whey Protein Supplements
There are three types of whey proteins available after the whey is processed from the milk:-
1) WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE (WPC)- The amount of protein in whey protein concentrate can vary from a low of 25 percent to a high of 89 percent. In sports nutrition, the most common type of whey protein is 80 percent protein. Concentrates have typically a low (but still significant) level of fat and cholesterol but, in general, compared to the other forms of whey protein, they are higher in carbohydrates in the form of lactose.
2) WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE (WPI)- Isolates are processed to remove the fat and lactose — they are more than 90% protein by weight. Like whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates are mild to slightly milky in taste. The price of WPI products is usually significantly higher than WPC due to the purity and higher protein content of the product. These are the purest form of whey protein used for commercial applications.
3) WHEY PROTEIN HYDROLYSATE (WPH)- These are whey proteins that are predigested and partially hydrolyzed for the purpose of easier metabolizing, but their cost is generally higher. Highly hydrolysed whey may be less allergenic than other forms of whey. This type of protein is most often found in baby formulas and specialized medical nutrition products.
The protein powder sold for commercial use as supplements generally contains two or more types of whey protein in different proportions. The price of the product varies according to the type of whey protein and the other ingredients it contains.
Whey Protein Ingredients
Whey Protein supplements contain a number of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein as the main ingredients.
Amino acids are required by the body for growth and repair functions along with other vital functions like transporting nutrients, synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters.
Each amino acid plays a different role in the body and their deficiency can lead to lower immunity, digestive issues, depression, fertility problems, decreased mental alertness, slowed growth, and many other health issues.
Here is a list of amino acids generally found in the Whey Protein Supplements.
Check out the detail on each amino acid functions here.
Whey Protein Concentrate powders can contain 2 to 4 gms of carbs per serving while an isolate would have 0 to 2 gms of carbs only.
The carbs content for whey powder must be a minimum if you are looking to gain lean muscle mass. If you intend to gain weight with whey than carbs are required.
Fat is also present in most of the Whey Protein supplements in the market which might vary from 2 to 4 gms.
A lower fat content per serving is desirable for lean muscle gain.
Generally, the Whey Protein Powders are added with sweeteners like Sucralose, Acesulfame-Potassium etc to make it taste good.
Artificial and Natural flavours
These are added to attain flavours like vanilla, chocolate, coffee etc for the Protein Shakes.
Emulsifiers and Stabilizers
Certain emulsifiers like Soy Lecithin, Xanthan Gum and Carrageenan and stabilizers like Cellulose gum are added to the powders to give them creamy texture and thickness.
Health Benefits of Whey Protein Supplements
1) Whey Protein for Muscle Building
Whey Protein supplements are widely used as muscle building supplements.
Athletes and Bodybuilders take whey protein to supply the body with an adequate amount of protein to maintain and add on muscle mass during the various types of regimes ranging from endurance to resistance training.
Protein acts as the building block of all the tissues including muscle strands in the body.
This Study shows that whey protein can be used to supplement your body with extra protein that cannot be sustained only by having a high protein diet while maintaining a high level of activity such as resistance workout.
Whey protein has a high level of leucine, along with valine and isoleucine the three Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), making it ideal for muscle growth and repair. It also contains other Essential Amino Acids (EEA) that help in development.
Hence whey is widely used as a protein supplement for bodybuilders and other athletes.
2) Whey Protein helps in Weight Loss
If you have a target of weight loss then a high protein diet is essential.
High protein intake coupled with a calorie deficit and physical exercise is said to be the most effective way to shed some kilos.
Consumption of whey protein supplement leaves you satiated. They are packed with calories from protein with a small fraction from carbohydrates and fats.
Intake of whey supplements coupled with regular exercise can help in significant fat loss.
Whey protein can also be used as a meal replacement provided it comes under a proper meal plan rich in other essential nutrients.
3) Whey Protein reduces Blood Pressure
According to this study, the prescribed dosage of whey protein along with regular physical activity can help in reducing high blood pressure and the risk of heart diseases.
According to this study, the ACE-inhibitor called lactokinins present in the whey acts as the food ingredient that helps in controlling high blood pressure.
However, there are studies only showed a decrease in pressure for the subjects who had high blood pressure, to begin with, and who consumed a high amount of whey per day.
For example, a study with 42 volunteers with high blood pressure showed a drop of 3 points in systolic and 2 points in diastolic blood pressure after consuming about 56 gms of whey protein per day.
4) Whey Protein is good for people with Type 2 Diabetes
People with diabetes are recommended to ingest slow-digesting food that releases blood sugars at a slow rate.
Food with high levels of protein is certainly a good choice when it comes to a slow breakdown.
Whey protein is rich in an amino acid called L-cysteine that helps in synthesising important antioxidant in the body. This helps in reducing the accumulation of free radicals which is the main cause of insulin resistance in the body.
5) Whey Protein is Anti-Inflammatory
Though inflammation is the body’s response to damage excess or long term inflammation proves harmful to your health, contributing to a range of disorders including autoimmune diseases and respiratory illness.
6) Whey Protein supports the production of Antioxidant
Whey contains an amino acid called cysteine that is converted into an antioxidant known as glutathione.
Glutathione is produced in the body, unlike other antioxidants that you get through meals.
It helps combat free radicals in the body and detoxifies chemicals, including some that your body creates naturally, as well as pollutants and drugs.
Whey also contains lactoferrin protein, which binds with iron in the body and prevents free radical damage due to it. Lactoferrin ensures that iron is safely transported without causing too much harm. (10)
7) Whey Protein is Anti-Cancerous
Whey proteins are superior to other dietary proteins for the suppression of tumour development. It is likely to be a food that offers the protection of healthy cells against adverse proliferative changes.
8) Whey Protein helps to lower LDL Cholesterol
Studies (13, 14) have shown that whey protein can reduce LDL or bad cholesterol in overweight and obese subjects over a period of 12 weeks. Whey protein consumption is also helpful in improving blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
9) Whey Protein helps in the condition of Asthma
Whey has been linked to improving the cytokine response in atopic asthma in children.
According to this study, 11 children were tested after supplementation of 10 gms of whey protein twice a day.
The study concluded that the dosage of more potent whey supplements for a longer period may prove more beneficial against asthma.
Though there have been studies to show the various benefits of whey protein for the human body there are much need research yet to be concluded to effectively certify them.
There is no data to support the use of whey protein in diet to avoid or treat disorders and skip medication and your doctor’s advice.
Whey Protein Side effects and Health Risks
1) Whey Protein may cause Indigestion and Nausea
People who are allergic to milk and other dairy products should avoid consuming whey protein as it may cause disorders like indigestion, bloody stools, nausea etc.
2 to 3 percent of children younger than 3 years are allergic to milk. Recent studies suggest that only 20 percent of them outgrow the allergy by the time they turn 4 and the rest can remain allergic to an age of 16.
Symptoms of milk allergy include hives, vomiting, bloody stools and anaphylaxis.
People who are allergic to cow’s milk must try taking other non-dairy protein supplement powders like soy, pea. rice, hemp and egg.
2) Whey Protein causes Flatulence and Bloating in people with Lactose Intolerance
People with lactose intolerance cannot digest the lactose or milk sugar in the milk products.
Symptoms include flatulence, diarrhoea, bloated stomach etc. They must avoid using whey as a protein supplement.
Lactose Intolerance is very common and can be found in a lot of people worldwide according to this study. Lactose is found in dairy products including whey.
It can only be treated by following a strict dairy-free diet.
3) Whey Protein can make you Fat
Consumption of protein supplement without regular physical exercise can lead the body to accumulate extra fat as you inadvertently tend to consume more calories.
This is effectively true when you include whey protein shakes which might include milk as a base.
4) Constipation due to high Protein diet
Having an excess of whey protein or any protein-rich diet without including whole foods like fruits and ample quantity of water can lead to constipation.
This is because whole foods and vegetables contain fibre that is very important for a smooth digestive process.
5) Nutrient Deficiency
Skipping meals in lieu of having protein shakes instead can cause nutrient deficiencies.
Natural and whole foods must always be included in a healthy diet. They are rich in nutrition which can not be supplemented by only having whey protein shakes.
6) Kidney or Liver Damage due to high protein diet
7) Fake Supplement Powder can harm you
There are many fake whey protein powders circulating in the market which are duped as genuine products to the customers.
These may contain adulterants that can adversely affect the health of a person.
How to Use Whey Protein Supplements
Whey Protein powders can be used along with milk or water.
When added with milk the Protein shake has more calories and can be used as a separate meal altogether.
Whey Proteins generally come with serving size which varies between 30 to 33 gms and nutrition information written on their packaging.
It is generally recommended to have 1 -2 scopes of whey protein supplement during a day that can supply 25 – 50 gms of protein for most of the brands.
You must adhere to your extra protein needs as per the information available on the protein packages.
Whether you need to use more than a single scoop of whey or less will depend on how much protein you need in a day, as well as how much you get from other sources.
How much Protein do you need in a day
There has been a long and ongoing debate on the amount of protein a person needs in a day. There is no one size fit all option when it comes to protein intake.
Protein needs per day depend on a number of factors like daily activity, age, fitness level, lean muscle mass etc.
While considering taking a protein supplement you should consider having enough protein from naturally available food sources like eggs, lean meat, dairy, legumes, beans, nuts and soy.
You need to maintain a good level of amino acid for the growth and repair of the body if you workout regularly or have an active lifestyle. this is because unlike the two macronutrients carbs and fats the body does not store protein.
For an average person who does not lift weights regularly and has minimal exercise, it is generally recommended to take 0.8 gms of protein per kg of body weight.
Check for Fake Protein Supplements
There are numerous possibilities of people ending up with a fake protein supplement especially if the supplement is imported into their country from abroad. There are many cheap copies of original protein supplements sold to unknowing customers.
However, there are checks to ascertain if you possess a fake or an original product:-
1) Solubility – A fake protein powder is not as soluble as an original product. Original protein supplement dissolves in water easily without leaving a residue at the bottom. If the powder does not dissolve easily in water then most probably you have a fake copy of the product.
2) Texture – An original protein supplement would have an even fine texture throughout the volume of the container whereas a fake powder would be added with impurities to substitute for the original powder hence would have a coarse and uneven texture.
3) Taste – If you have previously bought an original product then tasting a fake product of the same flavour and brand can give you an idea of its genuineness.
4) Packaging – Most big brands like Optimum Nutrition have there own guidelines for product packaging. They have special checks on the product container with quality marks and stickers. You can always check for their specification online and get an idea of the fake product.