What exactly is Whey?
Whey is the name given to the watery substance that is left as a byproduct when milk is coagulated to form cheese.
Milk consists of two types of protein Casein and Whey. 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.
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 yogurts or soft cheeses. It contains numerous nutrients that support good health.
Acidic whey finds several uses in human and animal food products, fertilizers, electricity production etc.
Sweet Whey – It is a byproduct produced during 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.
How is Whey Protein Supplement 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. 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.
2) The milk is transported to manufacturing facilities using large liquid containers where it is tested for safety.
3) The milk is added with enzymes, causing it to separate into its constituents, i.e, liquid whey and curd.
4) The liquid whey is then pasteurized and dried into a powder.
6) The processed whey powders are added with flavours and tastemakers for commercial use.
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.
Health Benefits of Whey Protein Supplements
1) Whey Protein for Muscle Recovery – 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. It is one of the best dietary sources of high-quality protein. It is highly digestible and is absorbed quickly compared to other proteins. Hence whey is widely used as a protein supplement for bodybuilders and other athletes.
2) Whey Protein helps in Weight Loss – 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 studies, the prescribed dosage of whey protein along with regular physical activity can help in reducing high blood pressure and the risk of heart diseases.
4) Whey Protein is good for Diabetes – Whey helps in increasing the insulin secretion in the body and significantly reduce the blood sugar levels. it also decreases triglyceride levels in diabetics after meals.
5) Whey Protein is Anti-Inflammatory – Excess inflammation proves harmful to your health, contributing to a range of disorders including autoimmune diseases and respiratory illness. Whey protein reduces the inflammation due to disorders or high intensity exercises.
6) Whey Protein supports Antioxidant – Whey contains an amino acid called cysteine that is converted into an antioxidant known as glutathione. It helps combat free radicals in the body and detoxifies chemicals, including some that your body creates naturally, as well as pollutants and drugs.
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 protection of healthy cells against adverse proliferative changes. It also facilitates the reduction of glutathione in cancer cells, thus slowing growth and making the cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy while optimising overall immune function.
Health Risks of Whey Protein Supplements
1) 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) 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.
3) Consumption of protein supplement without regular physical exercise can lead the body to accumulate extra fat.
4) 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.
A high protein diet is associated with kidney and liver damage. However, there are no sufficient studies to conclude that consumption of whey protein can lead to such issues. Though it is always advisable for patients who already suffer from kidney or liver problems to avoid diets which are high in protein.
Dosage of Whey Protein Supplements
Irrespective of the numerous health benefits of supplements it must always be considered to take necessary nutrition firstly from a healthy diet which focuses more on naturally occurring food material and the added nutrition should be supplied from the supplements.
Supplements are only meant to supplement your diet with extra nutrients as and when required.
Whey Proteins generally come with serving size and nutrition information written on their packaging. 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.
Also, your daily protein need depends on your age, sex and the type of physical activity you put up through a day. An individual with a mild level of activity would require a much lesser amount of protein in the diet as compared to an athlete or a bodybuilder who performs intense training.
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.