Whey Protein in the Supplement World
In the dizzingly complex world of supplements it would be easy for the uninitiated to believe the promises that the companies behind the products make. Protein shakes make you HUGE. Creatine makes you STRONGER, FASTER, BETTER. Take product X and you’ll get swollen. Add in product Y and you’ll DROP 20lbs of fat and GAIN 35lbs of muscle in 6 WEEKS.
If only it was that easy. But while the supplement companies spend millions each year on advertising and promotion the simple truth is while the claims they make can be controversial and outlandish, there is a grain of truth there to be had, and whey protein is a prime example. Drinking whey won’t make you swollen or jacked, but alongside a solid diet and a good training plan, it will be a key ingredient to help you build muscle and increase your strength. Or alternatively it can be used as a quality protein source to help you maintain muscle mass and drop fat. Forget the hype, learn how to make your supplements work for you and decide your own future.
Needless to say the role that protein plays in muscle development is of paramount importance to anyone who works out, but it is the lesser known functions of this macro nutrient that have given protein its much-touted “building blocks” label with water being the only other material that is more important for our daily functioning. Our metabolic processes, our body’s growth, our body’s repair, the health of our skin, nails, and hair and our immune system are all regulated by proteins.
Considered the “all-rounder” of supplements, whey protein is a must for any athlete’s nutritional arsenal. There’s nothing magical about where whey comes from either, it’s a by-product of cheese manufacture.
Cow’s milk contains two types of protein: whey (approx. 20% of total protein) and casein (approx. 80% of total protein) and we can further subdivide whey into three types:
Concentrate (the liquid is removed leaving a WPC with approx 70-85%)
Isolate (the concentrate is further processed to remove the fat, lactose and other biologically active compounds and has 90%+ protein)
Hydrolysates are predigested and partially hydrolyzed whey proteins.
Whey’s reputation as being the most versatile and one of the most beneficial sources of protein in the supplement market is not undeserved. For quality alone, whey scores top marks in all the frequently used testing methods: its Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) is 1.0 of a maximum 1.0; its Biological Value (BV) is 104 where eggs, which score 100, were originally considered the highest ranked of protein sources; it has a Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) of 3.2 where anything over 2.7 is considered excellent according to the FDA and a Protein Digestibility (PD) score of 1.14 where 1.0 is the max allowed score according to the USDA. And in case that wasn’t enough, as well as boasting a complete amino acid profile it is also an exceptional source of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) and without fail consistently proves to be one of the best sources of protein that we can give our bodies.
Whey Protein Concentrate
In reality the protein in whey is not a singular protein but a collection of globular proteins. Beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin and serum albumin will account for approximately 98% of the total protein content of whey, with the remainder made up of smaller protein fractions like immunoglobulins. High in protein, low in fat and low in carbohydrates, WPC is truly one stop-stop supplement for delivering the basics as well as containing a whole host of added extras that will aid muscle growth and performance and improves all-over health.
Aside from whey protein’s role in muscle repair and growth, it provides a vast array of other functions thanks to the complexity of the collection of the globular proteins that can be isolated from it. Whey has antioxidant, antihypertensive, antitumor, hypolipidemic, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It has also been tested as a treatment or supportive agent for cancer with bovine lactoferrin (bLf), one of the micro peptides founding the whey protein complex, shown repeatedly to protect against colon cancer by reducing adenocarcinoma incidence1 (Tsuda et al., 2000) and in vitro research has shown that the growth of breast cancer cells is strongly inhibited when exposed to low concentrations of whey protein. Whey proteins have also found to promote glutathione production, an essential water-soluble antioxidant that protects cells and serves to neutralize toxins and which may be helpful in immune function disorders.
Practically speaking whey is also one of the most convenient and time-saving ways to obtain high quality protein and allows high absorption rates when your body needs it most. Any time of the day is the ‘right’ time for whey, but first thing in the morning and post-workout are two periods during the day when your body will be able to utilize the protein best. Put simply, it’s hard to go wrong with whey!
Whey Protein Isolate
For athletes who want the ultimate in quality protein, whey isolate is a great option. Virtually fat and carbohydrate free whey isolate is a source of nearly pure protein when you can’t afford to compromise your macro-nutrient needs especially at key periods like the post-training nutrient window.