What Is Whey Protein
Whey To Go
Most of you are probably familiar with the benefits of whey protein, but here is a little background.
During the ’90s, whey protein powders exploded onto the supplement scene, bumping out egg protein as the most popular protein supplement. Researchers had discovered that whey protein was superior when it came to stimulating protein synthesis, the process by which muscles increase their size.
Whey protein is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine and valine. Which particularly leucine, are essential for muscle growth because they turn on the process of protein synthesis and supply critical building blocks for muscle protein. Whey protein is also digested and absorbed by the body more easily and rapidly than just about any other protein out there.
Third, whey has an exceptionally high biological value, which basically refers to how much actual protein from food is absorbed and how much is retained in the body. Furthermore, a growing number of studies have found that whey protein may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, improve immune function, reduce blood pressure and improve athletic performance.
Where Does It Come From
Before whey is actually whey protein powder, it’s milk. There are two protein components of milk: casein and whey. Casein makes up about 80% of the protein in milk; whey makes up the other 20%. Whereas casein proteins are globular and therefore not soluble in water, whey protein is. Think of the watery stuff that sits on top of yogurt ? that’s whey, and that property makes whey protein powder easy to mix into most fluids. Still with us?
Whey protein is composed of several different protein fractions that have various properties and offer distinct benefits. Beta-lactoglobulin the largest protein fraction of whey protein is rich in BCAAs. Alpha-lactalbumin is a fraction of whey that’s easily digested, allowing faster absorption and uptake by the muscles. Immunoglobulins carry antibodies in the blood and help strengthen the immune system, and bovine serum albumin peptides are rich in the precursors for glutathione (one of the body’s most important antioxidants). Finally, lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase have antimicrobial properties and support the immune system.
Whey Protein Processing
A by-product of cheese manufacturing, whey was actually discarded during the cheese-making process until recently. In its original form, whey is a liquid that’s mostly water with only a small percent of protein. It takes several stages of processing to create whey that’s nearly all protein, and the more processing, the higher the concentration of protein in the whey. Here’s the breakdown of the three basic categories of whey protein:
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) : The first filtering step that produces whey protein powder, called ultrafiltration, involves pressure to separate the protein from the fat and lactose through a porous membrane. It produces the most basic of the whey proteins, which can range from 35%-85% in its protein concentration, depending on the amount of filtering done. Most protein powders using WPC today fall in the range of 70%-80% protein. Although WPC isn’t the purest protein because it’s less processed, it is a high-quality protein powder that contains some carbohydrates and fats. The good news is that the limited processing of WPC leaves most of the beneficial whey protein fractions in place, and it’s usually somewhat less expensive than a whey protein isolate or hydrolysate, making it a great choice if you’re on a limited supplement budget. Look for a whey protein powder that lists whey protein concentrate as the first and main ingredients.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) : This protein is purer than WPC because it undergoes even more processing, such as longer filtering or additional steps like ion-exchange chromatography (see “Process of Elimination”). The extra processing allows the production of a whey protein with a concentration higher than 95% protein, making it a good choice when you’re dieting because it has a lower carb and fat content. WPI has a higher biological value than WPC, making it a great protein to take before and after workouts because it’s so readily digested, absorbed and used by the body. Look for protein powders that list whey protein isolate as the first and main ingredient.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH): When WPC or WPI goes through a process known as hydrolysis, the longer protein chains are broken down into smaller protein fragments. This means the protein is sort of “predigested” and your digestive system doesn’t have to work so hard to break down the proteins. This allows WPH to be digested and absorbed even faster than WPI, making it the best postworkout protein powder you can buy. But you will have to pay more. Look for products that list WPI or whey peptides on the ingredients list.
Mixed Protein Powders
As good as whey is, other proteins like casein, soya and egg protein have additional benefits that whey protein doesn’t, so many supplement companies are now offering whey mixed with other types of protein.
Casein, usually in the form of micellar casein or caseinate, is a common add-on to mixed whey products. As fast as whey is digested and absorbed, casein is slow, providing a steady supply of amino acids to the muscles for up to seven hours. This has been shown to effectively prevent muscle protein breakdown, which is just as important for muscle growth as protein synthesis.
Soya protein, in the form of either soya protein concentrate or soya protein isolate, is also typically added to many mixed-protein products. Soya is digested and absorbed as fast as whey and is rich in the amino acids arginine, glutamine and the BCAAs. It also provides antioxidant properties that improve muscle recovery following exercise.
Some mixed-protein products even add egg white protein (egg white albumin). One of the highest-quality proteins available, it’s virtually devoid of carbs and fat, and is a high-sulphur amino acid containing protein, which is critical to the body’s hormone-producing pathways.
Your best bet is to go with products that list some form of whey protein or casein protein first on the ingredients list. These are good products to take between meals and before bed when you need a longer supply of amino acids. Any added soya or egg white protein is a bonus.
Do You Need It
Honestly no but if you cannot meet your daily protein requirements through solid foods then investing in some whey protein might be beneficial. Another huge benefit of whey is its price. A scoop of whey which provides 25g of protein might cost about 0.60$ but a steak will surely cost more than 0.60$.
Hope this article clears up everything about whey protein