Expert Nutrition

Benefits of Whey Protein

If you've heard whey protein is beneficial for muscle growth and recovery but don't know what type of whey you should be looking at, you've come to the right place.

Throughout this chapter we'll teach you everything you need to know about the benefits of whey protein, what it is, where it comes from, why it's so popular and what to look for in a product. Because everyone's training goals are different we'll also show you how to choose a protein product to help you achieve your desired results.

A little bit of background research shows that whey is undoubtedly the most popular protein supplement used by athletes around the world. To understand why let's look at the whole picture by answering some common FAQ's.

What is whey protein?

There are two main proteins found in cow's milk, casein, which represents about 80% of milk protein and whey which makes up the remaining 20%. During the manufacturing of milk products such as cheese the whey and casein proteins are separated in the curdling process and once upon a time the whey was thrown away as a waste product.

Today whey is a highly sort after commodity and is used as the main ingredient to manufacture a variety of meal replacement and protein products.

Why is whey protein so popular among athletes and gym users?

There are 3 main reasons why people prefer the benefits of whey protein;

  1. Whey is a complete, quality protein, with high net utilisation and little waste
  2. Whey contains the highest natural source of branched chain amino acids
  3. Whey is a fast acting protein

These are explained in more detail below.

The protein quality of a food is determined by how closely the ratio of amino acids (structural components of protein) in the food matches the human requirement and by how easily the protein is digested and utilised within the body. Whey is a high quality, complete protein which means that it is easily digested and absorbed by the body with little protein going to waste. Given that the essential amino acid composition of whey is similar to that of the human body there is a high conversion of dietary whey intake used in making of structural components within the body. For more information read this article about essential amino acids and protein quality.

Of all of the natural sources of protein, whey contains the highest source of branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine). Branched chain amino acids are a group of essential amino acids that are used directly in the muscle building and repair process and therefore proteins with a large amount of branched chain amino acids generally have the greatest impact on muscle growth.

Whey is also a fast acting protein, which means that it is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. It is widely believed that drinking a protein shake that contains whey shortly after a training session can speed up muscle recovery by making the essential and branched chain amino acids readily available to your muscles.

How can whey protein be beneficial for both weight loss and weight gain?

Because whey is a fast acting protein it is absorbed quickly into the blood stream helping satiety (satisfying your hunger). From a weight loss perspective this can be advantageous as a low calorie meal replacement that contains whey can make you feel full, even though you have only consumed a small amount of calories. This reduces total daily calorie intake and helps to promote weight loss, whilst preserving lean body mass.

From a weight gain perspective, whey is a complete protein that offers high net utilisation, promoting the growth of structural components of the body (eg muscle growth).

To gain weight, whey protein is normally used as an adjunct to a proper diet (ie 3-4 normal balanced meals a day, plus 1-2 whey based protein shakes to promote growth). From a weight loss perspective, whey is used as a meal replacement (ie use a protein shake to replace a main meal) which reduces calorie intake but satisfies both hunger and the body's daily protein requirements.

Is milk a good source of whey protein?

Given whey originates from milk one would think that drinking milk would be a good source of whey protein, and it is, but only to a very small extent. Today through the advantages of nutritional science there are both cheaper and healthier ways of getting such a desirable protein.

Once upon a time in the world of bodybuilding and football there was a weight gain approach know as ‘GOMAD', the abbreviated acronym for "Gallon Of Milk A Day". Now whilst drinking this much milk can definitely assist weight gain (largely through increases in body fat) there is a healthier and cheaper way.

To correctly answer this question we need to review the nutrient composition of milk.

Milk is made up of approximately 87% water and 13% solids. If you look at just the solid component of whole milk you will find 30% Fat, 37% lactose (milk sugar), 27% protein and 6% other. Now if we just focus on the protein content, 80% of the protein is casein and only 20% of it is whey.

To simplify the math, whey protein makes up less than 1% (approximately 0.7%) of whole milk. Therefore in a gallon of milk there is approximately 26g of whey protein, a quality whey protein shake with the same amount of whey protein will cost you 1/2 the price, can be drunk in less than 2 mins and won't make you feel so sick in the stomach.

Another thing to consider is that when you consume a gallon of milk a day not only are you getting small doses of protein, but in the trade off you are also ingesting large doses of lactose and saturated fat, both of which can have significant negative side effects to your health (ie lactose intolerance, irritable bowel, high triglycerides, cholesterol and associated heart disease and detrimental increases in body fat). Most people use the benefits of whey protein products to look fit and healthy, not to look fat and bloated.

In name of nutritional science, we've tested the gallon of milk day approach, the outcome was an increase in weight (mainly body fat), a huge increase in blood triglycerides (not healthy) and reports of constantly feeling sluggish and bloated, reducing the ability to train.

Whey Protein Summary

Now that we've established that protein shakes are a cost effective method of ingesting a desirable protein source, the next question that needs to be answered is with so many whey products on the market, what do the different types whey products do and what should you be looking for in a product.

In the next few pages we will discuss the different whey products available in the market and how to find the right product for you.


Resistance Training 101

Muscle Building Nutrition Advice

Protein Powder and Gym Supplement Advice

Muscle Building Training Advice

Fit Body Photos and Images

These articles will provide you with the necessary tools to start a successful gym training or bodybuilding program. These principles are only the beginning. Remember that discipline, knowledge and consistency are the keys to achieving your goals. Good luck!

Over the coming months we will be developing this chapter. Please visit our blog and subscribe to our rss feed such that when new articles are added to this chapter you will be notified.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us for advice.

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