There are many forms of protein supplementation. We are often bombarded with aisles of foods that have added protein and towering shelves full of tubs of various kinds of powders.
Today, we will weigh in on whey.
WHAT IS WHEY?
Whey is a dairy protein that is available as either a whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, or a whey protein hydrosylate (a.k.a. hydrolyzed whey). Whey protein concentrate is typically available as
70% – 80% total protein by volume. The remainder of the volume is made up of carbohydrates – mostly lactose – and some fat. Whey protein isolate is usually ≥90% total protein by volume and negligible in lactose.
Whey protein hydrosylate is whey protein isolate that is enzymatically “pre-digested” to make smaller peptides. What this does is allow you to absorb and utilize its amino acids at a faster rate after consumption.
WHY IS WHEY SO POPULAR?
There are many reasons why whey, in all its forms, is so popular in sport supplementation. The lower cost of production and more favorable taste characteristics have heavily contributed to its dominance in the industry.
However the higher BCAA content, especially of Leucine, relative to other types of protein makes whey a more attractive option. Studies have shown that Leucine, in the context of whey protein, is critical to increasing muscle protein synthesis and that it may be involved in suppressing muscle protein degradation.
Other studies have shown that it has contributed to improved muscle performance for athletes that train on a regular basis.
HOW DOES WHEY EFFECT THE BODY?
The quick digestion rate of whey causes an increase in amino acid levels in the blood faster than from proteins such as casein or soy.
This is important for maximizing post exercise muscle recovery. With respect to whey itself, whey protein concentrate digests slowest and hydrolyzed whey digests fastest.
It has been suggested that a slower digesting protein that causes a longer duration of increased amino acids in the blood, such as casein, may be beneficial to consume prior to bed to enhance protein synthesis while sleeping.
HOW MUCH WHEY SHOULD I TAKE?
What is the perfect amount of protein to take and at what point? Age, type of training, health and physical activity history are all factors that affect how much is enough. If you’ve been an avid lifter for years, your body’s ability to use a certain amount of protein will likely be higher than of people who have just started to get into fitness.
This has been dubbed as the “muscle full effect”. Although as little as 10g of whey protein has shown to induce muscle building after resistance training, one study concluded that 20g consumed immediately after resistance training was adequate for optimal muscle protein building for young men (in their very early 20’s).
On the other hand, 40g was best in older male adults in both exercised and rested muscle. Unfortunately, for sports performance, this means that at this time we are left with trial and error. In the cases of general health or medical conditions, it is best to consult a registered dietitian for an appropriate nutrition prescription.
TO SUM IT ALL UP…
Overall, whey protein may be a good option for you if you exercise frequently, intensely on a regular basis. In such circumstances, it will help reduce muscle soreness, recovery time and increase muscle mass.
For those that aren’t pursuing the physique of Lou Ferrigno, the greater availability of amino acids in the body after consumption of whey will contribute to the muscle necessary for athletic performance and general health and fitness.
As researchers continue to investigate this supplement, it will truly be exciting to see the industry adapt!
Weighing In On Whey: About the author
Monika Broemmer discovered her passion for helping others transition to a healthier lifestyle through her years of work as a personal trainer. This career has inspired her to create a blog that references the science behind nutrition while making the science easier to understand.
When it comes to foods, diets, and nutrition it is her hope that the connotation of FML can be shifted from that of exasperation to that of opportunity and that this blog can serve as an objective source of nutrition information.
Her credentials include the following: NASM CPT, FNS, NPC Figure competitor, research volunteer at San Diego State University and enrolled in the M.S. in Nutrition for Wellness program at Bastyr University.
Check out other articles on her site: FML: An Evidence Based Nutrition Blog.