The Real Deal about Whey Protein
You are almost giving up on working out. Within the first month of working out, it had not looked easy.
From one injury to another, to strain and to muscle soreness, you feel you cannot bear it anymore and the words barely slipped, “I just want to quit.”
Whether you are a newbie to bodybuilding, an existing athlete, or bodybuilder or even considering the fitness and health niche generally, the great importance proteins play in our body cannot be over-emphasized.
From repairing worn-out tissues that help increase muscle strength during workout, to increasing muscle mass and to improving muscle recovery. Protein benefits are simply enormous and Whey protein is just one of them.
Let’s talk about it some more! Everything you need to know about whey protein is articulately written in this article to guide you.
The Historical background of Whey protein
Whey was discovered many years ago about 6,000 years B.C. when someone noticed that whey and curds (sour milk) naturally separated from goats’ milk. Years later, the whey was still being thrown out while the curds were used in making cheese.
Then years later, things began to change and the significance of whey got to be noticed.
Hippocrates (446 – 337 BC), the father of medicine prescribed it to his patients around 330 BC and he called it “serum.”
Later, Galen, an ancient doctor who lived in the Roman Empire also prescribed Whey to his patients and since then, it has been used to treat illness and improve health.
In 1749, in Gais, a remote mountain village in Switzerland, a patient, who could not be cured by his doctors, was healed by drinking whey on a daily basis.
The news had soon spread around and people trooped to Gais to reap the health benefits of whey protein.
Not so long after, a health spa was soon opened in Gais, followed by more than 160 spas across Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
These spas were most active throughout the 18th and 19th century, catering to emperors and aristocrats from across every part of Europe.
These spas served whey in its liquid form, which is very perishable, especially with 18th century technology. It had to be consumed within 10 hours or it would go bad, unfit for consumption.
The whey that was produced from cheese-making the night before had to be carried down the mountain to arrive at the spas before dawn. But now, thanks to the invention of whey protein powder, its benefits are undeniably available everywhere.
Whey Protein benefits
The benefits of a high quality whey protein supplement are great, not forgetting to add that they also preserve our health as well.
It is true that no supplement can replace a balance diet of natural, unprocessed foods. However, whey protein is great if you have a very busy life- always on-the-go, always in a hurry to get into the mad-rush of the day’s activities.
Supplementing with whey protein wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Below are some benefits that have been associated with whey protein supplementation:
- Weight Loss
- Assists in increasing in muscle mass
- Assist in cancer treatment
- Increase in glutathione levels (your body’s main water-based anti-oxidant)
- Decrease in HIV symptoms
- Decrease in triglycerides
- It helps in reducing cholesterol
- Increase in immune system function
- Increase in power in sports
- Improve immune response to children with asthma
- Decreased recovery time and symptoms of over-training
Protein supplementation has grown popular over the years. Bodybuilders and athletes talk about it without reserve. Proteins generally can produce as much energy as carbohydrates but a lot less than fats and oils.
While there are a vast abundance of protein rich meals, there are whey protein supplements that people use, alongside resistance exercise, to help improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean tissue mass.
This is so because amino acids are the building blocks of tissue can help speed up tissue recovery and aid the repair of damaged tissues.
The use of protein supplements can be broadly classified into two types;
- Animal based protein supplements
These supplements are derived from the processing of animal products such as eggs, milk, cream giving rise to products like whey and casein.
- Plant based protein supplements:
These supplements are usually produced from processing of plant products such as rice, soy, hemp, legumes giving rise to derivatives such as rice protein, pea protein, hemp protein and even soy protein.
Composition of Whey protein
Whey protein is a mixture of the following:
- Bovine serum albumin
Forms of Whey Protein
When it comes to fitness, performance and sports, the use of protein supplements is widespread.
Protein supplements may come in the form of shakes, powders or pills, with the most popular being protein shakes and powders.
- Whey protein shakes
Protein shakes can range in their protein content, but all contain some carbohydrates and maybe a little fat. They have variety flavors in powder form or in ready-to-drink packages, such as cans or foil packs.
Protein shakes are used mainly by athletes who need nourishment right after their workouts, says Jose Antonio, chief executive officer and co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).
- Whey protein powders
Essentially, protein powders are a highly processed and dehydrated form of protein that can be reconstituted (mixed) with water and other beverages to form something you can drink (e.g., a shake).
They’re used for various purposes outside of bodybuilding, but within the sport, protein drinks are used primarily to help build muscle mass and to increase overall caloric intake.
Generally speaking, the shake is supposed to give you all the benefits of a protein-rich food source with added convenience and portability.
Whey Protein types
Milk is made of two proteins- casein and whey. Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a bye-product of cheese making process.
There are three primary types of whey protein and we would look at them briefly.
- Whey protein concentrate
Whey Protein Concentrate contains low quantities of fat and carbohydrates (lactose). It is the cheapest of all the three types. The percentage of protein in WPC depends on how concentrated it is.
Lower end concentrates usually have a percentage of 30% protein while the higher end would be up to 90%.
The lower end concentrates are made up of fat, lactose and contains various immune enhancing peptides such as alpha-lactabumin and immunoglobulins.
- Whey protein isolate
Whey Protein Isolates are further processed to isolate all the fat and lactose, leaving the Protein with the highest concentration. WPI is usually at least 90% protein or more, with least fat and lactose content. This is however, the more expensive than the concentrate type.
- Whey protein hydrolysate
Whey Protein Hydrolysate is considered to be the “predigested” form of whey protein as it has already undergone partial hydrolysis – a process necessary for the body to absorb protein.
It digests very quickly in the body and has about 99% protein content. No wonder it is the most expensive! Based on its reduced digestibility, it is often used in making infant formulas.
Of all the three forms of Whey protein, Whey Protein Hydrolysate does not require as much digestion as the other two forms of whey protein.
Whey protein Side effects
Generally, the side effects of whey protein are minor and as such not life-threatening. However,safety of protein supplements is largely dependent on the dosage consumed. Too much protein may also increase a person’s risk for calcium loss and osteoporosis.
And this is because acids are released into the bloodstream when protein is digested, and the body uses calcium to neutralize these acids.
While some people who are allergic to milk may be specifically allergic to whey, Whey protein is considered safe for most children and adults when taken appropriately.
Athletes and those who engage in a regular workout routine can safely eat more protein than people who are sedentary (not physically active).
In fact, an athlete who does not get enough protein will sustain some muscle damage and take longer to recover.
Moderate doses of whey protein usually don’t have any adverse effects. However, severely high doses can cause some side effects andthese include the following:
- Stomach pains or Increased bowel movements
- Reduced appetite
- Fatigue or tiredness
Does whey protein affect the liver or kidney?
There are number of controversies on the effect of whey protein on the kidney. Well, whey does not harm the liver or kidneys, but it can further increase the consequences of a pre-existing damage.
People with damaged livers or kidneys should exercise caution when increasing protein intake. You should never try such without the consultation of a doctor as it could be disastrous to your health.
What this means however, is that healthy individuals, without any underlying or unknown kidney disease do not have to worry about with higher intakes of protein.
Tips to avoid the side-effects of whey protein
Like everything else in life, moderation is the key to staying on the safer side. Moderate usage of whey protein would keep you enjoying the numerous health benefits it brings. As much as possible, try and avoid overuse.
In order to avoid all possible side-effects of whey protein, it would be a good idea to limit yourself to 30g of whey in one setting and if you must use more than 30g, feel free to spread the dosage.
If you have a history of any medical condition such as liver or kidney problems, it is best to consult with your personal physician before using any dietary supplements. Below are tips to avoid high dosage of whey protein and reduce its side-effects.
- Reduce blood sugar levels
Whey protein can reduce your blood sugar level. Therefore, if you are diabetic,have low blood sugar, take drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar.
Be sure to have your blood sugar level monitored by a qualified healthcare professional.
- Increase the risk of bleeding
Those with bleeding disorders should adjust Whey protein dosage or stick to whole protein foods.
- Causes low blood pressure
Caution is advised in people with low blood pressure or in those taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure against the overdose of whey protein
- Drowsiness or sedation
You should avoid taking overdose of whey protein if you are driving or operating heavy machinery.
- Medications and drugs
You should use whey protein cautiously especially if you take medications, including agents that affect the immune system and agents that lower cholesterol.
- Stomach Disorders
People with stomach disorders should avoid overuse of whey protein and use sparingly.
If you are lactose intolerant, sensitive or allergic to dairy products such as cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or sheep’s milk, it’s best to avoid use. Avoid using whey protein long-term and in excessive amounts.
- Infant formulas
You should only get infant formulas that have approved sources of whey protein.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of whey protein during pregnancy or breastfeeding. So, it’s better to stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Is whey protein Good or Bad?
Whey protein is quite easier and quicker to absorb than protein found in most foods. While this is convenient, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is better than protein-rich foods.
Proteins are generally essential for athletes, bodybuilders or anyone who workout. It helps to repair the worn-out muscles thereby increasing muscle strength.
It is likely safe to add whey protein supplements to your diet. Although, if you already go steady on consumption of natural healthy foods, that are highly rich in protein, you might not be considering whey protein after all.
Taking Whey protein if you have pre-existing medical conditions such as kidney problems, Liver failure, renal disease or diabetes should be avoided as it is very unsafe.
Verdict: As long as you take the dosage in moderation and consume it within your daily protein needs, it’s okay to use whey protein.
However, do not forget the simple rule of talking to your doctor who would determine your protein needs and also decide which would be best for you.
Best time to use Whey Protein
Granted, whey protein absorbs easier and faster. But there are times when taking proteins aren’t quite healthy such as during workout.
You should take carbs instead to help you exercise longer. Below are best times to have protein in order to have a sustainable and enduring workout experience.
How do you know the best protein?
One of the most effective whey protein forms out there is the Whey Protein Powder, although its effectiveness varies widely.This is because of the other ingredients would normally add to it.
To be sure of the type of whey protein you buy, make sure you scan the label for the ingredients list.
You are likely to notice that most whey protein contain more than one type of whey such as: whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate or whey protein concentrate.
Whey protein isolates are the purest forms of protein, with some being more than 90% protein. And because of this, most companies list it as the first ingredient, and sometimes, whey protein hydrolysate.
Then comes whey protein concentrates which is usually about 40-80% protein.
What else should you know about WP?
- Whey protein is chemically non-stimulatory, but may provide energy via means of caloric consumption and an insulin spike from the amino acids.
- Whey protein could have sour or bitter taste and that is the reason it is usually flavored as supplements..
- Hydrolysed whey can be very bitter. However, this often suppressed by sucrose, fructose or sucralose or even a combination of cold water and sour stimuli.
Taking Whey Protein before a Workout
To have a greater endurance during your workout session, you should take Whey protein at least one hour prior to your workout. Taking it immediately, just before you begin your training won’t do much good at all.
By having protein in your system before working out, you’re allowing the protein to begin the repair process. So, when you start to tear down muscles, the protein will already be there to start repairing them.
Taking it After a Workout
Since Whey Protein is quickly digested, you could take whey protein alone within 30 to 60 minutes after a strength-training based workout.
Taking whey protein after your workout would help recover the muscle. However, do not overdose yourself with high protein intake. Taking at least 50 grams would do.
Whey protein may also interact with certain medications or drugs, which include quinolone antibiotics, levodopa, alendronate, and tetracycline antibiotics.
You should not take whey protein if you are taking any drugs presently. For all you know, you might be taking drugs that do not go well with whey protein.
So, before using whey protein, inform your physician if you use any other drugs.
Are there whey Protein Alternatives?
Whey protein is great because it helps with muscle recovery and gaining muscle mass, while providing so much amazing health benefits. However, it could be quite expensive when you consider natural alternatives.
Add to that, you need to be sure of your health conditions by consulting your doctor, nutritionist or any qualified healthcare provider before you can start taking it.
But you can never go wrong if you go all natural. If you are looking to save money, below is some top-of- the- chart list of whey protein alternatives that would help.
- Egg White Protein
Egg protein is extremely bioavailable, which means your muscles are able to use more of it, says nutrition consultant Mike Roussell, Ph.D.
It’s also naturally free of fat and carbs, making it an incredibly pure form of protein delivery. Egg protein is also higher in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)—6.7 grams of BCAA verses 5.5 grams in whey.
- Pea Protein
Most plant proteins lack all of the essential amino acids (amino acids that can’t be made by the body). Pea protein, though, has them all. “It’s also uncharacteristically high in BCAAs,” Roussell says.
- Hemp Protein
Most protein powders are pure protein, but hemp powders also contain omega-3 fatty acids and belly-filling fiber. Hemp protein also contains all of the essential amino acids, which are necessary for building muscle.
Fat-free Greek yoghurt is an excellent source of protein, and it is also delicious. It contains more than enough protein content to encourage protein synthesis in the body, as discovered by McMaster University.
It is cheaper than whey protein and can be taken anytime of the day; either before you hit the gym or before you even go to bed.
Lentils have become popular with vegans who try as much as possible to avoid anything associated with dairy products. Lentils are rich source of protein and high in fibre and these are quite cheap too.
Oily fish are also a rich protein source. They contain all the essential fatty acid and Omega-3 which helps reduce your bad cholesterol while raising the good cholesterol.
They have been proven to contain very little saturated fat, they can be seen as the ideal alternative choice to red meat which has a likely saturated fat content.
Generally, whey protein has received mostly positive reviews from a number of health experts.
Before you make up your mind on using any whey protein supplement, ensure that you are healthy and you have no underlying health conditions that would pose serious threats to your overall health.