Whey protein is a popular nutritional supplement, commonly used by dieters and bodybuilders. Derived from milk, whey is isolated from other milk components through several purification processes. Protein, one of three major food classes, is vital for healthy body functioning. Found in every major body system, it is essential for cell growth, repair and replacement. The body makes some of its own protein from the twelve amino acids it produces. It gets nine other amino acids from dietary protein.
Whey protein is an ideal source because it provides all nine amino acids that exist outside the body. It works the same way that other proteins work in the body, except for one difference: the body absorbs whey protein much faster. Fast and thorough absorption means the body can start building muscle right away. Additionally, whey protein is low in fat or even fat-free depending on the brand. This makes it desirable for athletes, dieters, and others who want the supplemental protein without adding new fats into their diet.
The Science of Whey Protein
Whey consists of a collection of globular proteins: beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin, and immunoglobulins. Whey breaks down into amino acids, which then rebuild into protein. Whey protein can occur in three forms: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Most protein powders contain whey in concentrate form, although high-quality brands instead use isolate, which is a purer form of whey. Processing for whey isolate removes both fat and lactose. Powders made of whey hydrolysate, the purest form of whey protein, are the most expensive products on the market, but they are also least likely to cause allergic reactions.
The right amount of whey protein depends on factors like overall weight, body fat composition and normal activity level. Most people need 0.8 grams of protein per two pounds or so of weight. Athletes can increase this amount by up to 200%.
Whey Protein Health Benefits
Whey protein is most known for helping people lose fat, build lean muscle and recover from workouts. In fact, clean whey protein has numerous health benefits for active individuals. Whey protein has become a staple supplement for many athletes. Muscle-building is a continual process of tearing down muscle and building it up. To boost muscle (protein) production, many athletes consume protein before and after workouts.
Peanut butter and other whole food sources (meats, nuts, etc.) are popular choices for health-conscious individuals, but many of these high-protein foods are also loaded with fats and oils. Pure whey protein isolate is a natural, fat-free solution. It is a filling, no-frills option that the body can use almost immediately.
In addition to muscle gains and recovery, researchers have discovered other health benefits of clean whey protein. Studies show that protein supplements can curb hunger and help people lose fat as they build lean muscle. Whey protein is also linked to stress reduction and a stronger immune system. Moreover, it is thought to have effective cancer-fighting properties.
Whey Protein and Milk Allergies
Whey (the protein found in milk liquids) makes up only 20% of milk proteins. Casein (the protein found in curds), also common in protein supplements, makes up the rest. Unfortunately, casein can trigger allergies in some people.
Pure whey protein isolate is a much better choice for those who suffer from milk allergies, either due to lactose or casein intolerance. With no casein and less than 0.1 gram of lactose per 20 grams of pure whey isolate, it will not trigger an allergic reaction in most cases. This allows most people the opportunity to continue to safely consume dairy protein.