WHEY PROTEIN POWDERS
The Ultimate Guide to Whey Protein
Firstly, what is protein?
Proteins serve as a source of energy for the human body. Statistically speaking, they contain 4 calories per gram. Proteins are considered as essential nutrients, meaning we can't do without them. In fact, proteins are believed to help build tissue, so they are a hot favorite with body builders. Another category of people with whom it finds special favor are athletes. They experience frequent wear and tear of tissue - this necessitates the need for new tissue to replace damaged tissue.
Chemically, what sets proteins apart from other sources of energy like carbohydrates and lipids are amino acids, which come together to form proteins. Amino acids are the building blocks of life, helping in its growth and repair. The exact sequence of amino acids within a protein is what is commonly known as RNA. If that doesn't ring a bell, it is multiple strands of RNA that make up the DNA helix, going on to show important proteins are to the various life processes in the human body.
Two amino acids found in protein are Leucine and Cysteine. Leucine is a growth-promoting or anabolic amino acid (Leucine is actually the most anabolic amino acid there is), while Cysteine increases the levels of Glutathione (an antioxidant which prevents damage to cells) in the human body.
You not only need to consume protein, but the right type(s). With the wrong type of protein (characterized by the absence of essential amino acids), the protein consumed, irrespective of the amount of intake, is only going to be wasted by the human body.
Whey is what remains after milk is first curdled and then strained. It is one of the by-products that emerge during the preparation of cheese. There are different types of cheese. Sour or acid whey is obtained during the manufacture of cottage cheese. When it is Swiss cheese or cheddar, you get sweet whey from the process. 93% of whey is water, but if you look at the rest, it is mostly protein. It is this part, after the water component has been discarded, that is used in health supplements.
Whey protein is the cheapest protein supplement there is and it offers the same advantages as other more expensive, 'higher-quality' products such as L-Arginine. The process of removing water from sweet/sour whey can be done using different methods to get different varieties of whey. Some of them are as follows:
i. Concentrate: This contains 80% protein. The balance is lactose or milk sugar, which lends it flavor, and fat.
ii. Isolate: This contains 90% protein, and has lesser lactose and fat than Concentrate.
iii. Hydrolysate: This is pre-digested and so gets absorbed faster. When ingested, it can cause insulin levels to increase by as much as 43% when compared to Isolate.
If you are serious about reducing body fat or are lactose-intolerant, Isolate or Hydrolysate may be better than Isolate. Whey is great for overall growth, and there is a reason why they say 'Mother's milk is best for baby' - human breast milk is comprised of 60% whey. To give you an indicator of how good this percentage is, cow milk has only 20% whey.
Whey is highly rich in protein, and that is why the supplement derived from it is refererred to as whey protein.
Whey protein is for everyone
Apart from providing protein, including Leucine which helps build muscle at the molecular level, and increasing insulin levels (insulin is a hormone that aids muscle growth), whey protein stands out from other sources of protein that it is absorbed the fastest. Studies have shown whey protein is the most effective when consumed immediately before, during, or right after a workout. The proteins are actually synthesized only after training, meaning you build mass not during the workout, but later. This is why you may not see an immediate change if you compare your body before and after training.
Protein is considered as the king of all nutrients, and whey protein is better than other forms of protein like soy protein. Because diets vary across individuals (this means different levels of protein intake), it can be hard to measure the actual effect of whey protein supplements.
But it does work.
For those trying to control their weight
Whey protein helps with weight loss, plain and simple. It improves metabolism by 80-100 calories in a single day alone In other words, there is a better, more efficient transformation of food consumed into energy. This compels people to eat lesser. A lower intake of food also implies lesser ingestion of fat, and hence the dual advantages of increased metabolism (your existing body fat is also transformed into energy) and lesser food cravings can cut down weight.
Is the effect minimal or significant?
An intake of whey protein supplements reduces the urge to snack by 50%. Even hunger pangs at regular meal times are brought down to 40% of what they used to be before.
Calories can come from a variety of sources, including carbohydrates and lipids, but if you replace them with whey protein and train with weights, you could see an increase in your lean muscle mass.
So, how much of whey protein?
What is recommended is 25-50 grams a day. This translates to 1-2 scoops of the whey protein supplement. It is suggested that your intake be right after training. However, you are well advised to follow the instructions mentioned on the label. The effect may be minimal if your diet is already rich in protein, negating the need for a whey protein supplement in the first place.
Are there any side effects?
It is not true that whey protein increases muscle mass so much that the bones are unable to support it. In fact, you can see several body builders being able to lift heavy weights without sustaining fractures or injuries. Their bones continue to support their increased muscle mass, which is no way insignificant. They do consume a lot of protein, whey protein included. Research supports whey protein as protecting against osteoporosis, in which the bones become weak and/or brittle.
Whey protein does not damage your kidneys or liver if they are healthy. If you have medical problems concerning your liver or kidneys, it is best to check with your doctor before starting on whey protein supplements.
There is also a problem with consuming too much whey protein, or if you use it as an energy substitute for regular meals - you could end up experiencing digestion-related problems like diarrhea and/or flatulence. Sometimes you may even have to deal with nausea, pain and/or cramping of the muscles. It may only be after consuming whey protein supplements for the first time that people realize they are allergic to it. For those who are lactose-intolerant, Concentrate is to be avoided. Isolate and Hydrolysate may both be tried to find out which works best for your body.
But generally speaking, whey protein is considered as a 'safe' supplement.
Is there a problem if you consume whey protein supplements to increase your protein/energy intake but do not expend that energy by doing weight/resistance training or exercise?
Probably yes. Your exact protein requirements are best known only to you. If you are not sure of how much protein you need in a single day, you can always calculate this by using tools that are available on the internet. You can then factor in how many calories are provided by your diet. Even if you come up short, a whey protein supplement may not be the solution. You might want to consider increasing the amount of protein-rich food in your diet instead.
Is whey protein the right supplement for you? There are really no hard and fast answers for this one. If you have no known history of medical problems and are actively engaged in regular, strenuous exercise, then yes. But it would definitely be worthwhile checking up with your doctor if you currently suffer from any medical problems or have a medical history. Remember that whey protein is only a supplement – it is not a cure for anything, neither is it to treated as a medicinal drug. The last thing you want is for it to counteract with your existing medication.