What is whey protein?
When cows are milked, there is a sort of cream that floats on top. This is where whey protein comes from (that’s what Ms. Muffat was eating with her curds). It is the only whey source; it doesn’t come from anywhere else, except of course other animals that you can get milk from, like goats. This is also why there is no such thing as vegan whey protein powder or a true non-dairy whey protein.
Why do people take it?
There are various reasons to take whey but ultimately it is a an efficient source of protein. I will discuss some of the reasons to use it in the questions below.
Is whey a high quality source of protein?
Arguably one of the best, actually. The protein in whey, like all animal products, is ‘complete.’ This means that it contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies require. In addition, and the reason that many people use it over others, is that is particularly high in 3 key amino acids; leucine, isoleucine and valine.1 While it takes all 20 amino acids to build human protein, these 3 are particularly important.
How does it compare to other proteins?
Many proteins come in the form of microscopic “balls. Whey is more like a long string, but again, microscopic. This makes a difference in how quickly your body can absorb the protein because your digestive juices have to break these down. When a molecule is shaped like a ball, it has to be broken down, layer by layer; like an onion. Proteins that are shaped like strings can be attacked from all side by digestive enzymes and thus broken down more quickly. Also, as I mentioned above, it contains larger amounts of the main ‘ingredients’ of muscle tissue.
How can it help people gain weight and build muscle?
Of all the proteins out there, whey is most similar to actual muscle tissue and so can most easily be used to build it. Besides, if you are trying to build muscle, you need plenty of protein and so, supplementation with whey is a great choice. That being said, you have to be exercising too or you won’t be gaining any muscle.
In terms of gaining weight (assuming any weight will do), it may not be the best choice. When it comes to weight gain, protein intake is still important, but a more critical issue is caloric intake. You would have to consume an awful lot of whey to get the calories you’d need to gain weight. That being said, it can help you gain muscle, which is of course, added weight. But a whey weight gainer is sort of an oxymoron.
How does protein help us build muscle?
All protein can help build muscle because it is literally what muscle is made of. When you exercise, particularly lifting weights, you create microscopic tears in your muscles. Your body, seeing the damage, repairs them with ‘patches’ of protein, just like you’d repair a tear in the walls in your house with some putty. These ‘patches’ are slightly larger than the tear, which means that the muscle is a tiny bit bigger.
Whey protein and weight loss. Does it burn belly fat?
Whey protein is a great tool for weight loss but doesn’t exactly cause weight loss.2 The reason someone would use it for weight loss is to ensure they are getting enough protein as well as replacing carbs or fats with it. It turns out that weight loss is most easily attained with diets that are high in protein but low in carbs. Using whey can help one to accomplish these because it is naturally low in fat, low in carbs and high in protein but does not itself burn any fat.
Can it help people with type 2 diabetes?
Research says so!3 Diabetes is the result of someone being unable to process sugar correctly. Like all protein types, whey has no effect on blood sugar but when consumed in combination with low carbs, your body gets the nutrition it needs to function but without a change in blood sugar or the negative effects of NOT being able to process sugars properly.
What are some of the side effects it may cause? – Who should not take it?
There are no side-effects of whey protein for people, aside from those associated with allergies. It is entirely possible to be allergic to whey, especially if you allergic to milk, but other than that, its harmless. If there are any ‘side effects’ of whey (aside from the allergy issue), they only include disease prevention.4