We all know that protein is indispensable when it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass while training.
It is a vital macronutrient and plays a key role in muscle recovery, repair, and growth. That is why a lot of bodybuilders and athletes use protein supplements to boost their gains when exercising.
There are a lot of different protein supplements made from various sources, like milk, meat, plants and grains, but the most prolific and researched one is whey protein powder.
So what exactly is whey protein? Is this type of protein good for you and what are its benefits and side effects? How is whey protein powder made, how do you use it and when do you take it?
We answer all of these questions and many others, including whether whey protein is good for weight loss and not just muscle building.
General: What Whey Protein Is and What It Does
What Is It?
Whey protein is a high-quality protein naturally found in milk products.
Milk is actually comprised of 20% whey and 80% casein, which makes whey the “watery portion” of milk. It is derived from that watery portion and is mainly a by-product of cheese, but sometimes casein and yoghurt production as well.
What Does Whey Protein Do?
It does what every other protein does – it is used for building and maintaining your muscles along with other tissues in your body, helping it function optimally.
You can read our general information guide on protein – Protein Powder Supplements Guide: Info, Uses and Side Effects.
How It’s Made:
When cheese manufacturers produce cheese, all the fatty parts of the milk coagulate and whey is separated from that milk in liquid form as a by-product. After that separation process, this liquid whey is then pasteurized and dried into a powder for various uses, mainly to become whey protein.
If you want to learn the complete and in-depth manufacturing process, you ought to check out the whey processing process here.
However, whey can be denatured by heat. Specifically, sustained high temperatures above 72 °C during the pasteurization process can denature whey proteins, which can make this type of protein become very hard to recognize by the body as a food source, consequently causing allergies, digestion problems, and other side effects in some people.
That is why it is of paramount importance that when you pick a whey supplement, you choose one from a respected and trusted manufacturer that uses proper manufacturing techniques and processes that do not denature the protein!
Classification: Four Major Types
Whey protein usually comes in four major forms called Concentrate, Isolate, Hydrolysate and Native Whey.
Concentrates have low levels of fat and cholesterol but relatively high levels of carbs in the form of lactose. They are generally 29%–89% of protein by weight and are not recommended for people who are lactose-intolerant.
It is the cheapest option and retains most of the nutrients naturally found in whey.
Isolates are fat and lactose-free and are generally 90%+ protein by weight. This is the recommended alternative for lactose-intolerant people and those who want a fast-acting protein.
Hydrolysates are whey proteins that are predigested and partially hydrolyzed for the purpose of easier absorption and metabolizing. They are less allergenic and thus recommended for those with digestion problems and allergies.
However, it causes a 28-43% greater spike in insulin levels than Whey Isolate and is the most expensive type of protein, because of the added manufacturing costs.
Native whey protein is the purest form of whey protein powder that is extracted from skim milk and is not a byproduct of cheese production. It is free from ingredients that tend to disrupt digestive health and interfere with protein absorption and comes in Concentrate and Isolate forms.
It is also much more expensive than regular whey products.
Finally, all of the whey protein comes from bovines and the biggest difference between them is whether they are grain or grass fed.
Protein sources coming from grass-fed cows tend to be far healthier than their grain-fed counterparts, and their meat and milk products are becoming increasingly popular due to people realizing the extremely harmful effects of consuming foods raised on antibiotics, steroids, and various grains.
So what is Whey Protein good for? Why is this type of protein much better and more frequently used than the rest?
Whey protein includes all of the Essential Amino Acids is exceptionally high in BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) including Leucine, which is the most important amino acid in stimulating muscle synthesis.
Whey is also considered a fast protein source because it digests fairly quickly in your body when compared to other types of protein. It causes a rapid increase in amino acid levels in your body and thus is ideal for post-workouts.
Beyond just muscle, strength and leanness that this muscle-building shake provides, here are the other benefits it has over other protein sources:
- Lowers Blood Pressure, Stress, Depression, and Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
- Lowers Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Levels
- Fights Cancer and Improves Immune System
- Helps with Weight Loss
- Raises levels of Glutathione, the main antioxidant substance in the body.
These are just some of the many benefits of whey protein!
If you’ve decided that this product is just what you need, you can find the best available ones at 5 Best Whey Protein Powders.
The Side Effects of Whey Protein Powder
Now that we’ve answered the question of “Is Whey Protein Good for You?” we can start talking about the side effects.
First of all, all of its side effects are brought on by over-consumption, which is why you always need to follow the recommended dosage instructions on the manufacturer’s label carefully and never consume more than your body needs!
Consuming too much of this protein can cause digestive issues such as nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, pain and cramping of the stomach. However, this is mostly associated with the lactose found in whey and the possible artificial sweeteners that are present in supplements.
Severe over-consumption can also lead to liver damage as your body won’t be able to process the excess amount.
For healthy adults, it is entirely safe to use when ingesting only as much as your body needs.
Those who have frequent and very intensive workouts need more of this macronutrients than those who only exercise infrequently or do not exercise at all.
Firstly, some protein drinks are highly processed and heated to the point where the protein is denatured and is nearly impossible for the body to recognize and appropriately use. This can result in higher toxicity and levels of acidity in your body and can cause many unnecessary side effects.
That is why it is of extreme importance that you only consume supplements made by respected and trusted manufacturers who produce their products in proper laboratories with appropriate certification using the right processes.
Secondly, you always need to stay very well hydrated when using such supplements; otherwise, your body might enter a state known as ketoacidosis.
This state is basically the buildup of ketones bodies in your system caused by excessive protein intake, which lowers your body’s pH to dangerously low levels. As your kidneys work to rid your body of these toxic ketones, you can lose a significant amount of water, which puts you at risk of dehydration, particularly if you exercise heavily.
So it’s crucial that you stay properly hydrated because we all know how dangerous dehydration is, especially while training!
Thirdly, some people may be allergic to whey protein and certain people with pre-existing conditions like kidney and liver disease should always consult a medical professional first, before consuming any protein supplements.
Finally, pregnant women, people under 18 and the elderly should completely avoid using this type of supplement, unless specified by a doctor or physician.
Here are the various usage instructions for this type of protein supplement.
Drink It With:
You can consume this supplement with water, milk (whole or skim) or juice, depending on your personal taste and preference.
However, please keep in mind that while consuming it with milk or juice is a much better-tasting alternative; it will significantly increase the calories in your drink. So if you’re someone who uses this supplement with the goal of weight-loss, you might want to consider using it only with plain water.
You might also want to use a shaker cup or blender to mix the protein properly and make it much easier to ingest.
When to Take Whey Protein:
Since Whey Protein is quickly digested, the best time to take it is after an intense workout session, to maximize the repair and recovery of muscle tissue.
For optimum results, it is generally recommended that you take it within the 15 to 30-minute window after a training session because that is precisely when your muscles react to it the most. It is, of course, effective when taken later, but the effects will be diminished.
How Much To Take:
The most commonly recommended dosage by manufacturers is around 1-2 scoops per day, amounting to about 25-50 grams of protein. However, it is too broad and doesn’t consider the needs of most serious or professional athletes.
That’s why we recommend you use the following formula, which is backed by clinical trials:
• 0.75 g protein/kg of body weight if you’re a healthy adult who does little to no exercise.
• 1-1.5 g protein/kg of body weight if you’re a healthy adult or athlete who exercises moderately.
• 1.5-2.5 g protein/kg body weight if you’re a serious or professional bodybuilder, or have very intensive workouts and want massive gains.
Keep in mind that if your daily protein intake is already sufficiently high from the food that you eat throughout the day – you might not necessarily even want or need to supplement it with a protein shake at all!
That’s because taking more protein than your body needs or can handle can cause some health issues and make you fat instead!
It’s why we always recommend that you only use protein if you need it and not as a food substitute, because there is nothing better than a balanced and healthy diet!
Does Whey Make You Fat? – Explained
Whey does not make you fat, in fact, it does the exact opposite and significantly helps you shed body fat!
First of all, since protein is the most filling macronutrient, it suppresses your appetite in general. And studies show that Whey Protein is more effective at suppressing it than some other types of protein because it contains glycomacropeptide, which is a peptide that stimulates CKK (cholecystokinin) – a hormone that signals satiety.
Next, whey is an excellent source of Leucine, the most important branched-chain amino acids for building muscle and stimulating the oxidation of fatty acids – a process which requires substantial fuel, burning extra calories per day
Consequently, consuming whey protein is proven to help you lose weight and maintain your muscle mass – providing your body with better muscle definition.
Five Natural Whey Protein Shake Ideas That Will Help Your Progress
Here are some great-tasting Whey Protein Shake ideas that will help you progress with your training goals.
Put everything in a blender and mix it up until you get a smooth and delicious drink!
Chocolate Berry Blast:
- One and a half cups frozen berries – Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries and so on, even Cherries!
- Two tablespoons of cacao nibs
- One teaspoon Cocoa Powder (Low Fat or Regular)
- One cup unsweetened almond milk
- A scoop or two of Whey Powder of your choice
- One Ripe Avocado
- One or Two Ripe Bananas
- A Tablespoon of Peanut Butter
- A cup of Skim or Whole Milk
- Your Choice of Whey Protein
- One Ripe Avocado
- One Ripe Banana
- One Tablespoon of Honey
- One or Two cups of Orange Juice
- Half a Cup of Low-Fat Plain Green Yoghurt
- Two Cups Ice
- A scoop or two of the Protein Powder of your choice
- A Cup of Almond Milk
- One Banana
- One Ripe Mango
- Half a Grated Carrot
- A cup of Ice Cubes
- Whey Protein of your choice
- One Cup Water
- One Cup Kale
- One Cup Cucumber
- One Cup Pear
- A tablespoon of lime or lemon juice
- Quarter Cup of Ground-Up Tree Nuts (peanuts, pecan nuts, walnuts, cashew, etc.)
- A Scoop or Two of whatever protein you have
Protein is widely hailed as the king of all nutrients and whey is considered to be the best of all the possible types.
The benefits are too many to ignore, the price is right, and the side effects are non-existent. That is exactly why it is the most popular supplement in the workout industry, used by both beginners and professional athletes alike.
That said, whey protein may not be for everyone, and if you’re more interested in the regular variety – check out 10 Best Protein Powders – and for women, check out 10 Best Protein Powder Supplements for Women.
So what’s your personal experience with whey protein? Do you think it’s superior to other types of protein? We’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below!
When it comes to muscle gains, maintenance, and fat loss, you can’t go wrong with a whey protein supplement.