What is whey protein?
Whey protein is the ultimate source of protein. It is the highest quality protein. Whey protein is a rich source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and out of all of the proteins, it can be absorbed the fastest by the body.
Whey protein is one of 2 types of protein derived from milk (the other is casein protein). When cheese is made from milk, the whey is separated from the casein and collected. The whey contains only 3% whey protein.
With the help of elaborate filtration methods, the lactose (milk sugar) and milk fat are removed and the water is removed. The end result is whey protein in different quality and with different protein content.
Whey protein is easily digestible and has a biological value of 104, which means that it can be directly converted into the body's own proteins in the human body. The first amino acids enter the blood just 30 minutes after ingestion.
Whey protein in foods
Whey protein is found in all dairy products where the whey was not removed during the production. However, only a very small amount of whey protein is contained in these foods. Milk, whey drinks and yogurt contain small amounts of whey protein. When making cheese, the whey is removed, which is why it contains no whey protein.
What types of whey proteins are there?
There are 2 main types of whey protein, whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.
Whey protein concentrate contains little fat and has a high biological value. Whey protein concentrate has a protein content of at least 75%.
Whey protein isolate is whey in its purest form with the highest biological value. In a complex manufacturing process, whey protein isolate almost completely removes fat and lactose. Usually more than 90% of the weight of whey protein isolate is pure protein.
Whey protein powders are generally divided into 3 categories. Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate and whey protein mixtures.
- Whey protein concentrate powderis the cheapest, but contains the highest levels of fat and lactose.
- Whey protein isolate powder has the highest protein content and is practically free of carbohydrates (lactose) and fat. Whey protein isolate is generally more expensive than the concentrate.
- Whey protein blends is the preferred whey protein powder for many people. As the name suggests, these products combine whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate into a high quality product with an excellent amino acid profile and a good price.
Whey protein effect
Because whey protein contains all of the amino acids that are available in the body immediately after ingestion, it ensures
- faster muscle building
- shorter recovery times and faster muscle regeneration
- decreased muscle loss after exercise
- accelerated metabolism
At the same time, cellular and hormonal processes are favored and the immune system is positively influenced. In addition, whey protein has a role as an antioxidant and can thus counteract cell aging and susceptibility to certain diseases.
Proteins are removed from the body during intensive training phases and as part of a diet. This increased consumption can be compensated very effectively with whey protein.
Many nutrition experts recommend taking whey protein as part of the normal diet, regardless of training or diet. The blood sugar level is stabilized, more energy is made available and fat burning is stimulated.
Biological significance of whey protein as compared to other protein sources
The biological value measures the efficiency of a protein and evaluates how it can be absorbed and used by the body for growth. The higher the number, the higher the efficiency.
It is a commonly used term in bodybuilding and one used to classify whey protein. Egg protein sets the standard of biological value at 100. For example, the value of beef is 75. However, the biological value of whey protein can be up to 170 depending on the quality.
Who can benefit from whey protein?
Whey protein is traditionally used by bodybuilders and athletes because it promotes muscle building. In new scientific studies, however, whey protein is also used in other areas.
Some of these include weight loss, cancer treatment, wound healing and seniors. Practically everyone can benefit from taking whey protein because it boosts the immune system and increases the performance.
People with high protein needs get the most benefit from taking whey protein. These include:
- Bodybuilders and people who do weight training
- Endurance athletes
- People who are just starting strength or weight training
- People who want to lose weight
Which is the right whey protein for you?
There are two factors to consider when choosing the right whey protein powder: price and quality. As indicated above, there are 3 main types of whey protein available:
- Whey Protein Isolate - the purest form of whey protein
- Whey protein concentrate - not so pure, contains a little more fat and lactose
- Whey Protein Mixtures - Isolate and concentrate in one formula
1. Whey protein isolate
The following applies: the purer and higher quality a product is, the more it costs. Therefore, whey protein isolate is the most expensive form of whey protein. But you get something for your money: pure whey protein isolate contains practically no fat, carbohydrates (lactose).
It is the highest quality protein that gives you the most protein per gram with the least calories. So if you have enough money at your disposal, whey protein isolate is the best quality protein.
Advantages of whey protein isolate:
- purest form of whey protein available
- fat-free, lactose-free, carbohydrate-free
- excellent amino acid profile
- more protein per gram
- ideal for building muscles and burning fat
Disadvantages of Whey Protein Isolate:
- more expensive than concentrate & mixtures
2. Whey protein concentrate
Although whey protein concentrate is not filtered as much as whey protein isolate, it is still of a very high quality with a very good amino acid profile. Since whey protein concentrate is not as heavily filtered as isolate, it means that you get a little less protein per gram of powder and the calorie content is often higher.
This can be beneficial for someone who wants to gain weight. Someone who wants to lose weight or is preparing for a competition could have a problem with that.
The difference is usually 15% per gram. A 30g serving of whey protein isolate contains 25g protein and 105 calories, while the same amount of concentrate contains 21g protein and 130 calories.
Advantages of whey protein concentrate:
- cheap price
- high amino acid content
- well suited for building muscles
Disadvantages of whey protein concentrate:
- contains more fat and carbohydrates than whey protein isolate
- more calories per serving from fat
3. Whey protein blends
Now you will probably think that the selection is black or white, high quality whey protein at a higher price or lower quality whey protein at a low price. BUT: there is a middle!
As the name suggests, whey protein mixtures are mixtures of whey protein isolate and concentrate. The manufacturers of nutritional supplements have found a good middle ground between price and quality.
However, not all protein mixtures are the same. Some contain more isolate than concentrate and vice versa. You can determine this by looking at the ingredients. The protein source specified first is the protein source with the higher content in the product. This is good to know if you have to choose a whey protein powder. Of all the protein powders available, whey protein blends are the most popular.
Advantages of whey protein mixtures:
- Mixture of whey protein isolate and concentrate
- Great price/performance ratio
- Excellent amino acid profile
- Less fat/carbohydrates/lactose than whey protein concentrate
- Many different brands to choose from
Disadvantages of whey protein mixtures:
- more fat/carbohydrates/lactose than whey protein isolate
- some blends contain a lot of whey protein concentrate
Dosage of whey protein
Whey protein is especially recommended in the morning after getting up and also immediately after training sessions. The body is particularly receptive to proteins at both times.
The daily requirement is heavily dependent on the respective training goal.
- For non-athletes, the intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is enough.
- Fitness and leisure athletes already need 1.2 grams per kilo of body weight.
- Advanced athletes need 1.5g per kilogram of body weight.
- Competitive athletes need 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
- High-performance athletes need about 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.
As a rule of thumb, a recommended dose of 25 to 30 grams can be assumed with a balanced and normal training. A higher intake hardly makes any sense. Because the body needs a certain time for recovery and conversion into amino acids and the positive effect of the amount that can't be used within a certain time is lost. An amount of up to 30 grams per serving can, however, be easily used by the body.
Taking water instead of milk is more beneficial for the recovery of whey protein, because milk delays the digestive process and thus the absorption and recovery.
Whey protein side effects
The effect of whey protein on the body has been extensively investigated and can be regarded as positive and harmless. Side effects are not expected within the recommended doses.
Especially in phases that are characterized by a general protein deficiency, as is the case in high-training phases or as part of a diet, the supply of valuable protein can ensure a complete supply of the organism and thus counteract the risk of a deficiency.
In addition to the tasks of protein in terms of rapid, healthy muscle building, numerous other biological functions are favored, strengthened and appropriately controlled. The entire metabolism therefore works better, internal processes are positively influenced, the energy supply is ensured and the immune system is also strengthened.
Depending on the product, there may be corresponding reactions if hypersensitivity to milk protein and lactose is present. These can be eliminated by changing the product to a lactose-free whey protein.
Taken in the optimal dosage and sensible, depending on the life processes and training units, spread over the day, the whey protein makes an important as well as noticeable contribution to the sovereign achievement of training goals, with a high level of well-being and good overall health. This is unanimously confirmed by nutrition experts.
Whey protein production
Whey protein is made from whey, a product that comes from making cheese. The prerequisite for the production of a high-quality whey protein is the reduction of the high natural milk sugar content and the simultaneous production of the purest possible protein.
Depending on the exact production process, either the protein concentrate or the protein isolate is now available.
While the concentrate a protein content of 75 to 85 percent with a fat content of 3 to 4 percent and a lactose content of 3 to 6 percentthe isolate has a protein content of 90 percent with a milk sugar content of less than 1 percent.
The reduction in milk sugar above all ensures better digestibility. A so-called ion exchange process is used as the production process, in which the charge of the protein is first chemically changed, as a result of which the protein binds, in a very pure form, to special substances.
The isolate can also be produced using a micro-filtration process in which the use of special ceramic filters prevents the raw material from coming into contact with the chemicals involved.
For the consumer, both manufacturing processes can be distinguished by the names 'Ion-Exchanged Whey Protein' and 'Micro-filtered Whey Protein'.
Frequently asked questions about whey protein
- Can I combine whey protein with other supplements?
Yes, of course. Whey protein even goes very well with a lot of nutritional supplements. Some examples are creatine, glutamine or a fat burner.
- How much protein should i take?
How much protein you need depends on your body weight, training level and goals. All people are different. Bodybuilders generally consume between 2 to 4 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight per day.
- When is the best time to take whey protein?
When you should take whey protein depends on your goals. Whey protein is easy to digest, so it is ideal if you need protein quickly. The most popular times for taking whey are right after getting up, after sports or exercising and before exercising. Whey can also be mixed with casein protein and taken as a meal replacement between meals.
- Does whey protein help me lose weight?
Adding whey protein to your diet is a great way to speed up fat burning. Whey protein is an important ingredient in many weight loss products and whey protein isolate (without fat or carbohydrates) is often the preferred choice.
Studies have shown that people who fortify their diet with protein-rich foods (such as whey protein) and exercise regularly build up more lean muscles while burning more body fat. As you lose fat, your metabolism speeds up, which naturally causes you to burn more calories a day. Whey protein also supports weight loss by making you feel satiated.
- Which is better, whey protein or casein protein?
Whey protein has the highest biological value and is the protein with the highest BCAAs content. That means, it is superior to all other types of protein in building muscles, burning fat and promoting overall health.
However, casein protein is also justified. Casein protein is absorbed by the body much more slowly (up to 7 hours). This means that it is an ideal 'night' protein, which is taken before bedtime. Bodybuilders and professional athletes have been using casein as a long-term protein for decades, which repairs and builds muscle tissue during sleep.
- Is whey protein suitable for vegetarians?
Absolutely. Whey protein is an ideal source of protein for lacto-vegetarians who also consume dairy products.
- Is whey protein easily digestible?
Whey protein is a highly soluble, easily digestible protein. It is quickly absorbed by the body and provides important essential amino acids, which are needed to supply muscles and other body tissues. This is one of the reasons why it is often an ingredient in baby foods and protein building foods in the medical field.
- Can whey protein harm my kidneys?
Bodybuilders often consume up to 500g of protein per day for several months - even years. There is no scientific evidence that this high protein intake leads to kidney problems. In other studies, animals that consumed a lot of protein for more than half of their lives showed no kidney damage.
A high protein intake can only be risky for people with impaired kidney function or kidney disease. In healthy people, the main problem with increased protein intake is dehydration, since a lot of water is needed to metabolize protein. You can avoid this by drinking at least 2 liters of water a day.
A new study looked at the effect of increased protein intake on health markers in 20 healthy, resistance- trained men. Participants took 3 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, 3.6 times the recommended daily allowance. After 28 days, the researchers concluded that the high daily protein intake had no undesirable or negative side effects on the immune system or kidney and liver function, and did not cause ketosis or dehydration, and was therefore safe for short-term daily use.