It’s safe to say the majority of the population has heard of, or at one point had a protein shake, and chances are extremely high that what you consumed was whey protein!
But what exactly is whey protein? And who should be consuming it? Let’s find out!
What is Whey Protein?
Whey itself is what a by-product of cheese making is. Once the milk has rennet added to it, it causes it to curdle and create curd lumps. Whatever is left over as liquid, is whey! Doesn’t sound too appealing, eh? Don’t worry – it’s the normal process.
The whey that is left over is packed with protein and minerals and, when in its original form – a lot of lactose. However, most, if not all of whey protein is delactated slightly or almost completely. This whey is then dried out and processed into powdered form where separation of the fat and lactose can occur to create different types of powdered whey.
For example: Powdered baby milk is almost all whey but has quite a lot of its lactose and fats left in for a baby’s development, but those in the fitness industry are concerned with gains and gains need pure protein!
Types of Whey Protein
There are 3 main types of whey protein we have in the sports industry: Concentrate, Isolate and Hydrolysate.
Let’s take a look at the differences…
Whey Protein Concentrate is commonly the most used type of Whey protein powder. It’s the lowest price gram for gram compared to the 2 other sources as it generally has a lower protein content – usually between 60-80% but sometimes as high as 89%!
It has the highest lactose (5-10%) and fat (1-3%) content out of the 3 sources too. The lactose and fats make concentrate protein shakes thicker and creamier when drinking too – which a lot of people prefer!
Whey Protein Isolate has a higher protein content than Whey Concentrate and can be as high as 96% protein. It achieves this through an ultra-filtration process which filters out even more of the fat and lactose content from the original whey.
A lot of people with minor lactose intolerances find they can consume Whey Isolate due to its significantly lower lactose content. The lower fat and lactose content means that whey isolate has an increased absorption rate too, making it ideal for post-training consumption!
Whey Protein Hydrolysate is the newest form of Whey Protein. Whey Hydrolysate is made by breaking down the protein molecules into even smaller molecules to allow them to be absorbed at the fastest rate currently possible – so for optimum absorption Whey Hydrolysate is the king of Whey.
However – as you can imagine, it’s also the most expensive.
Benefits of Whey Protein
✓ Muscle recovery and repair
Whey is almost completely made up of amino acids, especially whey that has little or no lactose and fats in it. This makes it high in BCAA’s and in turn can contribute to the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass.
✓ Muscle Growth Maintenance
Protein itself is the building blocks of muscle. Without sufficient protein intake, it’s impossible to build muscle and in some cases maintain the muscle you have built. If your main goal is hypertrophy of any kind, protein is essential to support this.
✓ Satiating – really fills you up!
Protein itself as a macronutrient is the most satiating compared to carbs and fats calorie for calorie. Studies have also shown that protein shakes themselves can be highly satiating compared to whole meals, similar to a soup consumption effect.
When to take Whey Protein?
It is a wise idea to consume a complete meal before your workout for fuel – however, the inclusion of Protein pre-workout is a sensible option to take! Exercise will start the breakdown of amino acids and muscle fibers so the carry over effect of your pre-workout meal will minimize this effect during your workout. Protein will also slow the digestion time of carbs causing a more sustained release of energy during your workout, making sure you don’t crash half way through.
Studies have shown that protein is needed post workout to maximize recovery and MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis). Although the “anabolic window” is a bit exaggerated, consuming protein post workout does seem to yield the best results.
Combine Whey Protein with carbohydrates to enhance slightly more than protein alone post-workout.
How much? Between 3.5-5g of Leucine which is roughly 30-50g depending on your source of whey protein.
Whey Protein Snacks
Whey protein is a great product to create healthy, ideal snacks that allow blood amino acid levels to elevate during the day! In addition, throwing in some protein-based snacks into your diet will ensure you hit your daily protein intake – which can sometimes be hard. Either consume simply as a shake or combine with other healthy ingredients to make high protein snacks, desserts and baked treats.
We have a vast amount of high protein recipes on The Zone so check them out and get creative in the kitchen!
How much protein per day?
This brings us onto the last question – how much protein, in general, should you be consuming a day? It totally depends on your goal but for most sports enthusiasts, around 0.8-1g per lb of body weight is sufficient.
I hope you found this article insightful, please feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts or other questions you might have!