The Complete Guide to Whey Protein
One of the most commonly purchased supplements today is whey protein. Why? Because it is used to help recover from intense training sessions and supports lean muscle tissue growth.
Unfortunately, other than those two key points, not many people understand the full benefits of whey protein, the reason why it is a highly recommended supplement, and the different types of whey protein available.
In this complete guide to whey protein, we will uncover everything about this incredibly beneficial supplement so that you better understand why you should be using whey protein and can make a more informed buying decision.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is actually a byproduct of cheesemaking production. When producing cheese, a liquid portion is formed called whey and then a thicker portion called curds. As shocking as it may seem, before whey protein was understood as being beneficial, cheesemakers would throw it away and discard it. Today, it makes for one of the best-selling supplements on the market.
The whey liquid is pulled from the cheese production and is pasteurized and dried into a powder form. What you are left with is a finished product called whey protein powder that is used in items such as protein powders, protein RTDs, and protein bars.
What Types of Whey Protein Are Available?
“Whey protein” is often used loosely. There are a few different types of whey protein that all have different properties and quality. Will all of them work to suit your needs? Most likely, yes.
Below are the three sources of whey protein that we should all be familiar with and how they differ from one to another.
Whey Protein Concentrate
The first of the whey protein sources is the most commonly used and consumed — whey protein concentrate (WPC). Whey protein concentrate is found in almost all blended protein powders and is a basic yet inexpensive form of protein.
WPC is a fairly fast-digesting and complete protein source but sits somewhere in the middle of this list regarding how quickly it is digested and absorbed. Whey protein concentrate is generally digested within 30 minutes of consumption.
While not the highest quality of the protein sources on the list, whey protein concentrate is a great place to start if you are just getting into weight training or if you are on a tight budget.
It should be noted that due to whey protein concentrate not being of the highest quality, some users may experience some minor bloating and gas due to their body not being able to easily digest the lactose found in this particular source of protein.
If you want a blended protein supplement to help meet your protein requirements, check out Evogen Nutrition Evofusion, which not only tastes amazing but provides you with a premium sustained protein matrix.
Whey Protein Isolate
If you were to look specifically at the digestibility of various protein sources, whey protein isolate (WPI) would be a step above whey protein concentrate. WPI is not only a higher quality protein but also digests better and faster than WPC.
Users have found that the digestion issues commonly associated with whey protein concentrate are not there when using a whey protein isolate. This tends to be due to the reduction of lactose in the protein source (those with lactose sensitivities may find they are better able to use whey protein isolate).
Whey protein isolate is high in amino acids (especially the amino acid Leucine, which is extremely important for building quality lean muscle mass) while being extremely low in carbohydrates, sugars, and fat.
If you’re looking for a high-quality whey protein isolate that tastes amazing, check out Evogen Nutrition IsoJect. This ultra-pure whey isolate is available in more than 10 delicious flavors.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
Of all the whey protein sources out there on the market, whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) is the most expensive as well as being the highest quality. Whey protein hydrolysate is the fastest digesting protein on the list and, again, if looking at what was already mentioned, is a step above both WPC and WPI.
Whey protein hydrolysate provides users with highly absorbable peptides, which can have a positive anabolic effect to help enhance their muscle growth potential. WPH is highly concentrated and is the easiest to break down and absorb by the body.
While somewhat uncommon to find a straight whey protein hydrolysate powder, more times than not, you’ll find WPH as part of a blended protein powder containing multiple protein sources.
What are the Benefits of Whey Protein?
There are many benefits to supplementing with whey protein. Below is a list of the benefits to show the versatility of whey protein supplements and help you better understand exactly what can be gained by using a whey protein powder.
1. Build Muscle
One of the biggest reasons for using a whey protein is to build muscle. Studies have shown that you can achieve greater gains in lean muscle mass by utilizing protein supplements. Protein is the building block of muscle, and therefore by increasing your protein intake through the use of something like whey protein, you can see improved muscle growth.
2. Prevent Muscle Loss
A concern many people have is muscle loss. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to build quality muscle — the last thing you want is to lose your gains. You may see a loss of muscle mass due to injury, lack of activity, or even due to putting yourself in a caloric deficit trying to burn body fat. Overall, the use of whey protein has been found to help prevent muscle loss.
3. Improve Recovery
Your ability to recover can mean the difference between getting the results you desire and spinning your wheels. Research has found that amino acids that are broken down by their specific protein source, such as whey protein, can help improve post-workout recovery. By speeding up the recovery process, not only can you experience gains in lean mass, but it will allow you to get back in the gym and continue training harder due to your muscles being fully recovered.
4. Increase Strength
It is said that a bigger muscle is capable of lifting heavier weight — and that statement isn’t false. Along with helping to build muscle, the use of protein supplements has been shown to increase muscle strength. The ability to build muscle and strength is never a bad thing and should be something everyone strives to achieve, especially as we age.
5. Maintain Health
Overall, health is vital to all of us. There are several factors to look at and consider when it comes to the maintenance of health and how protein plays a role. By increasing your protein intake, you can lower your risk for osteoporosis and maintain bone health as you age gracefully. Additionally, one study found that a high-protein diet was able to lower blood pressure as well as lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
6. Boost Immunity
Your immune system is what helps keep you free from illness and disease. To increase your immunity, it has been found that whey protein can increase glutathione levels. Glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant that seeks out and destroys free radicals and helps prevent oxidation that can cause cells to be destroyed or mutate — ultimately causing disease and illnesses to creep in.
7. Enhance Fat Burning
When it comes to weight loss and effectively burning body fat, whey protein can play a crucial role. One benefit to using whey protein is that it can help boost satiety and allow you to feel fuller throughout the day. This may prevent you from overeating, snacking, and diminish your appetite. Then there is something called the thermic effect of food. Essentially, what this means is how much energy is required to break down and use the macronutrient. Protein has a much higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates and fat. Therefore, the use of whey protein can help boost metabolic rate and allow you to burn more calories each day.
How Much Protein Do You Need Per Day?
If you exercise regularly, your needs are slightly different from those who live a sedentary lifestyle. Being that you’re reading this article, we can assume that you are physically active and do some sort of weight training.
In order to recover properly and help rebuild and repair torn-down muscle fibers from resistance training, you’re going to want to be somewhere between the recommended intake of 0.7-1.0g of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you’re going to want to take in anywhere from 140-200g of protein per day.
When is the Best Time to Use Whey Protein Supplements?
First and foremost, a whey protein supplement should never be used to replace real food meals. However, if you find yourself struggling to hit your daily protein requirements, a whey protein supplement can be incredibly helpful.
So, when is the best time to use whey protein supplements? It’s simple — whenever you need to increase your protein intake.
You can use a whey protein supplement upon waking with your breakfast, you can use it between meals for added protein and to stay satiated, you can use it pre-workout, post-workout, and even before bed if needed.
The short answer is… Anytime.
It should be noted that many assume you need to consume protein immediately after your workout to spark the recovery process during your “anabolic window” of opportunity. Research has found that such a window is much longer than the 45 minutes we have all come to believe over the years. As long as you consume protein within 24 hours of your workout, you can achieve the recovery benefits.
Do You Need a Mass Gainer or Can You Use Whey?
In an effort to put on massive size, many turn to mass gainers. When looking at mass gainers, you need to be very specific regarding what you use. Unfortunately, many mass gainers are loaded with sugars, carbs, and fat to increase the overall calories. This is actually counterproductive. While you want to increase your calories to help add size, the use of sugars, high carbs, and fat can cause you to put on body fat in the process. The goal should be to minimize fat gain while bulking so that you don’t need to do endless hours of cardio to burn off the fat mass you put on.
Evogen Nutrition Super Huge is an ideal mass gainer to suit your needs, as it’s made up of quality ingredients versus throwing a bunch of junk in the profile to send the calories sky-high.
However, many people prefer to make their own gainer by using whey protein and tossing it in a blender with things such as frozen fruit (such as blueberries, bananas, strawberries, and raspberries), oats, yogurt, natural peanut butter, ice cubes, and more to suit their needs and tastes. The nice thing about making your own mass gainer using whey protein is that you have more control over your macros and profile than you do with a premade mass gainer supplement.
Will a High Protein Intake Damage the Kidneys?
The media is great at taking a story and running with their own theory, leaving out key details to fit a particular narrative. For some reason, they have bodybuilders in their crosshairs. But the truth is, unless you have a health condition or disorder that does not allow your body to easily break down protein (or you already have kidney damage), you should be fine consuming a whey protein supplement.
Rather than running with a story that has no scientific backing, we should all trust the actual science that’s out there on the topic instead of conforming to a belief or narrative. The fact of the matter is that studies have been conducted and show that consuming whey protein has no effect on kidney function, liver function, or blood lipids.
Another study has stated that there are “no clear renal-related contraindications to high-protein diets in individuals with healthy kidney function.”
Despite what you may hear on the news, consuming whey protein causes no threat to the health of the kidneys so long as you do not have any pre-existing health condition. That being said, it is still a good idea to speak with your doctor (whether or not you are healthy or have some sort of health condition) before adding any supplements to your nutrition regimen.