Whey protein used to be thought of as just the ultimate tool for a body builder but it’s now become the most common nutritional supplement in the market. Now every health store has a lot of different brands of whey protein on offer.
Whey is usually mixed with water to create protein shakes. Whey is also included in a lot of branded nutrition bars and sports drinks. Whey is great source of protein that is easily broken down and absorbed by the body. This makes whey a great addition to almost any diet and nutritional goals.
Everyone can use whey protein to increase the amount of protein in their diets. From athletes and body builders, to vegetarians, people dieting, and citizens. Athletes and body builders need whey to repair their muscles and help build them after a good workout. It’s great for dieters, vegetarians, and older people because it is a great alternative to fatty meats for protein.
Whey protein has become so ubiquitous that you need to know how whey protein can help and why you should pick it up the next time you go to the store.
The use of Whey and Other Proteins
It’s common knowledge that protein is used by the body to build and repair tissue. It’s a fact that nearly 50% of the human body is composed of proteins. Everything from the muscles and organs in your body, to the hair and fingernails, and even haemoglobin, which your blood contains, is composed of protein.
The body absorbs protein from a number of sources including food. It breaks down the protein and then uses it to create unique proteins that can do a number of things. Protein rebuilds muscle and carries oxygen through your bloodstream. These parts of protein are known as amino acids and these amino acids separate whey protein from other kinds of proteins.
(Also read: Top 10 Whey Protein)
About Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. As a result they are responsible for everything our cells do. Imagine that amino acids are sort of like Lego bricks. You put them together to create something new. This new thing is a protein. After food is taken in the body takes it and converts it into protein. It then converts the protein into the base amino acids.
These amino acids then travel freely throughout the body to the areas that need them most. They combine with the other amino acids they find there to create new protein chains. Overall there are 20 different amino acids that the body needs. So it becomes very critical that you take in a healthy mix of amino acids so that your body has the proteins it needs to create and repair tissue and do everything else protein does.
Luckily the human body is capable of making about half of these essential amino acids. That does mean you need to get the rest of them from your diet. How many of these amino acids are in food depends from food to food.
Food from animals such as meat, dairy and fish have all of these essential amino acids. Plants on the other hand, except for soy, lacks some of these essential amino acids. So this is how whey protein and other supplements help. If you don’t have enough of these amino acids in your diet then whey protein is there to make up the difference.
The Amino Acids in Whey Protein
As whey protein is a derivative of dairy it contains all of the proteins that your body needs. Whey protein is also a source of many branched chain amino acids. Branched chain amino acids are three different types of amino acids that assist the body in creating protein and they are believed to make muscles recover faster.
The way the amino acids are linked in whey protein also makes it much easier to digest. Whey protein is digested and broken down much faster than proteins from other sources like meat and poultry. A full steak can take a good few hours to be processed by the body. On the other hand whey protein can be in the bloodstream in minutes.
These two things; the branched chain amino acids and the speed at which it can be processed, are why whey protein is such a great supplement for athletes and body builders.
The speed at which the amino acids from whey protein enter the bloodstream is the reason it allows muscles to repair with speed and efficiency. All of these benefits come from the dairy that it is derived from, as well as the process used to make whey protein.
So Just Where Does Whey Protein Come From?
Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk. Anyone who has ever tried a glass of milk or eaten yogurt or cheese has had some whey protein. Unfortunately whey, as good as it is, only makes up 20% of the protein content of milk. The majority of protein in milk is called casein protein and is the reason milk is white.
Casein protein is a lot more complex that whey and takes longer to digest and get the amino acids from. These casein proteins are the main ingredient of cheese. The main step in cheesemaking is when cheese curds, which are made of casein, are separated from the liquid whey. This is still how cheese is made and how whey protein is created. For the longest time the whey would actually be thrown away and wasted because people didn’t know the benefits it held.
Of course whey goes through a few more steps before it ends up in your drink or bar. The liquid is then filtered so that fat and carbs are removed from it. Whey is also separated at this point by the method of filtration into different types with different levels of protein. When the whey protein has been stripped of the fat and carbohydrates it is between 70% and 100% pure whey protein. This protein can then be packaged in its powder form or turned into health drinks, protein bars, or put in other foods.
Filtering Whey Protein and The Different Types of Whey Protein
Filtering whey protein is what turns the liquid whey and turns it into one the main three forms of whey protein. These are whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate. The purity of the whey content is the main difference between these types of whey protein. Whey concentrate comes with the lowest amount of whey while whey isolate and whey hydrolysate come with the highest percentage of pure whey. Here’s a better breakdown.
- Whey Concentrate – Whey concentrate has a protein percentage of between 70 and 80%. It is the kind of why protein with the most fats and carbohydrates still in it. Because of this it is also the least expensive kind. Whey concentrate gives you the benefits of why protein and is useful for people who still want to eat more calories as well as eating more whey protein.
- Whey Isolate – Whey isolate has a protein percentage of between 95 and 100%. Whey isolate is far more refined and has almost no fat or carbs. Whey isolate is the most commonly used whey protein among athletes and dieters. It comes with a reasonable price tag.
- Whey Hydrolysate – Whey hydrolysate, much like whey isolate, is 95 to 100% whey protein. In hydrolysate, however, the protein has already been broken down into individual amino acids so that it is digested and processed faster. This is the kind of whey protein used by bodybuilders and weightlifters. The faster absorption rate results in faster muscle recovery. It is ideal for weightlifters who want their muscles to recover and grow after an intense workout. Hydrolysate also comes with the most expensive price tag, however.
You should be able to tell from that information which whey protein is right for you. Concentrate may be the cheapest solution but it may not necessarily be the right one, especially if you want to cut down on the amount of fat and carbs in your diet. However an athlete, who burns a lot of calories with their workout, would benefit from the extra energy in whey concentrate.
Whey protein isolate is the most common kind of whey protein due to the cost of hydrolysate. It gives you a large dose of whey protein that is good for building muscle and staying healthy without a big price tag.
Whey protein contains a great amount of the essential amino acids your body needs to promote the recovery and the growth of muscles after intense workouts. It also helps deliver the best nutrition to people who may not be getting enough protein in their diet from food. Always take a look at the amount of protein a whey protein has. Compare it to the amount of fat and carbs. That way you can make a smart choice about your whey protein.