Living a Healthier Whey of Life:
The ins and outs of Whey Protein and why you should be adding it into your daily intake
An article by Cat Moore
We all know the drill.. we go to the gym, we hit a great workout, and after are done we reach for our shaker bottle to mix up a post workout shake. For most people, our go to shake consists of whey protein but what exactly is whey protein, and why should we be drinking it right after our workouts, if at all?
The branding for it is everywhere; milk is a great source of protein. That is because there are actually two types of protein that make up milk- casein and whey protein. You heard it! Two kinds. On top of that, the two can be separated out and used as nutritional supplements. Interesting fact- we can also get whey as a by-product of making cheese… yep cheese! (Another reason cheese is one of the most amazing foods…just behind peanut butter).
Types of Whey Protein
Now there are several different types of whey protein brands that you will see at your local GNC or Vitamin Shoppe. While we could spend an entire article talking about the differences, really what you need to know about them is this:
- Whey concentrate- contains the most fat and lactose of the bunch (lactose is actually a sugar, and it’s present in dairy products. When people say they are “lactose intolerant,” it means their body cannot break this sugar down…but we’ll talk more about this later.)
- Whey isolate- This has pretty much all of the fat and lactose removed. In one scoop of protein, about 90-95% of it is the actual whey.
- Hydrolyzed whey- This is kind of cool. It’s a protein that is somewhat “pre-digested.” If you are prone to digestive issues this may be an easier option on your stomach. Though the lactose and fat levels can be somewhat varied from brand to brand, they will generally have pretty low concentrations of fat and lactose. This is commonly used in baby formula since it’s the mildest.
Benefits of Adding Whey Protein into your Diet
Now, on to the good stuff- the benefits of adding whey protein in your diet. While we could write an entire book digging into the benefits of whey, I will give you the highlights. Some of the main benefits of whey protein include…
- It helps with muscle recovery and growth- Our muscles are made up of proteins, and when we work out, they break down. This means we need to replenish our protein stores in order to build the muscle fibers stronger… aka GAINS. Whey protein contains Branch Chain Amino Acids (Or BCAA’s). These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and create muscle.
- They are absorbed much faster than casein protein- Unlike carbs and fat, which love to shack up in the fat and muscle tissues of our body, our body doesn’t actually store nearly enough protein to support our day to day needs. It’s like trying to fill a sink with the drain always partially open. Our body is constantly using amino acids (the tiny little building blocks that make up protein) to carry out various functions. Whey protein is great because it is absorbed into the body much faster than a casein protein, which means our body can use it that much faster.
- It supports weight loss efforts- Out of all of the macronutrients; protein is the most filling. Adding in a protein shake can help curb those 11am and 2pm snack cravings that most of us are all too familiar with. By consistently filling ourselves with things we like to eat, as well as things that make us feel full, we help train our brain to resist those cravings! Another fun fact- out of all of the macronutrients, we burn the most calories digesting protein! Over time, our metabolism can actually up-regulate to run more efficiently and burn more fat.
**Note- these benefits are best seen when paired with an overall conscious diet and a consistent workout regimen. Though whey protein is pretty cool- it’s not a magical one step fix to dropping 20 pounds of fat and adding 10 pounds of lean muscle mass. **
But What About the Lactose?
Though we just talked about all these great benefits of whey, there is one potential downside. Though it is usually a small amount, whey protein can contain lactose. Some people do not have the proper enzymes to digest the lactose in the protein. Enzymes?! What the heck are those?! Well friends in simple terms they are chemicals in the body that make things happen. They kick start various reactions in your body- a prime example is…digestion! Your body needs a very specific enzyme to digest the lactose in dairy products (including whey), though some people do not have enough or have it at all. This is where we get the term “Lactose intolerant”.
What does this mean when we drink something with lactose in it? It means as the whey passes through our GI tract, our body has to work extra hard to digest it. This causes the gas, cramps, bloating and general discomfort that comes with intolerances. Monitor for these symptoms and pay attention to what type of whey you are getting. Remember, ALWAYS look at the labels! If you find you’re having negative side effects with a whey concentrate, try a whey isolate or a hydrolyzed whey- both of which may be easier on sensitive digestive systems.
- Two types of protein come from milk- casein and why
- There are three different types of whey- concentrate, isolate, and hydrolyzed
- Whey protein aids in muscle loss, helps with muscle recovery and growth, and is more quickly absorbed than other proteins
- Though whey has a lot of benefits, it can cause a reaction in people who are lactose sensitive
- When shopping for your protein- look at the labels! Find out what kind it is, and how much fat and lactose are in it
- Though the flashy flavors can look appealing, there is probably more sugar in them than we care to admit to be drinking. Look at the sugar content and the ingredients list. For both… THE LESS THE BETTER!!!