One of the most discussed things in the world of fitness is “protein.” And, with recommended intakes crossing amounts that regular meals can’t meet, most people have been turning to protein powders.
Whey protein happens to be one of the most popular protein powder choices. But, picking a bottle of whey protein isn’t as simple as heading to the nearest store and grabbing whatever’s on the shelf. It’s important to first know all there is to whey protein.
What Is Whey Protein?
The term “whey” is used to refer to the translucent liquid part of milk that is found after the process of cheese manufacturing (curdling and straining). This liquid is then evaporated to form whey powder.1
While most athletes depend on whey protein to build muscle mass, this type of protein is also extremely popular in baked goods. Additionally, whey protein powders are added to salad dressings, emulsifiers, infant formulas, and medical nutritional formulas.2
Studies indicate that whey protein contains properties that boost one’s immunity, lower blood pressure, maintain tissue functioning, and prevent the loss of lean muscle during exercise. Depending on the processing technique, there are three main types of whey protein including
- Whey protein powder
- Whey protein concentrate
- Whey protein isolate
Each of these types has certain properties that benefit certain people and cause harm to others. Hence, it’s important to remember that not all types of whey protein are the same when you head out to shop for one.3 4
5 Things To Keep In Mind About Whey Protein
1. Whey Protein Concentrate Benefits Athletes
Athletes have higher energy requirements than the average individual. Hence, they consume larger amounts of macro- and micronutrients, especially protein.5
This is probably why most athletes opt for whey protein concentrate supplements. The processing method for this protein removes water, lactose, ash, and a few other minerals from whey.
When compared to most commercial whey protein options, whey protein concentrate contains more biologically active components and protein which, in turn, successfully meet the protein requirements of athletes. Additionally, research indicates that whey protein concentrate is the most easily and fully absorbed type of protein, making it a bang for your buck.6
2. Whey Protein Isolate Is Lactose-Free
Most people who are lactose intolerant tend to avoid whey protein. But, experts now recommend whey isolates to people who can’t digest lactose but would like to supplement with whey.
Whey isolates are the purest source of protein available with their protein concentration being 90% or higher. During the processing of whey protein isolate, a significant amount of fat and lactose is removed.7
However, despite the high level of protein in whey isolates, it isn’t the best form of protein. This is because most proteins in it have lost their peptide bonds due to a manufacturing process called denaturation. This makes the protein less effective. Hence, it might be best to avoid it or look for products that state that their protein is “undenatured.”8
3. Raw Whey Protein Has Health Benefits
Experts believe that manufacturing processes diminish or destroy protein fractions in whey. These protein fractions have health benefits and improve the absorption of protein in the body.
This is why raw whey protein is recommended for its benefits. Research indicates that it is rich in varied protein compounds called microfractions which have immune boosting, cell protective, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. Hence, whenever you can opt for raw whey protein.9
Additionally, if you’ve got the option to, pick up whey protein that’s sourced from grass-fed cows. They have 4 times more omega 3 fatty acids and are rich in linoleic acid, which aid in fat burning and boost the immune system. Besides, grain-fed cows are believed to be given antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones to increase their milk production, which could have harmful health repercussions.10
4. Most Whey Protein Supplements Have Added Sugars
Recent research has linked artificial sweeteners and added sugar to a host of health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Additionally, sugar has no significant nutritional benefits, which is why most experts recommend low-sugar diets.11 12
If you’re watching your sugar intake, be wary of whey protein powders since most of them have added or artificial sweeteners. You could either opt for products with no added sugar or sweeteners or go for unflavored options. Furthermore, you could go for products with stevia since it’s healthier than most other options.13
5. Whey Protein Might Be Contaminated With Metal
Federal regulations don’t make it mandatory for protein drinks and dietary supplements to be tested before they are sold. Hence, they could easily have contaminants that aren’t safe for consumption.
Consumer Reports found that most protein drinks have high levels of arsenic, cadmium, and lead. While arsenic is human carcinogenic, cadmium accumulates in the kidneys and damages them. Lead, meanwhile, could birth-related complications in pregnant women and cause damage to the nervous system. Hence, it might be best to opt for all-natural whey powder instead.14
When in doubt, talk to a professional about the best whey protein options. As much as you can, opt for all-natural options. As long as you do your research and choose the best options available, you will get significant benefits from whey protein.
|↑1||Milk protein may lower blood pressure. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑2||Whey Protein. US National Library Of Medicines.|
|↑3, ↑6, ↑8||Hoffman, Jay R., and Michael J. Falvo. “Protein–which is best?.” Journal of sports science & medicine 3, no. 3 (2004): 118.|
|↑4||Silanikove, Nissim, Gabriel Leitner, and Uzi Merin. “The interrelationships between lactose intolerance and the modern dairy industry: global perspectives in evolutional and historical backgrounds.” Nutrients 7, no. 9 (2015): 7312-7331.|
|↑5||Protein. Australian Sports Commission.|
|↑7, ↑9||Collins, Elise Marie. An AZ Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper’s Reference. Conari Press, 2010.|
|↑10, ↑13||Krebber, Elviira. Low Sugar, So Simple: 100 Delicious Low-Sugar, Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Recipes for Eating Clean and Living Healthy. Fair Winds Press (MA), 2017.|
|↑11||Brown, Rebecca J., MARY ANN BANATE, and Kristina I. Rother. “Artificial sweeteners: a systematic review of metabolic effects in youth.” Pediatric Obesity 5, no. 4 (2010): 305-312.|
|↑12||Sharma, Arun, S. Amarnath, M. Thulasimani, and S. Ramaswamy. “Artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute: Are they really safe?.” Indian journal of pharmacology 48, no. 3 (2016): 237.|
|↑14||Health risks of protein drinks. Consumer Reports.|