When most people think of whey protein, they think of building muscle. Protein shakes at the gym. Meal replacement drinks as a substitute for real food.
Brother has six meals and three snacks a day who keeps a whey shake on his bedside table to sustain those 2 a.m. gains.
Women wake up at dawn to rush hour drinking shakes in the car instead of cookies.
As most people see, whey protein is only for people who want more protein in their diet, people who don't have time to cook, or people who don't like to cook and also need more protein. It's for weight lifters and athletes. It is a “bad substitute” for real food. It's a compromise when life happens. If you can cook and eat real food on a regular basis, popular story goes, you don't need whey protein. Just eat real food—right?
But there's actually a lot more to whey than just building muscle.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey is a byproduct of cheese production that is packed with protein. It is the pseudo liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and filtered. Cheese makers used to dispose of it as a waste material, turn it into ricotta cheese, or feed livestock until food scientists began to understand its value as a protein supplement for humans.
Currently, we know that whey protein is the single best supplementary source of the full complement of essential amino acids. It contains all the essential amino acids we need to increase muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. much more than a by-product of cheese making. It's also more than just one protein. Instead, it houses an impressive array of components with diverse biological effects: beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, lactoferrin and immunoglobulins.
- Promotes glutathione synthesis and reduces the incidence of allergic diseases.
- Increases absorption and uptake of retinol/vitamin A.
- Increases serotonin levels in plasma.
- May have anti-tumor effects.
- Promote bone healing and prevent bone loss.
- Excessive iron chelates, preventing it from triggering infection (many bacteria need iron), increasing inflammation, or being carcinogenic.
- Has an anti-bacterial effect against food pathogens such as E. coli And Listeria.
Immuno-globulins (A, M, G):
Those are just a few of the components found in the undigested whey powder you have in your pantry. Once whey hits your GI tract, it forms more bioactive peptides with unique effects of their own. Some increase blood lipids, lower blood pressure, or act as opioid receptor agonists (if you've ever seen a milk drunk baby squirt after a feed, their opioid receptors are likely being badly abused by bioactive whey peptides). Others induce satiety and improve metabolic health biomarkers.
Is Whey Protein Good for You?
Yes. Whey protein can help you gain muscle and improve many health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, fatty liver and many more.
- Muscle: Regardless of your age, gender, or when you take it, combining whey protein with strength training consistently results in better results and bigger muscles. There's no need to gain muscle and build strength if you eat enough protein through food, but whey protein definitely helps you add high-quality animal protein to your diet.
- Obesity: Whey tends to reduce fasting insulin levels in obese and overweight individuals (but not healthy prepubertal boys, who could use growth promotion), increase satiety, reduce food intake, and increase resting energy expenditure. If you're trying to lose weight or prevent obesity, increasing the amount of energy you burn at rest and reducing the amount you consume—by manipulating satiety and fat-burning hormones—is a much needed effect.
- Diabetes: Taken before a meal, whey reduces glucose spikes from subsequent meals in non-diabetics and people with type 2 diabetes. This is achieved by “boosting” insulin, but temporarily; the insulin area under the curve increases even when the direct insulin response increases. Plus, as seen above, fasting insulin tends to be lower in people who consume whey protein.
- Fat liver: In obese women, whey supplements reduce liver fat (and as a nice side effect slightly increase lean mass). Fatty liver patients may also benefit from whey, enjoying improved glutathione status, hepatic steatosis, and antioxidant capacity. Mice supplementing with whey saw reduced fat synthesis in the liver and increased fatty acid oxidation in skeletal muscle.
- Emphasize: In “high stress” subjects, whey protein shakes improve cognitive function and performance by increasing serotonin levels. The same shock had no effect on “low stress” subjects. And dietary whey also lowers oxidative stress brain stress, at least in mice.
- Cancer: Both the lactoferrin found in whey and the whey-promoted synthesis of glutathione may have anti-cancer effects. Lactoferrin shows the potential to prevent cancers that have not yet occurred and induce cell death in existing cancer cells. In a recent human study, oral lactoferrin suppressed colonic polyp formation. And in animal cancer studies and human cancer case studies, whey protein has been shown to increase glutathione (“the ultimate cell protection mechanism”) and have anti-tumor effects. Whey protein may also help cancer patients prevent muscle loss and maintain strength.
- HIV: HIV is characterized by a drastic reduction in glutathione levels. And even if whey doesn't necessarily increase weight in HIV patients, it does increase CD4 (a type of white blood cell) count, decrease the number of co-infections, and continue to improve glutathione status.
- Heart disease: A review of the effects of whey on major cardiometabolic risk factors found that whey protein improves lipid profiles, reduces hypertension, improves vascular function, and improves insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. The whey peptides formed during digestion actually act as ACE inhibitors, reducing blood pressure similar to drugs without the side effects.
- Sarcopenia: Muscle wasting, whether related to cancer or due to age and inactivity, is a grave threat to a person's health and happiness. Studies show that whey protein is the most effective protein supplement against sarcopenia, especially compared to soy. A friend of mine can attest to this; a few months ago, her grandmother had not eaten for several days, had diarrhea, was mentally confused, and basically looked to be on her death bed. She started making whey protein based milkshakes and her recovery was quick. He became alert, active, and regained his appetite and bowel control. He wasn't out of the woods yet, but at least his remaining days would be much better than the direction they were headed.
- Indigestion: Contrary to concerns about dairy and gut health, whey may actually improve gut health and intestinal barrier function, even in patients with digestive disorders. In human Crohn's disease patients, whey protein supplements reduce intestinal leakage. In a rodent model of inflammatory bowel disease, whey protein reduces intestinal inflammation and restores mucin synthesis (a substance used to build the intestinal barrier).
Is whey milk protein?
Whey comes from dairy, so yes, whey protein is a dairy product. it is the main bioactive component of milk. And, as with other forms of dairy, we must consider the issue of dairy intolerance and allergies. Dairy products are not suitable for everyone, whether it is lactose or protein.
Should people who are dairy intolerant avoid whey?
Possible. It depends on which component of the dairy product is giving you trouble. You can be:
- Lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is a sensitivity to the form of sugar in dairy products.
- Casein sensitive. Casein sensitivity is an intolerance to any of the proteins in dairy products
- Really sensitive.
Luckily, most people can tolerate whey without a problem. You are much more likely to be allergic, sensitive, or intolerant to lactose or casein than whey. And whey might even be right anti-allergies, as whey-based formulas have shown efficacy in the prevention of allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema in susceptible children and infants.
Exceptions to this may lie in geography and ethnicity: In East Asian countries such as Taiwan, whey sensitivity appears to be more common than casein sensitivity. In western regions such as the United States and Europe, casein intolerance is much more common than whey. However, that was only one study on atopic dermatitis sufferers. This may not apply to everyone.
I've found that most people with “dairy intolerance” can usually handle whey protein isolate, which has little to no lactose and almost zero casein.
Why eat whey protein when we can eat yogurt, cheese or drink milk?
In most mammalian milk, casein protein predominates and whey constitutes a small fraction of the total protein content. Cattle, goats, horses, sheep—very high in casein, low in whey. But in human milk, this ratio is reversed. As much as 80% of the total protein in human breast milk is whey protein, which plays an important role in the regulation and programming of the immune system, cell growth and differentiation, and overall physical and mental development. Babies raised on formula higher in casein ended up with less fat mass and more fat mass than babies raised on formula higher in whey (and closer to the composition of breast milk).
You could argue that whey protein is one of the most consistently hereditary dairy foods a person could eat.
Overall, whey protein is more than just a protein supplement. It builds muscle, improves glucose control, regulates immune function, lowers stress, and has many beneficial effects on the people who consume it. Real food is the foundation of a healthy diet. But whey protein is more than just a muscle builder and a meal replacement. I would argue that it deserves a place on the “additional food” list alongside egg yolks, liver, fatty fish, and all other foods that are powerful and vital in small doses.
I feel comfortable recommending its use to nearly anyone, considering it is one of the oldest and most studied dietary supplements.
Let's hear from you guys. Do you take whey? If yes, what type and why? How do you benefit?
Thanks for reading, everyone!