Whey protein is protein in powder form. It can be found also in liquid or tablet form, but most acceptable and the cheapest form is powder.
Whey protein is produced from liquid whey, a byproduct of cheese manufacturing from cow's milk. It is very popular due to cheap prices and high bio-availability and 1.0 PDCAAS score.
Whey protein comprises of 10 (ten) fractions, six minor and four major. Four major whey protein fractions are:
- beta-lactoglobulin - the most abundant whey protein fraction (~65%) containing very high level of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).
- alpha-lactalbumin - second most abundant whey protein fraction (~25%), with low molecular weight. It digests very fast and upon consumption enters blood stream quickly. Also, alpha-lactalbumin strongly binds calcium and zinc ions and may have bactericidal and/or anti-tumor properties.
- bovine serum albumin - also known as BSA, among others, is rich in cysteine, an amino acid needed for production of glutathione (very important antioxidant).
- immunoglobulins - are used by immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects (pathogens like prions, viruses, bacteria etc.).
More important for active athlete, there are four major forms of whey protein:
- whey concentrate,
- whey isolate,
- whey hydrolysate,
- whey peptides.
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein concentrates contain up to 89% protein by weight. They contain a low level of fats, but have higher levels of bioactive compounds and carbohydrates - lactose. Lactose intolerant people can have stomach problems consuming whey protein concentrates, although this has been solved by combining whey protein concentrates with digestive enzymes.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolates contain 90% or more protein by weight. They have less fats and less lactose than concentrates, but are also more expensive.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Whey protein hydrolysates are predigested, partially hydrolyzed whey proteins that are more easily and faster absorbed. Whey protein hydrolysates are less allergenic and people have less stomach problems when compared with other whey forms. They are also even more expensive and tend to have bitter taste.
Whey Protein Peptide
Whey Peptides are isolates of amino acids derived from much longer whey protein molecules. They are most expensive form of whey protein but also one with fastest absorption.
Commercial whey protein powders are usually mix of different whey forms, although there are several products that contain only one whey protein form. Whey protein also contain plenty of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and some manufacturers put additional BCAA in their whey products.
Many people ask this question - there are misconceptions regarding whey protein supplements and supplements in general what whey can and can't do, what is it used for and similar.
First of all - how to use whey protein? Whey protein should be used around workouts in form of shakes to provide building blocks and sometimes even energy for heavy workouts and for faster regeneration of muscles (and other tissues) and for gaining new muscles - please read Pre, During and Post Workout Nutrition article for more information about this issue.
Whey protein can be used for various shakes and smoothies for daily meals and snacks and for preparing various foods to increase their protein content (for example - Oatmeal Pancakes). For this recipes, protein blends (MRPs) are better, since they don't digest so quickly like whey protein. On the other hand, mixing whey with milk and other ingredients slows whey protein digestion to acceptable levels for daily snacks.
Whey protein contain lactose, especially whey protein concentrate. To avoid problems with whey protein powders and to enhance digestion and absorption, many (nowadays probably all) supplement companies add digestive enzymes that helps in digestion of whey protein powder, lactose included. This include all leading supplement companies like Optimum Nutrition, Dymatize, Ultimate Nutrition etc. Personally, glass of milk would keep me busy all day long, but I have never had problems with any whey protein supplement from leading companies - and I prefer 'best buy' types not the most expensive ones :o)
Whey protein before bed - avoid this even when mixing with other foods. Before bed, have protein blends or preferably pure casein or even better - real slow digesting foods :o)
Excess in calories makes you fat, any calories. Also, if someone eats big meals, but rarely, body will 'learn' to accumulate excess calories in the form of fat for periods of not eating. So, consuming whey protein when body is really hungry for nutrients (around workouts in the form of shakes, as part of daily snacks etc.) in proper amounts will not make anybody fat. On contrary, providing muscles with building blocks when and/or after they are stressed (workouts!) will make muscles bigger, which will additionally increase daily calories consumption - basal and resting metabolism.
Don't look at whey as some kind of mysterious miraculous powder - it is food, plain and simple, that should be found on menu of every active athlete.
Before and during workouts, go for 0.2-0.3g of whey protein powder per one kg of your bodyweight in your shakes. If you are over 15 bf% (body fat percentage), then calculate your lean bodyweight. After workouts, go up to 0.5g of whey per kg of your body weight. If you are adding fast carbs, BCAA, glutamine, creatine etc, keep this around 0.3 - 0.35g of whey protein per kg of your body weight. These numbers, of course, highly depends on your current nutrition plan.
Note: when drinking whey protein shakes (with or without glutamine, BCAA, creatine etc), be sure to drink plenty of water - your pee should be clear not yellow. This will also protect your kidneys - if your kidneys are healthy, they will stay that way, but if you have any problems with your kidneys (or liver and/or any other similar organ/problem), first check with your doctor should you consume whey or any other supplement (this is also recommended for anybody before taking any supplement).
Dymatize Nutrition Elite 100% Whey Protein supplement is great whey protein blend, which comes in numerous flavors and packages. It is used in Post Workout Meal (PWM) shakes immediately after workouts to help with recovery and regeneration and for breakfasts and daily meals to increase content of fast absorbing protein - in meals where the whey is mixed with other foods and slowed down.
Cellucor COR-Performance Whey is whey protein supplement based on blend of whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. It comes in many flavors and different packages and with good protein content is one of the more popular whey proteins in recent years.
Dymatize ISO-100 – one of the best buy whey isolate proteins. This whey supplement is pure hydrolyzed whey isolate, thus, one of the best whey proteins on the market.
Optimum Platinum Hydrowhey is whey based on hydrolyzed whey protein isolate. It also has some micronized Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) added to increase overall BCAA content. Very good whey protein except one thing - price. But, what you pay is what you get.
Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard is whey protein supplement based on the whey proteins mix. It is one of the most popular whey supplements for years with plenty of very good reasons - it tastes well, it content is excellent, it is very affordable etc.
Dymatize ISO-100 and Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey are two whey protein supplements, both based on hydrolyzed whey protein isolates. They both come in various flavors and packages and many people wonder, which one is better...