What Is Whey Protein?

We’ve all seen the big tubs of protein lining the shelves at GNC and Costco, but how much do we really know about whey protein?

Whey Protein: The Basics

Whey protein is the most popular dairy-based protein available on the market. Derived from milk during cheesemaking, whey is the liquid portion of milk that separates during this process. If you have ever opened a container of yogurt and found liquid at the top, then you know exactly what whey is. After filtering and drying , that liquid becomes the whey protein powder that most people are familiar with.

What is the nutritional value of whey?

While some amino acids are produced by your body, others can only be obtained through food. Amino acids that have to be supplied by food are called essential amino acids. Whey protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids – in other words, it is a complete protein. It is high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) like leucine, the amino acid most effective for muscle growth and recovery.

Fun fact: human breast milk contains 60% whey (while cow’s milk contains 20%), which contributes to effects of breast milk on human development.

What are the different types of whey protein?

Whey protein can be found in different forms: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. While whey concentrate contains roughly 70-80% protein, it also contains lactose, an ingredient that is unsuitable for those with lactose intolerance. Whey isolate, on the other hand, contains 90% protein and very little lactose, but does not have some of the nutrients that are found in concentrated forms of whey. Whey isolate may be an ideal option for those with lactose intolerance. Finally, hydrolysate whey is known for being absorbed faster than other forms of whey, though whey in general is a fast-absorbing protein source.

What are the benefits of whey protein?

There’s a reason that whey is so popular and it has to do with its proven benefits. Whey is thought to be effective for increasing muscle mass and strength. Whey contains the protein and amino acids our bodies need to grow and maintain muscles, and it increases the release of certain hormones that also contribute to muscle growth. Additionally, the fast absorbing nature of whey protein makes it a great choice for taking before, after, or during a workout.

In addition to muscle-building benefits, whey may also be beneficial for those looking to lose weight. In general, protein has known benefits for weight loss, positively impacting appetite and metabolism. Whey protein powder is a great source of protein which can help those looking to lose weight reach their target daily intake in a quick and simple way.

Is whey protein right for you?

Figuring out the right type of protein for you requires a complete look at your goals, body type, and lifestyle. In general, for those who don’t follow a plant-based diet and do not have a particularly high sensitivity to lactose, whey protein powder is a great addition to any fitness program or weight management program.

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