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.
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.
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.
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.