What is Whey Protein? Benefits of Whey Protein

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What is Whey Protein for?

Protein contains Amino Acids and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), which are the building blocks for muscle. Without sufficient amino acids, the body cannot repair and build muscle and so recovery from muscle damage done through training can be slow or nonexistent.

What is Whey Protein

The body can be in a catabolic state, using more protein (muscle) than it is rebuilding. Different proteins contain different amounts and types of amino acids. They also offer different absorption and digestion properties, so benefits can be gained from using combinations of proteins depending on training and dietary requirements.

Good protein is obtained from whole food protein sources like turkey breast, tuna, chicken breast, lean red meat, cottage cheese, milk, and protein supplements, which are popular today due to convenience, ease of use, and economy.

Whey Protein

By far, the most popular protein supplement available today is whey protein. Whey is one of the two major proteins found in milk (casein is the other) and is isolated from milk as a by-product in the production of cheese and casein. Pure whey contains a large amount of the milk sugar lactose and a variety of proteins, fat, and cholesterol.

Whey traditionally used to be considered a waste product and dumped on fields and into the nearest lake. Fortunately, whey was discovered to contain high-quality proteins. So methods have been developed to remove as much of the undesirable lactose, fat, and cholesterol as possible from the protein. Original plans developed included acid treatment and high-temperature drying. That unfortunately destroyed much of the protein and ruined the quality of the protein extracted.

New methods have been developed that can extract the protein from the whey while maintaining its quality. The most common methods today include ultra-filtration, micro-filtration, ion-exchange, and cross-flow micro-filtration. Ultra-filtration and micro-filtration use a low-temperature process where filters physically separate the proteins. The ion-exchange process removes the protein through an ion-exchange column that takes advantage of the specific electronic charges of the protein, fat, and lactose contained in the whey and uses opposite charges to extract each component. Crossflow microfiltration uses natural, nonchemical ceramic membranes to separate the undenatured. Whey protein from the fat and denatured protein.

All of these processes result in a high-quality whey protein, low in fat and lactose. Always be sure to check the label to see which method or methods have been used, as some cheap proteins. May use whey proteins that have been processed by more inexpensive acid treatments or higher temperatures and contain higher levels of unmoderated proteins. Huh. Undenatured proteins are unusable by the body and result in the whey having a bitter taste when consumed. A good quality protein powder will always list in the ingredients panel or on the label. It is microfiltered and ultrafiltered or ion-exchange. If it lists merely whey protein concentrate or isolates, you can only assume that it contains a cheaper form of protein.

To build muscle, you have to train hard, sleep well, and eat your protein. Pretty simple. But with so many different protein sources available more people are confused about what their requirements are and so are not eating enough and are eating the wrong types of foods. When doing any form of training, whether for strength and muscle gains in the gym, endurance work including running, cycling, swimming, or for a team or individual sports, protein is crucial for aiding in recovery and rebuilding damaged muscle tissue.

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Benefits of Whey Protein

There are several benefits to choosing whey protein over other protein sources. Whey protein has an extremely high biological value (BV) afforded to it (Whey Protein BV = 104 with Whey Peptides having a BV between 110-159). The BV of a protein is essentially a measure of how well it is utilized by the body and takes into account the amino acid profile, solubility, and digestibility of the protein. Whey protein is an ideal source of protein post-workout as it is absorbed extremely quickly to help rebuild damaged muscle.

Whey protein contains the highest percentage of BCAA’s of any protein source as well as high levels of essential amino acids. BCAA’s protect muscle from protein breakdown and help to stimulate protein synthesis or muscle growth. Whey protein also contains protein fractions. These are the active components that high-quality whey proteins should provide. These include Alpha-Lactalbumin, Immunoglobulins, Glycomacro-peptides, and Lactoferrin. These components possess properties that support the immune system, act as antioxidants, and can help with cell growth and repair in the body.

Essential amino acids are necessary as the body cannot manufacture these itself and relies on getting them from the diet.

Whey protein may also suitable for some lactose-intolerant individuals as it is deficient in lactose with some whey protein isolates being virtually lactose-free.

High-quality whey proteins tend to be relatively expensive, with whey protein isolates being the most valuable protein source. Many companies produce several different sizes, with the larger containers being more economical. Whey protein is also low in the essential amino acid phenylalanine and glutamine compared to other protein powders. Many brands add these two components to help increase the BV of the protein and improve its effectiveness.

With so many protein powders on the market, you could be excused for not worrying too much about what sort of protein you use. Many people probably don’t care about whether the protein they are using is instantiated, partially hydrolyzed, ultrafiltered, ion-exchange whey protein isolate with low molecular weight whey peptides. You are featuring full spectrum whey protein fractions, including Glycomacropeptides, Beta Lactoglobulin, and Lactoperoxidase. If you understood all of that, then you probably don’t need any help. But if you’re like the majority of people who base their decision on whatever they find tastes best or which one your favorite bodybuilder used to pack on twenty kilos of solid muscle, then you may find some of the following information useful.

While it may not be necessary to know precisely what all these terms mean, if you want to be able to make an informed choice and get the most from your training, it can be of benefit to know a few of the basics.

Whey Protein Basics

Let’s start with the two major types of Whey Protein – Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), and Whey Protein Isolate (WPI). As stated earlier, Whey protein is a by-product of cheese and casein production. Pure whey contains a large amount of milk sugar lactose, as well as a variety of proteins, fat, and cholesterol. To remove the undesirable components and produce a more pure protein. Different filtration techniques can be employed. The most common are ultrafiltration and microfiltration. All of which are low-temperature methods and avoid denaturing the protein.

Denaturing of protein, which occurs through the use of cheaper extraction methods using high temperatures and acid treatment, destroys the essential protein fractions, lowering the protein’s biological activity or effectiveness. Denaturing can also occur after manufacture due to high temperatures. Never expose whey protein to high temperatures and direct sunlight for extended periods. Avoid leaving protein in a hot car next to the oven in the kitchen or any other heat source. Also, avoid using whey protein in recipes that use high heat – muffins, pancakes, etc., as this may denature the protein as well.

WPC & WPI

High-quality WPC’s are typically 70-85% protein and are reasonably low in fat and lactose.

WPI’s are typically greater than 85% protein, with some being over 90% protein. The most common extraction methods used to produce WPI’s are Ion-exchange (IE), Crossflow Microfiltration (CFM) and Ultrafiltration (UF). Because of the extra cost involved in the production of CFM and ultrafiltered whey isolate, most supplement companies use ion-exchange whey.

The Ion-exchanged (IE) process produces the purest protein, gram for gram (around 95% protein) compared to microfiltration, and removes the protein through an ion-exchange column. That takes advantage of the specific electronic charges of the protein, fat, and lactose in the whey and uses opposite charges to extract each component. Unfortunately, this process uses chemical reagents to control electrical loads. That can change the pH level and denature the whey by destroying some of the biologically active protein fractions.

Crossflow Microfiltered (CFM) Whey Isolate is produced by passing the whey protein concentrate through natural, nonchemical ceramic membranes to remove the fat and denatured protein and is typically around 91% protein. Since chemicals aren’t used in this process, very little of the protein is denatured, so it retains the vital protein fractions.

Protein fractions

Protein fractions are the active components of whey that have their unique effects on health and help enhance immune function and improve recovery from training.

These include:

Beta-Lactoglobulin – This is present in the most significant amounts but unfortunately, is considered an allergenic fraction in whey. Functional whey proteins should be less than 50% Beta-lactoglobulin. However, the ion exchange process isolates this particular fraction efficiently, and so Ionised WPI’s will be quite high in this. To avoid any allergies from this, avoid whey proteins with more top than 70-80% of Beta-lactoglobulin. The higher the percentage of Beta-Lactoglobulin, the lower the rates of the higher biological value fractions.

Alpha-Lactalbumin – This nutritious fraction is found in the second-highest levels at around 15-20% and can also be found in mother’s milk.

Immunoglobulins (IgG) – This fraction helps to stimulate the immune system with IgG’s having important antibody activity within the body, helping support the immune system and preventing disease.

Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) – This fraction is a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is an essential water-soluble antioxidant in the body that protects cells and serves as a primary detoxifier of harmful compounds such as peroxides, heavy metals, carcinogens, and many more. Beta-lactoglobulin and IgG fractions are also essential sources of glutathione.

Glycomacropeptides (GMP) – GMP is a potent stimulator of cholecystokinin, which plays many essential roles in gastrointestinal function, including the regulation of food intake. In addition to being a regulator of food intake, cholecystokinin (CCK) stimulates gall bladder contraction and bowel motility, regulates gastric emptying, and stimulates the release of enzymes from the pancreas.

The pancreatic enzymes are critical for the complete digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and, therefore, the nutritional realization of food. Also, CCK has the effect of slowing the overall digestive process by slowing intestinal contractions, thus giving the digestive enzymes more time to work on their respective substrates resulting in complete absorption. In animals, a rise in cholecystokinin is followed by a massive reduction in food intake, as by slowing digestion, one perceives the “full” feeling longer following a meal.

Lactoferrin (LF) – This is quite a vital fraction for its immune-enhancing effects. Lactoferrin (LF) is found in tiny amounts in the body, yet appears to be a first-line immune-system defense. LF is a powerful antioxidant and strongly inhibits iron-dependent free radical reactions by directly binding iron. This iron-binding effect results in the inhibition of iron-dependent bacteria growth and can block the growth of many pathogenic bacteria and yeast. Its antimicrobial action may also improve antibiotics. In the digestive tract, LF may help stimulate intestinal cell growth and enhance the growth of “good” intestinal microflora.

Lactoperoxidase, Lysozyme, Growth Factors – These are minor fractions yet are reported to be the most biologically active. Lactoperoxidase (LP) has a high antimicrobial activity and inactivates or kills a full spectrum of microorganisms.

Lysozyme present in only minimal amounts in cow’s milk. Possesses antibacterial activity against some bacteria and works synergistically with lactoferrin against bacteria such as the Salmonella species. Lysozyme is found in saliva, tears, and other body fluids, acting as a natural antibiotic.

Growth Factors include IGF-1 and IGF-2. IGF-1, or Insulin-like Growth Factor, is the hormone released during growth hormone metabolism. The amount produced determines the extent of growth in children and the building of muscle and lean body mass in adults. Studies have shown that IGF-1 rises in direct proportion to the quality and quantity of protein in the diet.

Hydrolyzing (predigesting) whey to make di-, tri-, and oligo-peptides (short & long-chain amino acids), increases the bioavailability (BV) of the whey, further increasing the release of IGF-1.

As you can see, the most significant differences between the two types of WPI lies in the immunological and digestive implications of the proteins, with IE WPI missing three significant protein fractions, Lactoferrin (LF), lactoperoxidase (LP) and Glycomacropeptides (GMP).

Hydrolysates & Peptides

Hydrolysates are mostly smaller proteins. These are produced by subjecting proteins to digestive enzymes, which breakdown the large protein molecule into many smaller proteins. These proteins can be broken down into peptides (chains of two amino’s) or polypeptides (chains of three or more amino), and are broken down until they are the right size for absorption.

This process occurs naturally during digestion but can take some time, up to several hours for whole foods. So it is possible to buy whey proteins with added peptides or “predigested” hydrolysates. Predigested hydrolysates are when the proteins are exposed to natural enzymes from plant or animal sources. Protein hydrolysates are of benefit as they are more efficient and more quickly absorbed.

These can be most beneficial after training when there is an increased need for amino acids. The amino is required to prevent protein (muscle tissue) breakdown, so the faster they can be absorbed, the better. Another factor affecting absorption rates is the molecular weight of the formula—the lower the molecular weight of the protein, the faster the absorption. Whey proteins with added whey peptides will often state the weight in Daltons (D) of the protein: i.e., MW 500D (meager molecular weight), MW 80,000D (high molecular weight).

What To Choose?

Choosing which protein to use depends on what you are looking for. Using Whey Isolates, Hydrolysed proteins, and Whey proteins with added peptides will offer increased recovery when used straight after training due to their quick absorption. However, during the day when absorption rates aren’t quite remarkable, the use of the more basic proteins such as whey concentrate, casein, and whole food protein sources may be more economical. Many of the whey proteins available today use a blend of two or more wheys, with some added amino peptides. These benefits as they offer rapid absorption yet are more economical than some of the more pure whey protein isolates.

Some famous whey proteins compositions are:

Pure Whey Protein Concentrates

Whey Protein Concentrate/Isolate Blends

Pure Whey Protein Isolates

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