Whey is the most widely used sports supplement on the market, and really, it always has been. That is because it is the most effective way for anyone to pack on pure muscle. It feeds the muscle by delivering necessary amino acids to the muscles when they need them so that they grow, and it also triggers the hormones responsible for muscle growth. We’ll get more into that later.
Whey is easy to take, relatively affordable depending on the brand you choose, and available in just about any flavor you can think of. There are recipes galore on how to use whey protein in your baking, cooking, and more.
Obviously, whey protein has become a pillar of the supplementing lifestyle and it won’t be disappearing anytime soon. Let’s talk about what it is and how it works so great.
What is whey protein and what does it do?
Whey protein is a product of cow’s milk. Whey is extracted from milk by causing the water, fat, and proteins to separate. The whey is a liquid at this point, but it is dried and concentrated into the powder that we know and love.
There are many different forms of protein in the body and they all play a critical role in the body. They help to repair and form new tissue, strengthen the immune system, transport nutrition through the body, help with hormone production and so much more.
In order to make one protein molecule, you need a mix of 20 different amino acid. If you lack one amino acid, you won’t make protein. Twelve of these 20 amino acids are made by the body, but the rest are considered essential amino acids, meaning you must get them from your diet.
That’s one of the reasons why so many people swear by whey protein. It contains high levels of all the essential amino acids, especially in BCAAs. Studies show that whey protein is one of the highest concentrated sources of amino acids. This table shows each protein source and how effective they are.
Since whey protein is a great source of the necessary ingredients for protein production, supplementing with whey protein helps the body in so many ways. The next section will break that down for you.
What are the benefits of whey protein?
The obvious reason for supplementing with whey protein is for the purpose of building muscle but the benefits of whey protein go way beyond that.
Whey protein is known to be effective at helping to create strong muscle tissue in four different ways.
- First is the complete amino acid profile, which we already talked about, that allows the body to produce protein molecules.
- Leucine – One of those amino acids is leucine, which whey protein is especially high in. This amino acid is the main BCAA (branch chain amino acid) that is responsible for protein production and protects against protein breakdown.
- Hormone – Whey protein helps to stimulate the release of the hormones responsible for growing muscle. This hormone includes insulin.
- Absorption rate – Whey protein is one of the most quickly absorbed form of protein supplementation to provide your muscles with a rush of amino acids when they need it most.
Help lower blood pressure
Whey protein contains ACE-inhibitors called lactokinins that have been proven beneficial in lowering the blood pressure of people with high blood pressure.
Combats type 2 diabetes
Because whey protein helps the body to make insulin, it helps those who have a problem creating insulin. This inefficiency of creating insulin is called Type 2 diabetes and it results in an inability of the body to regulate blood sugar levels. Supplementing with whey protein has been proven to help the body not just produce insulin but be more sensitive to the effects of the insulin produced.
Could help reduce inflammation
C-reactive proteins are a key marker for inflammation. Inflammation is normal and healthy in the body but too much can be unhealthy and cause many different diseases. Whey protein supplementation has been proven to cut down on the amount of C-reactive protein circulating in the body.
As an athlete or active person, some of these benefits won’t apply to you but in all aspects, delivering a healthy supply of whey protein to the body will be beneficial to your overall health. It will help you create a slim and strong body with good muscle tone, a healthy heart, and fight off inflamed joints from your workouts.
Whey protein vs casein protein
There has always been a debate of which is best, casein protein or whey. They are very similar in some respects. For example, they both come from milk and they both help the body to see lean muscle growth, but they also have many differences.
Whey protein is known for being the best source of quickly absorbed protein amino acids to deliver to your muscles. Casein is known to be a good source of constant protein delivery so that your muscles won’t be depleted throughout the day.
Whey protein will help your body produce more muscle, but casein will help your body retain the muscle once the whey has helped it grow. Most people see the value in mixing the two together in their daily supplementation.
Whey protein vs mass gainer
Many mass gainers will contain whey protein, but they also have many more ingredients. Most people who take mass gainers are hard gainers, meaning that they have the type of metabolism that makes it extremely hard to bulk up.
These people have probably tried to use whey protein and it just wasn’t enough. Unless you are a person like this, you shouldn’t be anywhere near mass gainers.
Whey protein is meant to pack on lean muscle mass to your body. Lean being a keyword. Mass gainers contain carbs, protein, and fat and A LOT of calories. If you don’t have a high metabolism, mass gainers could possibly help you gain muscle mass, but they will also help you to create fat mass.
Whey protein usually has about 100 calories per serving, maybe a little more, depending on your brand. Mass gainers will contain, oh, up to 1200 calories! That’s a whopping number of calories.
Whey protein for women
A lot of times you hear about how women are afraid to take any protein because they think it will make them bulky. This is just not true. Sure, women don’t need to take as much as men, but their body composition and chemistry just won’t allow for creating big bulky muscles.
There are some women who have managed to gain a lot of muscle, but they worked extra hard to get that and probably supplemented with more than just the average protein shake.
In other words, women can benefit just as much from whey protein supplementation as men to create a strong and lean physique.
Whey protein for weight loss
Whey protein promotes weight loss in three different ways:
- Whey protein can help with your weight loss goals by being extremely satiating. You won’t feel nearly as hungry. This will help you to stay on top of your diet and daily calorie count.
- It helps to keep your crazy cravings from making you raid the fridge. In fact, one study showed that eating a quarter of your calories from protein will cut your midnight cravings in half.
- It boosts your metabolism by making your body burn more calories every day because you will have more muscle in your body. Muscle tissue needs more energy to maintain, creating a burn of calories for energy, usually from fat.
How should I take whey protein?
There are only a few ways to take whey protein if you aren’t using it in some elaborate baking recipe. The best way to take your whey protein is with water in a shaker bottle because it doesn’t add any calories.
Many people choose to add it to regular or almond milk because they prefer the flavor and creaminess. If you agree, it certainly won’t hurt. Just make sure you blend it well because whey protein has a tendency to clump.
The best way to combat that is to buy a special cup with a shaker ball inside it that helps to blend the whey protein into the liquid better.
What is the best time to drink whey protein?
Since whey is the quickest absorbable form of protein, many people will take their whey protein before they workout to provide their muscles with all the amino acids they need for the best performance and muscle growth.
Also, since a good workout will deplete the muscles and they will need repair for strength and growth, many people take their whey protein post-workout. Taking whey protein post-workout allows for the quickest delivery of protein to the muscles and repair and growth happens faster and more efficiently.
Some will take it before and after their workout, figuring that they should supply their muscles with protein at both spectrums. This really is the smart way to go. Your muscles will be not only ready to take on the stress of your workout but will also be able to recover from that workout better.
How much whey protein should I take?
This number will vary greatly from person to person. If you already eat a lot of protein, you won’t need to supplement with as much whey. Also, your activity level will determine your desired daily intake.
Most whey protein powders will recommend one to two scoops per day. Each scoop is about 20-25 grams of protein. If you take one scoop before your workout and one after, you will be supplementing with 50 grams of protein each day. Of course, it comes down to the total number of protein you’re looking to take in during the day.
Whey protein and side effects
Whey protein is safe to take in all regards. In the past, there have been some allegations about high protein intake causing kidney damage or weak bones, but both have been proven false.
Of course, if you already have kidney or liver problems, you shouldn’t supplement with whey protein or anything else for that matter until you talk to your doctor.
Some people are sensitive to whey protein. It can give them a slew of stomach problems including nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and more. Most of the time this is because they are using the whey protein concentrate. The whey protein isolate and hydrolysate are more easily digestible forms of protein and are a great alternative for people who have sensitive stomachs.
What to look for when buying whey protein?
There are many different whey protein powders on the market and they all claim to be the best. The price range is crazy too. Usually, price determines quality, but this isn’t always true. So how do you know which whey protein to buy? It all boils down to reading the label carefully.
There are a few factors to look at when purchasing your whey protein.
The purest form of whey is whey protein isolate. Next in purity comes whey protein hydrolysate which is pre-digested for sensitive stomachs. At the bottom of the barrel is whey protein concentrate which has gone through less filtering than the other two.
Each scoop should have at least 20 grams of protein. If not, there are way too many fillers in the product.
Preservatives and artificial flavors
These are a no-no. Our bodies are subject to plenty of chemicals that we can’t control. Why add to it? If your whey protein contains flavoring, it should come from as natural a source as possible.
This number should be low. Unfortunately, plenty of companies turn to artificial sweeteners to keep this number low. These are unhealthy additives. Stay away from them.
If you are cutting or trying to lose weight, this number is important. You should get the most protein in the least number of calories.
Amino acid profile
It might be convenient to have a complete amino acid profile in your whey protein powder. This includes a high level of all three BCAAs, although you may easily get BCAAs separately to ensure you get enough of them.
10 Best whey protein supplements in 2021
Below we put together a list of top 10 whey protein supplements for men and women based on a collaborative effort between ourselves and reviews from fitness experts and enthusiasts.
If you would like to ensure you’re getting enough protein during the day and right after your workout, whey is an excellent and convenient choice that can help you meet your goals.
Just like grass-fed beef is higher in nutrition, whey made from grass-fed beef is higher quality protein. This whey protein has 24 grams of protein per serving with 115 calories. This product contains no artificial colors, flavorings, or additives. It has all of the 18 essential amino acids including 6 grams of BCAAs. It is also low in sugar. The only ingredients in this product are whey and sunflower lecithin for easier mixability.
This is a whey protein isolate from grass-fed cows. It comes in three different flavors; chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, and strawberry banana. These flavors are all naturally derived. In fact, this protein has no artificial sweeteners, flavorings, fillers, hormones or antibiotics. Each serving comes with 22 grams of protein in 100 calories. The taste and mixability are supposed to be top-rated according to reviewers.
Each serving of this protein powder has 24 grams of whey and 5.5 grams of BCAAs. It is a blend of whey protein isolate, concentrate, and whey peptides. The amazing thing about this product is that it comes in 20 different flavors so there’s something for anyone’s taste. Each scoop is 120 calories so still low on the calorie content. It has only 1 gram of sugar per serving.
This is a blend of almost every animal protein on the market. It contains whey protein concentrate, isolate, calcium caseinate, micellar casein, milk protein isolate, and egg albumin. Each scoop delivers 22 grams of protein and 200 calories. Even though the calories are higher, there are still only 3 grams of sugar per serving. It is available in 10 different flavors like banana, chocolate, strawberry milkshake, and vanilla ice cream.
This is 90% pure whey protein isolate with soy lecithin as an emulsifier. It contains all 18 amino acids and is high in BCAAs. Each scoop has 27 grams of protein and 115 calories. This product has less than a gram of sugar per serving and no artificial flavorings or fillers. In fact, it’s flavorless.
This product is hydrolyzed whey protein with added BCAAs. It contains 30 grams of protein per serving and 8 grams of BCAAs per serving. This is one of the highest concentrations at such a little number of calories as 140 per serving. It only has a gram of sugar per serving and comes in 6 different flavors. The cost is a little high, but you do get more protein per serving.
As the name suggests, this is pure 100% grass-fed whey concentrate. There are absolutely no additives, sweeteners, or flavors. It is GMO-Free, Hormone Free, Gluten Free, and Soy Free. There is a chocolate flavor option which has only two added ingredients, raw cacao, and coconut sugar. Each serving contains 25 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of BCAAs, and 120 calories.
This product is unflavored whey protein isolate and sunflower lecithin only. It is non-GMO, soy-free, and has no artificial flavorings, sweeteners, or additives. Each serving has 25 grams of protein and 5.5 grams of BCAAs. There are only 110 calories per serving and less than a gram of sugar.
This product delivers 25 grams of hydrolyzed whey protein isolate in each serving. It also contains 5.5 grams of BCAAs and 120 calories per serving. It has less than a gram of sugar per serving and comes in 15 different flavors like chocolate coconut, birthday cake, and fudge brownie.
This is a whey protein concentrate and isolate blend. It contains 25 grams of protein per serving with 1 gram of sugar. Each serving is 130 calories. It comes in 5 different flavors including cappuccino, cookies and cream, and chocolate milk.