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A Guide to Whey Protein

What is Whey Protein and Where does it Come From?

Whey protein is the ultimate source of protein! It's the highest quality of protein available. Whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), containing the highest known levels of any natural food source.

Whey protein is one of 2 types of protein that comes from milk (the other being casein protein). It's made during the process of cow's milk being turned into cheese. When the milk is being turned into cheese, the whey protein is a by-product.

Do any Foods Contain Whey Protein?

No foods contain actual whey protein. (edit: whey protein can be found in protein powders, protein bars and some drinks) However, many foods do contain high levels of protein. Here are the most common types of high protein foods:

What Types of Whey Protein are There?

There are 2 major types of whey protein, whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate is low in fat, has a highest biological value and is typically about 75% pure protein by weight. Whey protein isolate is whey in it's purest form. Isolates are processed to remove fat and lactose. Typically whey protein isolate is about 90%+ pure protein by weight.

Whey protein supplements generally fall into 3 categories. Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate and whey protein blends. Whey protein concentrate powders are the cheapest, but have the highest levels of fat and lactose. Whey protein isolate powders have the most amount of protein per serving and literally zero carbs, lactose and fat. These are generally priced higher than concentrate. And finally, whey protein blends are the most popular of the whey protein powders. As the name suggests, these products combine whey protein isolate and concentrate to make a high quality product (with an awesome amino acid profile), at an affordable cost to the consumer.

What does Whey Protein do?

Whey protein is far superior to all other forms of protein. It provides the body with the perfect amino acid profile for muscle building, strength and recovery. Bodybuilders and professional athletes all know the importance of using whey protein supplements to help increase size, strength and speed up recovery times.

Whey is also fast ingesting, meaning it gets to where it's needed - fast! Whey protein supplements play a huge roll in post-workout nutrition, when your body is in a catabolic state and needs a fast injection of protein.

On top of the muscle building and recovery benefits, whey protein also works as an antioxidant to boost the body's immune system. Scientific studies have shown that regular supplementation with whey protein promotes a strong immune system.

Effects whey protein has on performance:

  1. Increased lean muscle mass
  2. Decreased recovery times and faster muscle repair
  3. Reduced post-workout muscle breakdown
  4. Increase metabolic rate

Biological Value of Whey vs Other Protein Sources

Biological value, or BV, is the measure of the efficiency of a protein and how it can be absorbed and used by the body for growth -- higher the number, the higher the efficiency. It’s a common term in bodybuilding and one that is used to classify whey protein. With BV, egg protein sets the standard with 100. Beef can be found at around 75, for example. With whey protein, however, BV can be as high as 170.

Whey protein isolate has the biggest bioavailability of the whey sources, generally about 30-60% more than concentrate.

Who Can Benefit from Using Whey Protein Supplements?

Whey protein is traditionally used amongst bodybuilders and athletes for it's ability to promote muscle growth. But as new scientific studies are conducted, whey is being used in other applications. Some of these include: weight loss, cancer treatment, infant health, wound healing and the elderly. Practically everyone can benefit in some way from whey protein supplementation.

People that need increased protein levels will get the most benefit out of supplementing with whey. These include:

  1. Bodybuilders & strength trainers
  2. Endurance athletes
  3. Those on weight loss programs
  4. New to strength/weight training
  5. Vegetarians
  6. Team sports players

Does Whey Protein Have any Side Effects?

There are no documented side effects provided a person does not have an allergy to dairy proteins or does not need to restrict dairy products for medical reasons. If you are allergic to dairy proteins please consult with a physician prior to consuming any type of whey protein.

Choosing the Right Whey Protein Supplement for You

When it comes to choosing a whey protein supplement that's right for you there are two main things you need to take into consideration budget and quality. As stated above, there are 3 main types of whey protein available:

  1. Whey protein isolate - the most pure form of whey protein
  2. Whey protein concentrate - not as pure, slightly higher fat & lactose
  3. Whey protein blend - a mixture of isolate and concentrate

Obviously, the more pure and high quality the product the higher the price tag. This is why whey protein isolate is the most expensive form of whey protein. But you get what you pay for, pure whey protein is literally zero fat, zero carbs and zero lactose. It's the highest quality protein and will give you the most protein per serving with the least amount of calories. So if you have the money to spend, when protein isolate is the best quality protein available.

Pros and Cons of Whey Protein Isolate

Pros of Whey Protein Isolate:

Cons of Whey Protein Isolate:

When protein concentrate is not as filtered as whey protein isolate, but it still very high quality and rich in amino acids (the building blocks of muscle tissue). Because whey protein concentrate is not as filtered as isolate, this means you will get slightly less protein per scoop of powder and often the calorie count will be higher. This might not matter for someone who is trying to gain weight, but for weight loss or someone who is trying to prepare for a competition this might matter. The difference is usually about 2-5g of protein per scoop. For a 30g scoop whey protein isolate might have 25g of protein and 105 calories, while concentrate may have 21g and 130 calories.

Pros and Cons of Whey Protein Concentrate

Pros of Whey Protein Concentrate:

Cons of Whey Protein Concentrate:

So by now you're probably thinking the choice is black and white, quality protein for a higher price, or lower quality protein at a low price. BUT, there is some middle ground! Whey protein blends, as the name suggests, is a blend of whey protein isolate and concentrate. By doing this, supplement manufacturers have found a good middle-ground between price and quality.

Not all protein blends are created equal though. Some have more isolate than concentrate, and vice versa. The way to you can tell this is by looking at the ingredients. The protein source listed first in the ingredients is the primary protein source. This is good to know when you're researching on what protein powder to buy.

Of all the protein powder available, whey protein blends are the most popular.

Pros and Cons of Whey Protein Blends

Pros of Whey Protein Blends:

Cons of Whey Protein Blends:

Whey Protein - Common Questions Answered