Whey protein has been a late discovery in the fitness world – what once was a secret formula reserved for the elite, is now a regular fixture within most gym-goers’ daily diets.
Heralded by Men’s Fitness as the “younger, hotter cousin of whey protein”, hydrolysed whey is the latest big thing. But how much do you really know about whey protein? Whether you’re new to it, like to dabble, or have even been taking it for years, there are tons of misconceptions around its source and benefits…so let’s strip it back first.
The truth is, all types do pretty much the same thing
There are endless variations of the same product: whey for bodybuilders, female whey, diet whey or pre-workout whey. At it’s core, whey is all the same. Another large misconception is that whey protein is for men only – it’s definitely not! The benefits and requirements are exactly the same for women.
Whey protein isn’t a replacement for a healthy diet – it’s a supplement to it. You should get protein from foods like meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds and milk – all great sources of the essential amino acids that we need. That said, it’s a convenient source of protein to help you recover after a workout, or to your on-the-go morning oats when you can’t eat whole foods. Plus, it fills you up for longer, so you’re less tempted to reach for that old pack of Hobnobs at the back of the cupboard. Win-win.
Let’s get down to what makes whey wonderful, and you’ll see there’s more to it than just helping put on muscle!
Some of these benefits are specific to whey and some are for protein in general, but as whey has the highest biological protein value (at 104, whereas a whole egg has 100 and chicken has 79), it’s pretty much pure protein. It therefore goes hand-in-hand with more general protein benefits.
With regular resistance training, whey protein can help develop muscle growth (1)
Being one of the best sources of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s), it increases the body’s rate of making lean muscle
It’s high in a type of BCAA called leucine, which is thought to stimulate muscle growth. Leucine is the most growth-promoting (anabolic) of the amino acids (2, 3, 4), so always look for the highest leucine content when comparing whey protein products
It’s a complete protein, which means whey provides all 9 essential amino acids necessary for again maximising your ability to build lean muscle
When you exercise, you’re breaking down muscle, and so taking whey protein can help muscles rebuild by increasing muscle synthesis (5
TIP: When you exercise you also reduce the glycogen (sugar) in your muscles. Combining whey protein with carbohydrates will maximise recovery and massively help with the recovery phase, getting you ready for your next workout. Oats or a banana in a shake work perfectly here.
It’s an excellent source of calcium (it comes from milk after all!). Depending on the type of whey, it offers up to 800mg per 100grams (so one 30g shake would give you around 25% of your RDA for men and women aged 19-50 – women over 50 require a bit more) 6, 7
Antibodies fight illness and require protein to grow and replicate
Whey protein increases the production of glutathione (GSH). GSH is the big daddy of antioxidants on your body’s immunity. Our bodies can make their own GSH from the amino acid cysteine, which whey is high in 8, 9, 10
Eating protein alongside carbohydrates (including sugar) helps control the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream. So having a whey protein shake with a high carbohydrate meal is a great choice for someone with Type 2 Diabetes 11, 12, 13, 14
Protein in general is the most satisfying macronutrient (compared to fats and carbs) so it keeps you fuller for longer 15
Whey has also been shown to be more satisfying than soy and casein 16
As you get older, your muscles are less responsive to amino acids compared to your younger days, and so increasing your protein intake with whey supplements can be beneficial 17
There you have it! The main thing to remember is that taking whey is just half of the equation – like cereal without a spoon. Take it alongside working out, walking to work or just getting a bit more active, and you’ll start to see the results.
My name’s Adam French, and after being frustrated with false advertising and the abundance of poor quality whey protein on the market, I set out on a mission to learn everything there is to know about whey protein, and to discover the purest, highest quality whey there was to find…in the world. Fast forward 18 months and I’ve launched my own whey protein brand: whey’d.
whey’d is sourced from sustainable GMO-free, grass-fed Irish cows that graze outside longer than any other cows in the Northern Hemisphere. To keep inline with our goal to be simple and honest, we don’t offer 10 different types of whey of varying quality. Just one type: 100% Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate, the purest and fastest acting whey available that has the highest protein % and lowest sugar and fat content of any whey.
Our happy cows produce milk (and therefore whey) that’s richer in the essential amino acids (19% greater BCAA’s than the UK’s best selling whey protein) and five times more CLA than grain-fed cows. We can trace every single serving back to the family run Irish dairy farm that produced the milk, and we give a glass of nourishing milk to a school child in poverty for every serving sol.