The Eight Fundamentals Of Whey Protein Powder
The BS-Free Guide To Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Whey Protein Powder (But Were Afraid To Ask)
In This Edition:
- what is whey protein powder?
- where does whey protein powder come from?
- how is whey protein powder made?
- does whey protein powder actually work?
- whey protein powder benefits
- when is the best time to take whey protein powder?
- does whey protein powder expire?
- how to make whey protein powder at home
Whey protein powder is getting a lot of press these days. But not everyone understands the basics. Without an understanding of the fundamentals, it is unlikely that you will be able to take full advantage of the benefits that adding a whey protein powder to your daily regime can have.
Remember too, that whey protein powder by itself will not magically melt away unwanted body fat. Muscles will not be sculpted silently overnight as you sleep. Like all protein powders, whey-based powder supplements work in combination with exercise and a balanced diet to burn fat and make muscle.
Those who hope to sip a few cups of cookies and cream Isolean with their morning coffee, and then see their bodies transformed, will be sorely disappointed. But, if you are willing to get regular exercise, stick to a healthy diet, and have realistic weight-loss goals, then whey protein powder will help get your body where you want it to be.
What is Whey Protein Powder?
Whey protein powders can be found on the shelves of your Costco, GNC or Whole Foods Market. While some of the flavors that are available are exotic, the product itself is pretty much exactly as it sounds. It’s a powder that is very high in protein, and made from whey. Whey is one of the leftovers from the cheese-making process. It’s got protein, antioxidants and lots of other good stuff that your body is crying out for.
It is easily mixed with water, milk, soy milk and ice to make a beverage. It can be blended with fruits, veggies, flax seed, cashew butter and about a hundred other ingredients. The result? A thousand and one flavored protein powder beverages that could bring big benefits to those looking to build a better body. Whey protein powder can be incorporated into recipes for low-fat, high-protein energy bars, squares and cookies.
Most milk contains almost 90% water. Of the solids that make up the remainder, approximately 27% of the solids are protein. Whey and casein are the two proteins found in milk. Casein forms the majority of the protein, usually about 80%. The other 20% is whey protein. Whey is generally accepted to be less allergenic than casein. Whey protein is also absorbed much faster into the body than casein. Casein takes more time to digest and provides our bodies with a steady supply of protein over several hours.
Both whey and casein proteins are complete proteins, meaning that they contain all nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that our bodies are incapable of producing by themselves, yet are essential to maintaining our good health. A total of twenty amino acids including phenylalanine, and lysine are necessary to allow our systems to synthesize the proteins we need to function. Whey protein powders are a popular and tasty way to ensure that all the essential enzymes are available for our bodies.
Whey protein powder is one of the best sources of leucine, an amino acid that acts like a human hormone. It is used to build protein, but it also triggers protein synthesis in the body. While many animal-based proteins contain around 5% leucine, whey protein powders can contain up to 10%. Studies have shown that leucine can speed up the muscle-making process. Competitive athletes and bodybuilders look for high levels of leucine in the whey protein powders they use.
Four important compounds are found in whey protein powders. These are beta-lactoglobulin, aplha-lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin, and immunoglobins. Often referred to as antibodies, immunoglobins are an integral part of our immune systems. Antibodies help our systems to seek out and destroy foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Whey protein powders are an excellent source of immunoglobins and have been proven to increase the response time and effectiveness of our immune systems when they come under attack.
There are three types of whey protein powder available on the market today. WPC is a whey protein concentrate. WPH stands for whey protein hydrolysate, and WPI is what we call whey protein isolate. The main difference between the three is how much protein each contains and how few fats and carbohydrates remain. There are also variations in how easily each is digested. The quantity of lactose that may or may not be present also differs.
Whey protein concentrates (WPC) will have between 30 to 90% pure protein, depending on the formula and quality of the whey protein powder. WPC tends to be low in carbohydrates, fats and lactose.
Whey protein isolate (WPI) is very high in protein, usually 90% or more. This is accomplished by a process that removes most (or in some cases, all) of the lactose and fat from the whey protein.
WPH (whey protein hydrolysate) has been partially hydrolysed, or digested to make it very simple for the body to absorb and process. It is more complicated to manufacture than WPI or WPC, and this drives the cost up. Also it is perhaps the least allergenic of the three common whey powders. WPH is a popular whey-based protein product but has other applications as well. It is commonly found in baby supplements, and formulas for those recovering from surgery or with weakened immune systems.
Where Does Whey Protein Powder Come From?
Whey is a by-product when cheese is produced. The milky white liquid is left over after the milk has curdled. The whey contains globular proteins which are separated from the liquid whey. Casein is the other protein that is a dairy-derived leftover resulting from the cheese-making process. Casein is a solid protein and insoluble in water whereas whey protein powders can be easily dissolved into liquids.
One critical role that globular proteins play in our bodies is that of enzymes. They are active in initiating and regulating many of the chemical reactions necessary to keep us up and running. They also move molecules from one part of the body to another, acting as “transporters”. Similarly, they can be messengers, relaying on/off signals to help regulate our metabolism.
One kind of globular protein is immunoglobin. Most of us are perhaps more familiar with the term “antibody”. Our immune systems use antibodies to find and destroy bacteria and viruses that enter our bodies. Whey protein contains relatively high amounts of immunoglobins.
Whey comes from dairy products, and dairy products, of course, come from cows. Many people believe that cows fed a healthier diet produce better milk. Superior quality whey protein is the result. Another issue for many who regularly use whey protein powders is the supplements that may be present in the cows’ diet. These would include artificial growth hormones, antibiotics and chemical herbicides used to treat the pastures where the cattle graze.Some of these contaminants may be present in the milk and the whey protein powders that are manufactured from it. These could be passed on to us.
While whey protein powders are the most common on the market today, protein powders can be made from plants as well. Soy protein powders are the only plant-based products that contain all of the essential amino acids and can thus be considered complete proteins. Other protein powders can be made from brown rice or yellow peas but may need to be combined with each other or other foods in order to form whole proteins.
Protein powders made from egg are also complete proteins. They can be found for sale online and at many shops. Very low in calories, they are popular with women (and men!) looking to shed a few unwanted pounds. Integrating egg-based powders with whey protein powders may help facilitate weight-loss.
How is Whey Protein Powder Made?
Step one would involve finding a cow willing to donate some dairy product! Fortunately most dairy cattle don’t mind being milked two or three times a day. The raw milk is collected and cooled to 4 degrees. Using refrigerated trucks to ensure a constant cool temperature is maintained, the milk is transported to the cheese maker.
At the cheese-making facility the milk will undergo a series of tests to make sure that it is safe to use. Normally, the milk would then be pasteurized by heating it to temperatures above 70 degrees. This denatures the whey protein and also makes it less likely to trigger dairy allergies.
The milk needs to be curdled in order to produce the cheese. This can be accomplished by one of two curdling methods. Lactic and simulated curdling both involve the addition of enzymes and other compounds to the milk. This produces a liquid as well as solids (curds). Whey is the leftover liquid. This opaque, yellowy substance is collected and filtered to remove some of the lactose and other undesirable elements.
Micro filtration follows, and the liquid whey is put into an ion exchange tower. This is a chemical process that uses hydrochloride and sodium hydroxide. The whey protein is further concentrated and purified. The whey protein has been refined considerably, but care has been taken to ensure that it is not completely broken down.
The whey protein is now far more concentrated, but still remains in liquid form. The water that remains needs to be removed and this is accomplished by placing the concentrated liquid whey into a drying tower. When the liquid has been evaporated and only the whey powder remains, the product goes to a facility to be packaged.
Whey protein powders are most commonly sold in plastic tubs or packages. It can also be purchased in bulk from wholesale companies, or when buying directly from the manufacturer. Premixed shakes and smoothies can be found in the coolers of many convenience and grocery stores.
Does Whey Protein Powder Work?
Whey powder “works”, depending on what work you want it to do! Taken by itself, it may offer some health benefits. Whey protein powders can reduce cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular fitness. There is evidence that whey protein can reduce the likelihood of dairy allergies in children if they consume formulas that are rich in whey protein as opposed to ordinary dairy milk. The likelihood of a child developing a skin condition like eczema may be reduced if whey protein is included in their diet early on in life.
Most people who take whey protein powders on a regular basis, are looking to build muscle, lose weight, or both. Whey protein can certainly be successfully incorporated into a weight-loss plan or one that gets you muscle gain. However, it is a part of the plan. Adjusting your diet and activity level is essential if you want to see any tangible results. Without adjusting your exercise schedule, you are simply adding more calories (albeit “good” calories) to your diet.
Whey protein powders work to make your workouts more effective. They help your muscles improve their efficiency and ensure that the calories they are using are being taken from stored body fat. When our bodies have insufficient protein available, energy is sucked away from muscle and other tissue. This is not what we want. Whey protein powders keep lots of high-quality protein instantly bio-available. Fat provides the calories to energize our muscles while we exercise, building more muscle and giving our bodies a toned-look. That is what we want.
Bodybuilders and professional athletes have long recognized that whey protein powders work to help them maintain and build muscle. They usually take larger doses of protein powder more frequently, than those who work out on a casual basis. They also may look for whey protein powders that include added nutrients that help build muscle mass. Bodybuilders are not looking simply to tone their bodies; they are intent on building them.
Glutamine (an amino acid) and glutamic acid are two additives commonly found in whey protein powders favored by bodybuilders. They are included in higher levels first and foremost because they strengthen and build muscle mass. One of the whey protein powders favored by professional bodybuilders is Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey. It can be purchased in store or online and gets high ratings from its serious fitness fans.
For those who are primarily interested in losing weight, whey protein powders can be used alone or in conjunction with other protein powders to bring you down to your target weight. Whey-based powders release quickly into the bloodstream providing a near instantaneous boost of energy to your system. Many of us women are also looking to control our appetites and cravings in the battle against the bulge.
Combining whey protein powders with slow-release casein protein may prove more effective at keeping our system stocked with protein over a longer period of time. Many women like to include soy protein powders in their diet. These release protein (and thus energy) at a moderate rate. If we need a little help getting between meals, a casein or soy protein shake may do the trick.
Whey protein powder supplements work best when taken before you work out. They ensure that your muscles will have a steady supply of energy available on demand. Whey protein works to see that the energy you need during exercise is coming from calories that are being released from fat. Should your body suffer from a protein deficiency, energy may be sucked out of your muscles and other body tissues. Weight-loss is more quickly achieved when fat is being burned during exercise.
What are the Benefits of Whey Protein Powder?
Whey protein powders can benefit your health in many ways. If you are looking to shed a few pounds, than whey protein powder, combined with workouts and healthy, home cooked meals will help you on your way. Training for an athletic competition? Your muscles will be strengthened and less likely to suffer damage during strenuous exercise if you include whey protein powders in your diet.
Protein powders derived from whey are an excellent and affordable source of high-quality protein. Protein is critical to maintain and repair our bodies. Whey protein powders can increase the amount of amino acids in our bloodstream. In combination with resistance training and regular workouts whey protein powders can help us create new muscle, and make existing tissue stronger.
According to studies cited by the Mayo Clinic, whey protein powders can be beneficial in maintaining muscle mass in men and women of all ages, from any ethnic group. These benefits are especially apparent following periods of exercise. Ingesting whey protein powder after a run or workout at the gym will increase the quantity of essential amino acids in the blood stream. This creates proteins that your muscles need to recover and grow as a result of the exercise.
Not only will muscle mass be maintained but we will see an improvement in our performance, strength and endurance. These results have been observed in both women and men. Whey protein powders help kick up our metabolic rate, and our bodies function more efficiently. We have more energy available and feel more energetic.
Whey protein has been shown to act as an appetite suppressant, and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. This curbs the constant cravings we sometimes have for sugary, carbohydrate, fat-filled foods. Foods high in carbs, sugars and fats give us a quick fix. They help us get through those late afternoons and long nights at the office.
A good alternative would be a whey protein powder mixed with fruit and low-fat yogurt or skim milk. We are being energized with fewer calories, and those calories are coming from protein, not fats and sugar.
Research has shown that children who receive whey protein may be at reduced risk of developing allergies. Studies cited on webmd.com suggest that infants who received whey protein-based formulas instead of regular dairy milk were less likely to develop allergies to dairy products later in life. The likelihood of skin allergies and conditions such as eczema could also be reduced. However much study still needs to be performed before any conclusive results can be reached.
Whey protein supports a healthy immune system. Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps protect our cells from damage. Whey protein powder contains high concentrations of the amino acids that are necessary for the production of glutathione. Our ability to create glutathione decreases with age. Whey protein powders can help seniors to maintain their glutathione levels, improving their resistance to sickness and disease.
When Should I Take Whey Protein Powder?
Whey protein powder can be taken at any time of the day. But to maximize the benefits of the whey, you should consider your meal and exercise schedule. Plan to take whey protein powder drinks and smoothies before a workout. Whey protein will be almost instantly bio-available and will keep plenty of protein on hand to help turn fat into muscle. A small dose after exercise doesn’t hurt either.
To decide how much whey protein powder you’ll need to take, you’ll have to assess your current body condition, your targets and your schedule. How often and how hard do you work out? Can your current diet be considered well-balanced, or will you need to do some serious appetite adjustment? These and other questions will need to be answered in order for you to optimize the results of including a whey protein powder in your diet. A general rule of thumb is that one gram of whey protein powder for every pound of body weight is sufficient.
Some people find that high doses of protein-based powders can cause stomach upset. If you experience cramps, bloating or constipation, you may be exhibiting intolerance to lactose. Try reducing the amount of whey protein powder, or take a little lactase before your protein beverage to help your body fully digest the lactose. Lactose-free whey protein powders are available and switching to one of those products may be the best option.
While whey protein powder releases quickly into the blood stream, other protein powders are medium or slow-release proteins. Casein is the other protein derived from dairy, and one that takes it’s time making its way into your system. For those whose primary goal is to lose weight, using casein protein powders in conjunction with whey protein products may be just the ticket. Medium and slow-release protein powders fight hunger and cravings and can be used as a meal replacement if you’re in a pinch.
Before a workout, whey protein powder enters your bloodstream quickly, and your muscles will have an immediate boost of energy. High quality whey protein powders will make sure that your muscles are supported for an entire workout. Not only does whey protein powder help release energy from fat for your muscles, it helps protect them from injury.
After an extended period of exertion, you and your body will be exhausted! To ensure a speedy recovery, a dose of whey protein powder will help bring you back up to speed. Whey protein hydrolysate is expensive, but the easiest to digest and the quickest to enter your system. Tired muscles will recover faster, and any damage that may have come from an especially strenuous training session will be quickly repaired. It may also help you avoid the soreness and muscle stiffness associated with heavy lifting and resistance training exercises.
A protein powder drink before bed will help avoid midnight snack attacks and keep your muscles supplied with protein all night. Whey protein powders work, but a slow-release protein like casein is also good late-night option.
Does Whey Protein Powder Expire?
Whey protein powders will always be stamped with an expiration date. This is required by law pretty much everywhere. However, opinions vary as to whether or not a whey protein powder that has “expired” is still good. As with most herbal supplements, medications, and even spices, the powder may be safe to consume, but may have lost some of its potency. As well, the taste generally gets worse, not better, the longer a whey protein powder sits in the fridge, or on your shelf.
Whey protein powders, especially whey protein isolates (WPIs) and 100% whey protein powders have very little fat and almost no moisture. This means they are not prone to rancidity and generally have a long shelf life. Also proteins in general are fairly tough and stable compounds. Even when they enter our digestive system they require the presence of powerful acids and enzymes to break them down.
While whey protein powders will lose some of their potency, even after two years in the cupboard, they will still most likely be safe to consume. One study conducted by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that the majority of drugs and nutritional supplements are still useable even after 15 years!
How to Make Whey Protein Powder at Home
Did you know you can make home made whey protein powder? I didn’t until a year ago, and familiarizing myself with whey powder by making it myself has given me a newfound appreciating for the stuff. So nowadays when I have the luxury of time, I love to make my own, but often I’m so busy it’s just easier to buy a bin and get on with it.
Affordable whey protein powders are on the internet, at health food stores, gyms, and even your local Costco. But some people prefer to make their own whey-based protein powders. Maybe they want to save a little cash, or are looking to avoid the chemical flavorings and preservatives found in many commercial brands.
Perhaps, they just enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. The possibilities for incorporating whey protein powders into conventional recipes in endless.
Homemade whey can be made from milk, yogurt or kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product sometimes made using goat or sheep’s milk. In a process very similar to making cheese, the liquid is allowed to ferment and separate. The whey is removed as a milky substance. Converting the liquid whey to powder requires considerably more effort.
An easy option is to use an unflavored whey protein powder as a base, and then mix and match other ingredients to get the exact protein powder that suits your body’s needs. You can also create your own favorite flavors.
Unflavored whey powders can often be bought in bulk and are more economical. An added benefit is that DIY whey protein powders come without the added sugar, aspartame and artificial flavors and colors. Those looking to create low-calorie powders can use stevia leaf as a natural sweetener.
Some super delicious variations can result when you add some imagination to your own protein powder recipes. Add cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla and ginger to create your very own version of a chai-spiced smoothie. Green tea powder added to the blend makes a marvellous matcha flavor that also gives you vitamin C and lots of antioxidants.
Vegans and vegetarians will also make their own non-whey protein powders if they want to avoid all animal products. Soy powder, brown rice, flax seeds and a host of other plant-based ingredients can be mixed together. Even exotic or speciality powders like spirulina (seaweed) can be used by those who prefer a natural diet. By making your own protein powder you can tailor it specifically to your body’s needs, and your personal taste.
Plant-based protein powders made from scratch are easier to make than to try and dehydrate liquid whey. As soy beans, brown rice, yellow peas and other legumes and pulses are already available in dried form, they simply need to be ground. A food processor or even a coffee grinder can quickly turn the dried goods into a powder
A whey protein powder is not going to solve all your fat, muscle and related body issues. However, If you are willing to give it a shot as a part of a new fitness and diet regime, you probably won’t be disappointed. Consider whey protein as a part of the “Holy Trinity of Good Health”. Combined with exercise and a sensible diet, the results may be miraculous!