Whey protein contains an incredible range of essential amino acids, which are absorbed quickly. Whey protein is more than just protein. It contains many other nutrients, some with potent biological effects.
Numerous studies show that it can help you increase strength, gain muscle and lose significant amounts of body fat.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is the protein contained in whey, the watery portion of milk that separates from the curds when making cheese. Milk actually contains two main types of protein: casein (80%) and whey (20%).
Whey protein doesn’t taste very good on its own, which is why it’s usually flavored. It’s important to read the ingredients list, as some products may have unhealthy additives like refined sugar. Most flavored whey proteins are also rather delicious and can be used to add an incredible taste to healthy recipes like smoothies.
Proteins are the main building blocks of the human body. They’re used to make various important things, including tendons, organs and skin, as well as hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and various molecules.
Proteins are also the building blocks of the contractile elements in our muscles. They’re assembled from amino acids, smaller molecules that are linked together like beads on a string.
Some amino acids are produced by our body’s cells, while others are supplied by the food we eat. The ones that we must get from foods are termed essential amino acids.
Proteins that supply all nine essential amino acids are the best, and whey protein is loaded with them. It’s particularly high in important branched-chain amino acids like leucine, and also contains a high amount of cysteine. Studies show that leucine is the most anabolic (growth-promoting) amino acid, and cysteine can help boost levels of the cellular antioxidant glutathione.
Whey protein appears to be particularly effective at stimulating growth in humans. In fact, human breast milk is 60% whey, compared to 20% in cow’s milk
Types of Whey Protein
The main types of whey protein are concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. They can vary in protein content, taste, digestibility and price.
There are three primary types of whey protein:
- Whey protein concentrate (WPC) contains low levels of fat and low levels of carbohydrates. The percentage of protein in WPC depends on how concentrated it is. Lower end concentrates tend to have 30 percent protein and higher end up to 90 percent.
- Whey protein isolate (WPI) is further processed to remove all the fat and lactose. WPI is usually at least 90 percent protein.
Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) is considered to be the “predigested” form of whey protein as it has already undergone partial hydrolysis – a process necessary for the body to absorb protein. WPH causes a 28–43% greater spike in insulin levels than isolate. WPH doesn’t require as much digestion as the other two forms of whey protein. Also, Whey protein hydrolysate is commonly used in medical protein supplements and infant formulas because of its improved digestibility and reduced allergen potential.
The proteins in whey are of a very high quality. They’re loaded with essential amino acids.