Does Whey Protein Really Work?



Does Whey Protein Work?

Maybe the question should be “What doesn’twhey protein work for?” Often referred to as the “ultimate protein,” whey protein has proven itself to be the leader in high quality protein supplementation. There are so many benefits associated with whey protein consumption it is hard to know where to begin in explaining all the ways that it works.

First and foremost: Protein supplementation can be a fastidious thing. Any kind of protein supplementation, including whey protein, is not going to work just because you decided to go to the store and by a tub of the stuff.  There should be an actual need accompanied by a well calculated plan, to maximize the results you are seeking. In an article titled, “Protein Needs for Athletes,” various factors are discussed that ought to be taken into account when determining an optimal protein supplementation plan, including, protein quality, energy intake, carbohydrate intake, mode and intensity of exercise, and timing of protein intake. Once these things have been ascertained, it is much easier to see just how whey protein can work for you.

How Does Whey Protein Work?

1. Highly nutritious

Whey protein is a complete protein that is high in vitamins and minerals as well as essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s). Whey protein isolate, the highest concentration of protein, is 90% protein. To get this high concentration, additional fat and lactose are removed, which also makes it work for those who have sensitivities to lactose.

2. Keeps you healthy and prevents disease

A huge added benefit of whey protein is the boost if offers the immune system. Whey protein is high in the amino acid cysteine, which is responsible for raising levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant the helps reduce risk of infection and makes the immune system quicker to respond. Whey protein also improves the health of the gastrointestinal tract through its prebiotic properties, which promote growth and activity of beneficial bacteria. One of the most well known components of whey that performs as a prebiotic are immunoglobulins (Igs). Igs are the proteins responsible for antibodies, which act as soldiers and fight against pathogens. (Geiser, 14)

3. Facilitates weight loss

Whey protein increases and maintains fat free mass and reduces fat stores by stimulating the release and activity of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), which increase metabolic rate. It also increases satiety making you feel full and satisfied longer.

4. Maintains muscle tissue and improves muscular performance

Whey protein is high in the branched chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Research has shown that BCAA’s help maintain muscle tissue, help preserve the precious stores of muscle glycogen, and help prevent muscle breakdown during exercise. “Consequently, taking whey protein as the protein source for pre-exercise and post-exercise, along with a carbohydrate source, may exert a beneficial effect to the training muscles.” (Geiser, 14)

Important to note: All of these benefits to muscle tissue are fundamentally tied to the factors mentioned above. Where mode and intensity of exercise are concerned, strength –power athletes would most likely need to place a higher emphasis on protein (and less on carbohydrate) because of dietary needs related to muscle growth, while endurance athletes would likely need proportionately more carbohydrate along with protein to help promote skeletal muscle glycogen repletion. (Antonio & Ziegenfuss, 4)

5. It works fast!

Whey protein is consumed in liquid form facilitating quick digestion and absorption by the body. This is also important when considering the most beneficial times to consume your protein. Studies suggest that athletes should “utilize protein and amino acid supplements one hour prior to and immediately after training in order to maximize the training induced muscular adaptations”. (Haff, 5)

One study supported the idea that, where recovery from muscle damage is concerned, whey protein in a partially hydrolyzed form (such as whey protein isolate) or free amino acids may be more beneficial compared to intact, slower absorbing proteins, because it improves strength recovery rates due to an increase in the speed of the repair process.

In short, take a look at your fitness program. Determine factors that are important for your supplement plan, and how you can maximize results with whey protein. Then, get to work, so whey protein can begin working for you.

Antonio, Jose, PhD, CSCS, FNSCA and Ziegenfuss, Tim PhD. (0ctober 30, 2008) The Role of Nutrient Timing in the Adaptive Response to Heavy Resistance Training. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved on October 28, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Nutrient%20Timing.pdf

Campbell, Bill, PhD, CSCS, FISSN. (Downloaded 3/25/2010). Protein Needs for Athletes. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved Oct. 26, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Protein%20Needs.pdf

Geiser, Marjorie, RD, NSCA-PT. (October 2003). The Wonders of Whey Protein. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, vol. 2, number 5, 13-15. Retrieved Oct. 26, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/issues/0205.pdf

Haff,  G., Gregory  PhD, CSCS.(December 2006). Protein plus amino acid supplements up-regulate protein synthesis and improve muscle performance. NSCA’s  Performance Training Journal, Volume 5, No. 6, 4-5. Retrieved on October 28, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/Issues/0506.pdf

Hayes, Alan. (2010) Whey protein isolate attenuates strength decline after eccentrically induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7:30. Retrieved on October 28,2011 from http://www.jissn.com/content/7/1/30

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