What can whey protein do for your body?
Whey protein; it's considered to be the most important fitness supplement, whether you're a professional athlete or hitting the gym just once a week. But the huge array of protein powders available and conflicting information about their benefits for your body can make it hard to know whether or not adding whey protein to your post-workout shake is a good idea. Never fear; the Expertrain team have the inside scoop on whey protein - we're here to tell you what it is, how it benefits your body and how to use it!
What is whey protein?
Let's start with the basics. Whey is a by-product of cheese production, and it's a protein found naturally in milk. It contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose. Whey consists of a mixture of:
- Bovine serum albumin
It comes in three main types:
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
This is low in fat and carbs, and the protein percentage depends on the level of concentration, which usually ranges from 30% to 90% protein.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
This type of whey protein is processed further and has all fat and lactose removed. It's generally at least 90% protein.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH)
Whey protein hydrolysate is already partially hydrolysed, which means it is ready for the body to absorb and requires less digestion than the other protein powders.
How does whey protein work?
We know you're dying to find out what whey protein can do for your body, so we'll give it to you straight! Taken in the 15 to 20 minutes after your workout, whey protein gives your body a 'quick hit' of nutrients designed to build muscles. It can help improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean muscle mass. But what about whey protein's other health benefits? Well, it can:
- Help with weight loss - A study published in the Nutrition and Metabolism Journal showed that those taking whey protein 'lost significantly more body fat and showed a greater preservation of lean muscle' than those drinking a beverage without the supplement (1).
- Lower your cholesterol - A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed that participants consuming whey protein experienced a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels after a 12-week period (2).
- Fight cancer - In research published in the Anticancer Research Journal, whey protein concentrate showed promising results in the fight against cancer (3).
- Lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease - A study published in the International Dairy Journal revealed that consuming drinks supplemented with whey protein led to a significant reduction in blood pressure amongst those suffering from hypertension (elevated blood pressure) (4).
Hey, we're not finished yet! Whey protein could actually improve blood flow to your muscles, which improves the delivery of hormones and oxygen to build bigger, stronger muscles. Amino acids are driven more rapidly to your muscle tissues, helping your muscles to develop and grow stronger more quickly.
One study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that men supplementing with whey protein experienced 'a greater relative gain in lean tissue mass' (5).
How do you choose the right powder?
With a bewildering array of protein powders available to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? Look out for the following:
- Creatine: This is used to increase energy levels, allowing you to train harder, for longer - that means building bigger muscles!
- Carb content: For mass gains, it's important to choose a protein and carb-rich shake. Those looking for lean gains want to cut back on carbs, which allows your body to burn fat more efficiently due to a drop in insulin levels (6).
- BCAAs: BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids can be found in some protein powders. They help prevent muscle tissue from breaking down and can reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when lifting heavy weights. This means you'll recover quicker and get back to training sooner.
How do I use whey protein?
The best way to use whey protein powder is by adding it to a protein shake - check out some of our great recipes here. The recommended amount to use is 0.55g protein powder per kg of bodyweight, to help build muscle. So if you weigh 75kg, you'll need around 40g protein in your post-workout shake.
Don't forget, you need to take the protein powder in the 15 to 20 minutes after your workout for optimum results and make sure you're taking the right amount. It will still be effective if taken later, but the effects will be diminished.
An easy protein shake recipe to try
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 scoop of your favourite vanilla protein powder
1 tbsp natural almond butter
1 small frozen ripe banana (or a regular banana and some ice cubes)
2 handfuls of baby spinach
Just chuck all the ingredients in your blender, blend until smooth and serve for the perfect post-workout shake!
We'd love to hear what type of whey protein powder you use, and how you use it - share some of your favourite ideas with us below or on Twitter!
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