What is Whey Protein?

Full rundown of the benefits, possible side effects and choices on the market

If you’ve been to your local GNC recently, you were likely met with shelves upon shelves of protein supplements. What was once a body builder’s trade secret has now become a staple on kitchen countertops across America. It seems like everyone is crazy about whey protein, and if you’re not sure why, you’re not alone. We’re breaking down the questions behind the protein craze.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey is one of the two major proteins in milk (the other protein is casein). Whey can be separated from milk and it is also byproduct in cheese production.

It contains all of the nine essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein and has a Biological Value (BV) of 100, the highest score possible. The BV measures absorption, so a score of 100, and all nine amino acids, mean whey protein is easily and quickly digested by the body. Whey is also lower in lactose content than casein, which makes whey the better choice for those worried about allergies and lactose intolerance.

What Are the Benefits?

The research that has been done so far has shown Whey offers benefits for athletes, dieters and people with cancer and other ailments.

  • Whey protein helps with fat loss while preserving muscular gains, according to a 12-week long study of obese subjects.
  • A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found supplementing workouts with whey protein helped strengthen immune systems of the subjects tested.
  • Studies have found whey protein may help prevent cancer or aid in the treatment of cancer.
  • Additionally there is evidence to suggest whey protein might lower blood pressure, aid in the management of other diseases like HIV and speed workout recovery.

Are There Side Effects?

Most experts agree that whey protein is safe in proper doses. Through proper use, people might experience minor side effects like digestive issues or headaches, which they attribute to the lactose or sweeteners in the products.

Some say there is danger in overuse. The main concerns are the effects on the liver and kidneys, as extra protein will be turned to waste, but the concern is mostly for people with existing liver or kidney conditions. It is recommended that you consult a doctor to find the right amount for you.

What Are the Different Options?

  • Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) is typically the cheapest option, as it contains some fat, the most lactose and the lowest ratio of protein. The protein content is still very high and WPC contains a high amount of peptides which will boost the immune system.
  • Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is typically the median in price of the three options, but is usually the best option for the average user. WPI is low in fat and lactose but high in protein. The Isolate maintains many of the benefits of concentrate.
  • Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) is the most thoroughly processed of the three options. WPH contains the most protein and is usually the most expensive.

It is always best to consult your doctor when trying a new supplement, medication or vigorous exercise routine.

See also: What is Creatine?