Whey Protein

June 29, 2008

Whey protein is a natural source of the essential amino acids necessary for the body as building blocks of muscle and other tissues. Derived from cow’s milk, it contains very little fat or lactose and provides a consistent, high-quality protein source. Whey protein isolate is the most pure and concentrated form, containing over 90% protein and available dried and powdered for easy supplementation.

Pure protein is important not just to build muscle, but also to help repair the muscles and cells and to assist in the control of important metabolic functions in the body. Athletes make large demands on their muscles and overall metabolism, making it even more important for them to ensure that high-quality protein is available to the body. Eating complete proteins (those with all the essential amino acids) is one way to provide the body with tools for maintenance and repair of the muscles and cells. However, supplementing with a pure, complete protein, like whey protein, is often an easier way to maintain the higher protein level that is optimal for active athletes.

During and immediately following exercise, the amino acids contained in proteins are used by the muscles directly instead of being processed by the liver like they are when the body is at rest. If adequate protein is not available to the body, fatigue and muscle soreness are more likely to occur. Whey protein, unlike beef and other high-protein foods, is quickly available to the body after it is ingested. They amount of available protein the body needs varies based on the individual’s size and activity levels, however, 120- 180 grams per day is the standard recommendation for the average athletic male.

Supplementing with whey protein has both practical and scientific benefits for athletes. Studies show that whey protein supplementation along with resistance training increases lean tissue mass and strength. Other protein supplements also showed gains in muscle mass and resistance strength, however, whey is the richest source of the specific amino acids, particularly leucine, that also help most effectively with cellular repair and fatigue.

Some positive side effects noted with the use of whey protein include an increase in metabolism leading to a loss in body fat. It also helps provide the feeling of fullness or satisfaction, discouraging overeating and making fat loss easier. Whey protein also increases levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps maintain a healthy body, which is often depleted during resistance training.

Whey protein can be taken in conjunction with creatine supplements for greater increases in muscle mass and strength along with greater positive effects on fatigued muscles. It is widely available, but care should be taken that it is supplemented in its purest form for athletes, without excess fat or carbohydrates. Whey protein is natural, highly digestible and safely offers benefits to athletes.

Candow DG, Burke NC, Smith-Palmer T, Burke DG.
Effect of whey and soy protein supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Jun;16(3):233-44.

Carlon M. Colker, Melissa A. Swain, Bill Fabrucini, Qiuhi Shi and Douglas S. Kaiman. Effects of supplemental protein on body composition and muscular strength in healthy athletic male adults Current Therapeutic Research January 2000; 61(1):19-28.

Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Stathis CG, Carey MF, Hayes A. Effects of whey isolate, creatine, and resistance training on muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Feb;39(2):298-307.


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