I want to buy a whey protein powder to drink after my workouts but someone told me that it’s not good and has side effects. Is that true and how many types of whey protein are there to choose from? What type of protein powder do you recommend?
Whey protein started out as a waste product from the manufacturing of both milk and cheese. The early whey waste product contained high amounts of fat, saturated fats, and cholesterol. The application of a process called micro-filtration and ionization in the 1990’s produced a better, higher quality product that was much lower in fat and made it much more palatable and marketable.
Whey protein is probably one of the most common, complete protein supplements on the market today. Whey protein is a dairy-derived supplement and is in a variety of products including bars, shakes and sports drinks. Whey protein occurs naturally in dairy products like milk and cheese. The process of making milk into cheese is important for whey production.
Whey Protein is Available in 3 Forms:
- Isolate (WPI) – which is the most concentrated form and makes up 90-95% protein.
- Concentrate (WPC) – can range from 25-89% protein.
- Hydrolysate (WPH) – which has been broken down in order to make it more digestible. This is an excellent source if you are lactose intolerant.
Whey protein is commonly used to improve recovery, increase protein synthesis and assist with weight management. It is fairly high in BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids – containing leucine, isoleucine and valine) which are essential to muscle formation. As much as 30% of whey protein is made up of BCAA’s. BCAA’s can be directly synthesized by the muscle cells so they are used at a high rate during exercise and have the greatest positive effect on muscle synthesis than all the other amino acids. It is also considered the highest quality natural protein source available.
Scientists have various measures of rating the quality of a protein. One of those measures is known as PDCAAS (protein digestibility corrected amino acid score). This is a measure of how well a particular protein supplies essential amino acids. The more completely a protein supplies these amino acids the better, so therefore, the higher the number, the better that particular protein supplies the amino acids. Given the fact that whey is derived from essentially an animal protein source, it inevitably has a high PDCAAS score. Animal proteins are more structurally similar to human proteins than plants are, so our bodies are able to make more efficient use out of animal proteins as opposed to plant proteins.
It’s best to define what your goals are when taking whey protein. Take whey protein after your workout if it is your intention to gain lean muscle tissue as it helps to promote protein synthesis (the forming of muscle) because it is digested more rapidly and efficiently than other protein sources. You have about an hour window immediately following exercise which can also be defined as an exercise recovery window and defined as such because it is absorbed fastest after exercise within this window than taking it any other time. If you consistently consume whey protein during the exercise recovery window, you will build muscle and gain strength much faster.
Aside from taking whey after a workout, there are also other ways you can take whey protein:
- If you take whey protein before your workout you decrease damage to muscle tissue and it helps to have the amino acids available to aid in repairing tissue damage that occurs during the workout, and less soreness is experienced.
- If you take whey protein during your workout you can increase your endurance, reduce muscle tissue damage, and promote faster recovery which can be especially useful during exhaustive workouts.
- Taking whey protein between meals can serve as a meal replacement (as they do for most people). This simply makes grazing far easier for those with less time to prepare meals for eating 4-6 times a day, which is the general recommendation. Eating frequently helps you eat less in the long run, reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and helps you maintain a more consistent energy level throughout the day.
- If you take whey protein at bedtime, not only will it help you sleep, but since human growth hormones (helps promote muscle growth) follow the circadian rhythm and peaks while you sleep at night, this makes it the perfect time to take whey for muscle growth. The high level of human growth hormone combined with the raw material of the amino acids in the whey protein together are an adequate environment for building lean muscle tissue.
There has been data that suggests that whey protein helps to increase metabolism and enhances digestive health by increasing friendly bacteria inside the digestive tract. Because of its fast absorption rate, whey protein has a higher acid peak amino concentration in the blood. Peak amino acid concentration is important because it makes muscle synthesis occur faster, so ingesting it after a heavy weight training routine is one of the most optimal times. Whey protein is the most effective in muscle tissue repair and best to use for exercise related muscle repair to build bigger, stronger muscles.
There are hundreds if not thousands of brands to choose from when trying to find the best whey protein supplement. The brand you choose doesn’t really matter. More importantly is which of the 3 forms you choose (isolate, concentrate, hydrolysate). Obviously, if you want the best form available, you will choose the isolate because at least you know that you are getting the highest percentage and best form of protein available. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, then you should go with the hydrolysate. Least of all you should choose a concentrate form of whey protein because you’re not sure how much of the protein you are getting and there’s too much variation in how much of the product is protein derived.
The only “side effects” that might be possible is if you are lactose intolerant, or allergic to dairy in general. For the most part whey protein has been proven to be fairly effective if your main goals are to aid in recovery and increase lean muscle tissue.