Supplementation – Whey Protein

To think for years cheese makers were just throwing away a by product that could have made them more money than their cheese – whey.

That’s right, I’m not going to tell you about some evil scientist in his laboratory producing some toxic substance that we are all just putting into our body. But there are myths out there, a whole number of rumours about whey protein that simply aren’t true.

The most important thing to remember is that this isn’t something that has been manufactured in a lab. it’s a naturally occurring by product from cheese making. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily brilliant for you, but people seem to be a lot more confident in a product if it’s naturally occurring.

So eventually people started to test this whey that was left after making cheese. And to no surprise they soon found that it possessed a number of health benefits, but there were two in particular in that made it very appealing to the bodybuilding community:

  • Complete protein
  • Low in calories

These two things have been essential for the growth in popularity of whey protein use. Think about it, if you want to build muscle you know that you have to monitor your calorie intake and make sure you’re getting plenty of protein.

Whey has now become probably the most popular form of protein supplement, and a lot of this is down to its amino acid profile. Whey is high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which make it ideal for use regarding muscle growth.

Not all the benefits relate to muscle growth though. Whey protein is very easy to digest, but you need to remember there are two separate types of whey:

  • Whey isolates
  • Whey concentrates

So if you’re lactose intolerant for example you going to want to stick to isolates, because as the name suggests, the protein is isolated. Concentrates on the other hand still contain some of the lactose that is removed in making whey isolates.

There are even more benefits out there, for example it’s incredibly lightweight and it can be naturally sweetened to taste nicer, but these aren’t necessarily the benefits we are after.

Now for the myths, and with the growth in popularity of online forums and blogs it’s now very easy to find plenty of people out there who condemn whey protein. The great thing about the internet is that there will always be someone out there who agrees with you.

A common criticism of all forms of protein is that it can cause kidney damage – similar criticism has been applied to creatine use as well. This all comes from the fact that protein is a large molecule and has to be broken down by the kidneys. Some clever spark out there put the two together, but unfortunately came out with five.

Our bodies are incredibly intelligent, and as long as you have good levels of hydration and no pre-existing kidney condition, studies have shown we can take well above the recommended amounts of whey protein and still be fine – of course I’m not recommending you go out and conduct your own experiment.

Women in particular become worried about taking whey protein because they think it will make them bulky and unattractive. The truth is when you see those overly muscular women, you know, the ones that have clearly gone too far? Well those women are on a whole concoction of proteins, steroids and all sorts, so you don’t need to worry about ending up like that – it won’t happen.

Still, maybe that hasn’t eased your worries about weight gain when using whey protein? Well then you will probably enjoy this part. We as humans have a great understanding of our bodies, and one thing that we have become aware of is the thermic effect of food, or TEF. Basically this looks at how much energy we use to digest different types of food.

You’ve probably guessed that the reason I’m telling you this is because protein has the highest thermic effect, meaning that to an extent, by taking in protein you’re burning calories.

Humans are protein. Whether it’s the collagen in your skin or the keratin in your hair, we are all made up of a wide range of proteins. That’s why you get ‘essential proteins’, or ‘essential amino acids’.

I’ll always tell you the same thing with supplements, if you can get it from your nutrition then do it. But if you’re concerned or worried about using whey protein, then don’t be. As long as you follow the professional suggestions you won’t be doing any harm to your body, and you’ll be helping your overall progress.

Ollie Lawrence
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