Whey is the liquid portion of milk obtained after milk coagulation using proteolytic enzymes or acids. This fast-digesting protein forms 20% of milk protein. Whey protein is a natural and rich source of well-balanced nutrients having a diverse range of biofunctional properties. It is a complete protein source packed with all nine essential amino acids.
Whey protein has been shown to support infant development, stimulate muscle growth, improve muscle mass, and confers positive health implications beyond basic nutrition. Due to its wide-ranging health benefits, whey protein is one of the most popular dietary supplements and a significant ingredient of protein bars, meal replacements, healthy drinks and powders.
Types of Whey Protein
Let us understand the fundamental difference between different types of whey protein. If you plan to begin with a whey protein powder, you will find ample supplements containing various types of whey. All of them may vary in their nutritional value but are incredibly beneficial. Passing the whey protein through various processing treatments yields different qualitative and quantitative protein profiles, minerals, fats, and sugars.
- Whey protein concentrate: This form is obtained by drying liquid whey into powder. It usually contains 35-80% protein with fats, carbohydrates (lactose) and minerals. Hence, whey protein concentrate is a superb choice if you require a high-quality protein source with some fats and carbs to build muscle or gain little weight.
- Whey protein isolate: When whey protein concentrate is processed further to reduce the fat and carb content, whey protein isolate is produced containing 85-90% protein having a higher bioavailability. This form is usually preferred by weight watchers, athletes or bodybuilders for lean muscle growth and ripped physique.
- Whey protein hydrolysate: Hydrolyzed whey protein is obtained after the hydrolysis into peptides and amino acids. This form is ultra-fast absorbing as the protein is present in the pre-digested form.
Generally, whey protein isolate is more expensive than concentrate form. If you prefer a minimally processed protein powder, whey protein concentrate is the best. Whey protein isolate powder and hydrolysate are better choices for those who are lactose intolerant.
Whey Protein Benefits
Whey protein intake is associated with numerous health benefits, as exhibited under science-backed studies. Let us discuss them one by one.
- Complete protein source: Whey protein is a fast-digesting excellent protein source. It provides all essential amino acids and has a very high nutritional value.
- Stimulate muscle growth: Whey protein contains leucine in abundance (approximately 10%) – the most growth-promoting amino acid. In addition, whey protein supplementation has been shown to increase the release of anabolic hormones that boost muscle growth, such as insulin.
- Encourage weight loss: If your fitness goal is to reduce body fat percentage, you must consider including a whey protein shake in your diet. It suppresses appetite, provides fullness, boosts metabolism and helps lose weight without losing muscle mass, resulting in healthy body composition.
- Exhibit antioxidant property: Whey protein exerts its antioxidant action and fights free radicals by acting as a precursor to glutathione, the most potent antioxidant produced in our body.
- Antihypertensive: Several studies have demonstrated the ability of whey protein to control blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disorders by inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).
- Healthy blood glucose levels: Whey protein is also safe for people with diabetes because it helps reduce serum blood glucose levels, increase the secretion of satiety hormones like leptin and reduce the release of ghrelin – the hunger hormone.
- Anti-inflammatory: Research suggests that whey protein can reduce inflammatory marker levels in the body and reduce inflammation.
- Enhance immunity: We need protein to synthesise antibodies that play a significant role in keeping diseases and infections at bay. Whey protein supplementation is a perfect way to deliver a superior quality protein source to the body.
- Healthy blood cholesterol levels: Elevated LDL cholesterol levels increase the chances of developing heart diseases. Whey protein helps maintain a healthy blood lipid profile by preventing LDL cholesterol levels from rising.
- Advantageous during IBS: Due to its anti-inflammatory effect, whey protein might also alleviate the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) by soothing and suppressing the chronic inflammation that occurs in the lining of the digestive tract.
Whey Protein Side Effects
Whey protein is absolutely safe to consume. One can conveniently add whey protein to your daily diet in shakes, smoothies, pancakes, and recipes of your choice.
To enjoy the health benefits, one must not exceed the recommended dosage of whey protein. Excess intake of whey protein might result in indigestion issues like:
- Reduced appetite
- Abdominal pain or cramps
Therefore, it is safer to consult a dietitian before consuming whey protein supplements. People with existing renal or liver disorders, pregnant and lactating women, must seek medical advice before starting the supplement.
Whey Protein Dosage
The dosage of whey protein might vary from person to person, depending upon the daily protein requirement. It also differs from brand to brand, but 25-50 grams (1-2 scoops) is usually considered safe to consume.
It is always safe to refer to the pack for dosage instructions.
Best Whey Protein Brands in India
These are some top-notch whey protein supplements you can consider including in your diet.