If you walk into a health food store or your local vitamin shop, you can’t help but notice all the shelves packed with glossy whey protein bottles. I was shocked to learn that the market value of the whey protein industry is expected to reach approximately $11.7 billion in 2017.
That’s a lot of protein powder.
Protein is so essential for our bodies; so we need to make sure we get enough. Without protein we wouldn’t be able to build muscles or repair our tissues.
Protein also gives us energy, transports nutrients so our bodies can use them, and produces enzymes and hormones we need.
And I wondered if whey protein any other amazing things too…
What Is Whey Protein?
Remember the old nursery rhyme about Little Miss Muffin eating her curds and whey?
Well, back before we were able to separate casein protein and whey protein from milk, we used to only get whey as a byproduct of cheesemaking. Once the curds, or firm cheese parts, were separated from the milk, the liquid that remained became known as whey.
Since most of the lactose is removed from the milk in the form of casein, whey becomes very low in lactose content, but very high in protein.
Whey is actually considered a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids.
There are three kinds of whey protein.
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey concentrate has low levels of fat and carbohydrates (lactose) depending on the concentration amount. Lower end concentrates tend to have 30% protein; higher concentrations can be up to 90% protein.
These are typically the cheapest to start out with, but they’re also the hardest to digest.
Whey Protein Isolates
Whey protein isolates (WPI) are further processed to remove all the fat and lactose. WPI is usually at least 90% protein.
These tubs are going to be a little more expensive than whey concentrate, but they’re perfect for those watching their carbs since they’re mostly straight protein. Whey isolates are also quicker to digest than whey concentrate.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Hydrolysate protein is considered to be the ‘predigested’ form of whey protein as it has already undergone partial hydrolysis – a process necessary for the body to absorb protein.
This is the most expensive type of whey protein. It’s commonly used in medical protein supplements and infant formulas because of it’s reduced allergen potential, although studies have shown that it’s no better absorbed than regular whey protein.
Now that you know the differences, here are my top 9 health benefits of using whey protein.
1. Lose Fat, Not Muscle
When you finally start building up some muscle, the last thing you want to do during a workout is lose muscle instead of fat. Anyone who’s worked hard to gain muscle mass knows that keeping it is just as important as building it.
If you’re struggling to get enough protein every day, whey is one of the easiest ways to get more.
2. Increase Endurance
What if I told you that whey protein actually made you stronger at the gym?
Well, if it helps increase your total protein intake to more acceptable levels, then it can.
3. Stop Cravings
When you work out and feed your body healthy food, it can become a pain if you’re as busy as I am. I try to combat this with my quick healthy eating hacks.
But if you always feel like you’re hungry or fighting hunger pains, consider adding whey protein to your diet too.
One study on 28 obese men tested appetite responses and hormonal responses to whey protein.
Researchers gave the men four different drinks ranging in levels of fructose and whey. Four hours after drinking the beverages with 50 grams of whey, the men had significantly reduced levels of ghrelin, a hormone responsible for aiding appetite regulation by both stimulating your appetite and telling your brain that you’re full after meals.
Decreased levels of this hormone means less desire for snacking and fewer ways to get yourself in trouble with unnecessary calories.
4. Control Blood Sugar
We know that eating protein alongside foods that have sugar helps control the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream.
Since whey is protein, it’s no wonder researchers believe that combining whey with sugary foods helps diabetics lower their blood sugar.
8. Support A Healthy Heart
A study done by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University concluded that adding a whey protein drink to the diets of young subjects with high blood pressure lowered both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure. However, participants with normal blood pressure levels didn’t see the same lowering results.
The Journal of Dairy Science also brings good news; the study reports that giving both rats and healthy men a milk containing whey protein, not only lowered their triglycerides and systolic blood pressure, but raised their HDL levels, or good cholesterol levels.
Which leads me to my final healthy benefit of whey protein…
9. Lower Cholesterol
If you also have other signs of heart disease, having cholesterol levels that are far outside the normal values can be a bad sign.
I found a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition about how whey protein affected cholesterol levels of 11 obese, non-diabetic women. The participants received a whey protein supplement for four weeks. Researchers learned that subjects consuming the whey protein decreased their total cholesterol and decreased the amount of triglycerides in their livers.
Another study also examined this effect and was published in the British Journal of Nutrition. This time, overweight subjects were given either whey or casein supplements. As you can expect, the subjects taking the whey had lower cholesterol levels when the study was completed than the ones supplementing with casein.
Whey Protein Pro Tips
Check your recommended daily amount of protein and then use whey as part of an overall healthy diet to hit your target.
When whey protein made my list of delicious protein-packed foods, I shared this handy guide from Muscle For Life to help men decide which type of protein to to buy. And there’s also one to explain which proteins are best for women.
Adding whey protein to your morning low carb pancakes, yogurt, or afternoon smoothie is a great way to snack on protein instead of fats, carbs, or sugary sweets.
Personally, I love incorporating whey protein into my diet; it’s a quick way to sneak in some protein when I’m running out the door. And with these nine amazing health benefits, I’m actually doing a lot more for my body than just packing in some protein. I hope you’ll start seeing the benefits, too.