Whey protein has numerous benefits and uses, making it one of if not the most popular supplement on the market. One reason it’s so unique is its widespread benefits – from children to elite athletes or the elderly, whey can help.
Whey protein is most notable for its beneficial effects on muscle growth, strength and recovery. Helping you double muscle growth and strength gains in some cases.
However, whey’s benefits go way beyond simple muscle growth. For example, whey protein can boost your immune system function, reduce risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and even improve bone mineral density!
Within this article, we’ll cover the top 10 reasons why you (and just about everyone else) should use whey protein!
1.) Whey Protein has the Fastest Breakdown & Absorption Rates!
Whey protein is a milk protein that is also referred to as a fast-digesting protein when compared to other sources of protein such as casein and soy.
In addition to being fast digesting, whey protein also has a high bio-availability, i.e. it gets broken down immediately. This means amino acid levels spike the blood faster and initiate muscle protein synthesis (1).
The graph below is from research that studied whey protein vs casein; as you can see, blood leucine (key amino acid or broken down protein) spikes faster and in higher concentrations for whey than casein.
2.) Whey Protein has the Highest Leucine Content
Recently researchers have identified that leucine may be the most important amino acid that drives Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS).
When we obtain sufficient leucine, our body gets the signal to stimulate MPS and lay down new muscle. Sadly, non-animal sources of protein lack leucine, making it hard to reach the required threshold.
Luckily, whey protein has one of the highest leucine contents of all proteins. When compared to casein, soy, egg and beef protein whey protein has the highest, this partly explains why it’s so beneficial for muscle growth (2).
3.) Whey Protein Increases Protein Synthesis to a Greater Degree Than Other Proteins
As stated above, Muscle Protein Synthesis is a key biological driver behind adding new muscle mass.
Recently, one group of researchers analyzed the effects of casein, whey and soy protein supplementation and the effects on muscle protein synthesis rates.
These researchers discovered that following whey supplementation muscle protein synthesis was stimulated 129% greater compared to casein and 31% greater than soy (3).
4.) Whey Protein Increases Satiety and Reduces Hunger
As mentioned previously whey protein has multiple benefits; one of the other main benefits is hunger prevention and fat loss!
If you’ve ever been on a diet, then you will know all too well that hunger and cravings can be a deal breaker. One reason participants on the 90 Day Bikini plan lose weight quickly but also sustain their weight loss is that we focus on high satiety foods.
High satiety foods naturally allow you to reduce calories, plus, you will enjoy your diet and stick to it much easier if you aren’t always hungry. Remember, when you are hungry the first thing you crave is bad food, not a salad. Eliminating hunger is key for long-term success!
Recently, one group of researchers compared the effects of 4 different types of proteins on meal satiation and uncontrolled calorie intake in the following meal.
These researchers reported that whey protein was the most satiating! In addition, the whey group consumed fewer calories in the following meal (4).
Therefore, supplementing with whey protein can actually be a great tip for dieting, or as a snack in-between meals to keep hunger at bay!
5.) Whey Protein Increases Bone Health!
In addition to being beneficial for muscle growth and fat loss, whey protein can also help protect your bones and aid in bone mineral density.
In fact one group of researchers demonstrated in a cell culture study that whey protein plays an important role in bone formation and may be therapeutic for those who have osteoporosis, as whey activates osteoblasts which stimulate new bone formation (5)!
While this is key for all ages, it’s especially relevant for those aged 50+. As we age, bone mineral density and muscle mass decline. This leads to many age-related illnesses and lack of strength, independence, quality of life, fracture rates and, in serious cases, even deaths from falls.
6.) Whey Protein Decreases Blood Pressure!
High blood pressure is a serious health concerns that affects millions of people in the United States alone. If not taken care of, high blood pressure can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases and, in severe cases, may even result in death.
One group of researchers demonstrated that whey protein supplementation in adults with elevated blood pressure lowered their levels with systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreasing by 8.0 and 8.6mm/hg respectively (6)!
It has been suggested that whey protein contains active peptides that, when absorbed, may have hypotensive effects.
7.) Whey Protein Decreases Cholesterol Levels!
In addition to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of heart attacks and/or stroke.
While exercise and overall fat loss are the primary go to for improving these parameters, recent evidence suggest that whey protein may also lower cholesterol levels.
One group of researchers demonstrated that, after 6 weeks of whey protein supplementation, subjects noted a decrease in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (6).
8.) Whey protein boosts immune function!
Antioxidants play an important role in our immune system and also help with recovery from exercise and fighting off long-term chronic inflammation.
Possibly their most important role is that antioxidants provide protection from damaging free radicals! Free radicals damage our cells and basically accelerate the aging process. They are closely linked to cancer and metabolic diseases.
One group of researchers analyzed the effects of weight training combined with whey protein supplementation on the body’s antioxidant function. These researchers demonstrated that the combination was more effective at improving antioxidant function than weight training alone (7)!
As you can now begin to see, whey protein function should become a key part of everyone’s diet, not just athletes or bodybuilders.
9.) Whey protein improves strength and recovery after damaging exercise!
Whether you’re an elite athlete who needs to be at peak performance or just a beginner working out in the gym, whey protein will help maximize your results.
One way that whey protein can help is increasing recovery. In turn, this has been shown to actually increase the adaptations or progress you get from all your hard work at the gym!
One group of researchers put 17 subjects through an intense and damaging workout bout, and then provided them with either whey protein or carbohydrates for the next 14 days. Subjects were then re-tested on maximal strength.
The results demonstrated that those who supplemented with whey protein noted significantly higher strength levels, indicating that whey protein improves recovery and helps maintain muscular strength after a damaging workout (8)!
As discussed earlier, the impressive results are due to whey protein’s leucine content and its key amino acids which help repair your muscles and grow new muscle fibers.
10.) Whey protein is a cheap, healthy and convenient snack or meal replacement!
Along with the use of whey protein before and/or after a workout it can also be used as a meal replacement and snack.
Whey protein is a very cheap source of protein, containing 25-30grams of protein for less than $1. If you’re looking to lose fat and save money, replacing one of your meals per day with whey protein is really a no-brainer.
Whey protein is also very convenient and a go-to snack that I recommend to all personal clients and members on my plans. By keeping a spare shaker and tub of protein in your car and at the office, you will never be really caught off guard.
Remember, you can now head to your local store, such as a CVS or local grocery store, and pick up a pre-made whey protein shake if you are out and about or away traveling.
How To Use Whey Protein
Well there you have the 10 best reasons to use whey protein!
As you can see, it has numerous benefits and should be used by your whole family, it’s safe for adults, children and the elderly.
If you are lactose intolerant, you will probably still be ok with whey as it actually has a very low lactose quantity. If not, other good sources such as chicken, beef and egg protein all have a good amount of amino acids and leucine.
Try adding in 2 scoops per day; this will bump up your protein (which has dozens of other amazing benefits), help you lose fat, add muscle and give you all the other benefits described above!
There is no specific brand I recommend or push – just find one that you love the taste of (as it can get boring after weeks/months) and ensure it is low in sugar/fat. Also, check the price, you should get it for less than 1$ per scoop and don’t be fooled by all the fancy blends that promise increased absorption or claim to contain any other fancy ingredients (they probably aren’t going to help you unless you are an elite athlete).
Hopefully, you now understand that protein is not just for the elite athlete and can have significant health benefits for a variety of populations. If you are not consuming it already, you are really just missing out on one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective strategies in the world of sports supplementation.
Here’s a re-cap of the benefits of whey protein:
- Whey protein is the fastest digesting protein on the market, making it great for pre and post workout!
- Whey protein has the highest content of leucine and other key amino acids.
- Whey protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis to a greater degree compared to all other proteins; this is the key driver behind muscle growth.
- Whey protein increases satiety, reduces hunger and may result in improved weight loss over time.
- Whey protein increases bone health and reduces muscle and bone loss – especially important as we age.
- Whey protein decreases both blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Whey protein helps attenuate strength losses following a damaging workout protocol, helping you maximize recovery and your overall annual results.
- Lastly, whey protein is super convenient and cost effective – try using 2 scoops per day around the workout and/or as a meal replacement (if your goal is fat loss).
1.) Cermak, N. M., de Groot, L. C., Saris, W. H., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 96(6), 1454-1464.
2.) Norton, L. E., Wilson, G. J., Layman, D. K., Moulton, C. J., & Garlick, P. J. (2012). Leucine content of dietary proteins is a determinant of postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in adult rats. Nutrition & metabolism, 9(1), 67
3.) Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., Kujbida, G. W., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of applied physiology, 107(3), 987-992.
4.) Pal, S., & Ellis, V. (2010). The acute effects of four protein meals on insulin, glucose, appetite and energy intake in lean men. British journal of nutrition, 104(08), 1241-1248.
5.) Xu, R. (2009). Effect of whey protein on the proliferation and differentiation of osteoblasts. Journal of dairy science, 92(7), 3014-3018.
6.) Fluegel, S. M., Shultz, T. D., Powers, J. R., Clark, S., Barbosa-Leiker, C., Wright, B. R., … & Miller, A. J. (2010). Whey beverages decrease blood pressure in prehypertensive and hypertensive young men and women. International dairy journal, 20(11), 753-760.
7.) Sheikholeslami, V. D., & Ahmadi, K. G. F. (2012). Changes in antioxidant status and cardiovascular risk factors of overweight young men after six weeks supplementation of whey protein isolate and resistance training. Appetite, 59(3), 673-678.
8.) Cooke, M. B., Rybalka, E., Stathis, C. G., Cribb, P. J., & Hayes, A. (2010). Whey protein isolate attenuates strength decline after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(1), 30.