Much has been written about whey protein in sports nutrition and it is frequently found in health food shops in large multi-colored plastic pots pronouncing its muscle building qualities. But what is whey protein exactly and how good is it for you?
Where does whey come from?
The protein in cow’s milk is 20% whey protein. When cheese is manufactured whey is left over as a by-product. A globular protein (meaning it is more or less soluble) whey has always been around. But in the last few decades it has become packaged and given marketing hype as the miracle muscle builder before being sold to us for high prices.
Whey comes in three forms: Isolates, Concentrates, Hydrolosates
- Hydrolosates – if you are looking for sports nutrition this is the body builder/athlete variety.
- Isolate – As in isolated. Everything else removed. If you are after purity then whey protein isolate is the one you are after.
- Concentrates – Most commonly found variety.
The most common use of whey protein is for those who wish to provide a quick protein fix to their muscles, often directly after working out. The reason most commonly stated is that exercise without adequate protein causes the muscles to break down and actually makes you weaker rather than stronger. Perhaps you don’t want arms like Mr Schwarzenegger, but to get all the health benefits of exercise and increase your strength it sounds like you need more protein. But do you need it in whey form?
The answer really depends on a number of factors. Are you using weights as part of your exercise program? Do you have adequate protein from other sources in your diet? But the number one reason people use a drink such a protein shake is because as it is in liquid form your body does not need as much time to break it down as a solid food and therefore it is more likely to replenish your muscles quicker in the extremely important 45 minutes after a workout for muscle recovery.
So if you are exercising with intensity and regularity then whey may be what you need.
Are there any dangers?
If you suffer from milk allergies then you should definitely check with a doctor as to whether whey protein would be suitable for you.
There are also potential dangers from having too much protein. This can cause liver and kidney damage or potentially osteoporosis.
Scientists still have not come up with any conclusive answers about the potential dangers of whey. But just be aware of the pressures and motivations of marketers in their attempts to persuade you that continual drinking of their product is going to create your perfect body. The point is to always remember the watchword of moderation.
And remember that if you want to increase your body’s muscle tone, then you also need to exercise! Drinking a sports supplement alone is not going to do it for you!