The Basics of Whey Protein
As someone who is health conscious and always looking for new ways to improve your lifestyle in easy to achieve manners, it’s quite likely that at some point you’ve heard of whey protein. Of course, our first instinct is to hone on the second word – protein.
We need protein, and the easiest way to get it is by consuming meat, nuts, and legumes.
If you’re more of a vegetarian than a meat eater, you know very well that it can be incredibly difficult to get enough protein in your day to day life. It takes a whole new perspective on meal management to know that you can’t just buy a steak and be set. And even then, you might have found out the hard way that a legume/nut heavy diet is still making you miss some things that are necessary for your body.
So What Exactly Is Whey Protein?
[hwey, wey] noun
a milk serum, separating as liquid from the curd after coagulation, as in cheesemaking
Although the topic is controversial, the question of, “what is whey protein?” can be most easily answered by referring to the complete vs. incomplete protein debate. The specifics of it are never really fully agreed upon, and chances are if you’re looking for a precise explanation of what falls into complete and incomplete you’re better off heading to a licensed dietician.
With that said, a complete protein is something that contains a healthy amount of all essential amino acids. This is pretty strict, as anything that doesn’t have just that is thus considered to be incomplete. Much like how if you’re missing the rudder on the plane, it’s not quite a finished product and it increases risk to you.
The reason vegetarians and vegans run into so many protein issues is simply because their protein alternatives are usually not complete proteins.
The Complete and Incomplete Guide
Meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products typically have complete proteins, while foods such as grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and more have some amino acids but not all of them. It’s a legitimate problem for our personal health, especially if you’re trying to move away from meat eating.
If you don’t have access to the options available to the non-meat crowd for filling your protein needs, whey protein is a reasonable alternative that is safe for the cow through a process that is already committed to in our society. Milk will be harvested, cheese will be made, and butter will be churned. Utilizing whey if you aren’t a vegan makes sense, especially if you avoid meat.
Sources of Complete Proteins
- Poultry, meat, and fish
- Eggs and dairy-based foods
- Whole grain
- Most soy and soy-related foods (such as fresh soybeans, soy milk, tempeh, miso, and tofu)
(For Both the Meat Eaters and Vegetable Eaters)
The Benefits of This Health Supplement
Consuming whey protein has been making the rounds around alternative medicine, fitness, and personal health websites around the world. Perhaps the biggest drawing point of this protein is that it takes the meat out of the equation while still providing you all the amino acids you could ever need in protein supplementation.
You can easily get complete proteins while taking whey supplements and you won’t run into any of the messy problems that folks with protein deficiency end up with. While the health issues are no bogey monster under the bed, they can significantly impact how you live your life every single day.
What If I’m Not into Fitness?
It’s a big deal, and it should be taken seriously even if you’re not into major fitness and health management. With a small change you can remove several issues from your life that you might originally have complained about several times to friends and family. Even for the biggest couch potato among us, that is surely a worthwhile change to make.
Where Does Whey Protein Come From?
It is important to remember, however, that whey is still technically an animal product. It can only be extracted during cheese production from cow’s milk. See, whey is what you get when the milk is coagulated and the leftovers remain.
We can get into the nitty gritty details about the production of it, but I think you’re likely more interested in what benefits you can expect from ingesting this relatively unknown protein supplement.
If you’d like to read about the production of whey, I won’t stop you. The rest of this article will be waiting for you when you’re sufficiently satisfied with the knowledge you’ve acquired.
What Can Whey Do for You?
So you’ve either kept reading or you’ve just come back from reading some fancy details about the production of whey protein. In any case, it’s time to move on to what whey can do for you besides making sure you’re not neglecting your general protein needs.
This really depends on who you ask and which websites you look at, but there is genuine medical interest in the protein and how it can affect a human body. It is often touted as a dietary supplement and weight lifters often use it to build lean muscle better than if they would simply eat a lot of red meat.
The studies on this have been mostly inconclusive because of missed details, restricted study parameters, and a general bias towards supplementing diet with anything other than natural foods.
For example, a study that looked at how whey protein improves a weight lifter’s muscle growth determined that it didn’t, but they also did not check what other protein sources the weight lifters were consuming at the same time. It is undeniable that although it’s popular to assume whey protein is a direct source of improvement for muscle growth, more studies are needed to make a definitive assertion.
This is the story of anything suspected to be positive (or negative!) for the human body. It is equally undeniable that taking whey protein supplements is good for you if you’re not reaching the necessary amount of complete proteins you need, and that this will inevitably have positive results for your health in the long term.
One of the biggest mysteries of whey protein is mostly how it can influence disease in humans, either preemptively or after diagnosis. In fact, this is actually what most teams of scientists are interested in learning more about.
While muscle growth and reaching optimal protein levels is important, whey protein would have an even stronger case for consumer consumption if it were proven to positively impact humans who are prone to diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
If you’re interested in reading about more potential health benefits of ingesting whey protein, you can find several links to studies here for your own reading.
The Wheres, Hows, and Whens of Ingesting Whey
Convinced yet? Great! You have just one more step before actually investing in this. It’s important to note that a lot of people who are allergic to milk are sometimes allergic to specifically whey, as whey makes up about 20% of the milk we drink. If you’re positive you’re not allergic or lactose intolerant, then it’s more of a ‘health risk’ warning you need to be made aware of.
Being safe and cautious with taking whey protein supplements is completely fine, but taking too much can result in a few annoying things such as stomach pain, cramping, nausea, headaches, fatigue, and a reduced appetite. Like with any other supplement, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re taking the right amount.
You can acquire whey protein bottles at just about any health store, on the internet, and possibly even at locations such as Walmart. If you live near a Costco, chances are they have it too. It’s rather easy to find whey protein powder once you know what you’re looking for, which is fantastic.
It’s too often that you might hear about something great and then begin scratching your head because only obscure websites seem to carry it. Protein a highly commercialized product and that’s a good thing.
When to Take It?
The question of when to take your whey protein is open for personal preference and debate. Everyone’s body is a little different and responds to these things differently, and you can probably get a good idea by looking on the bottle. They typically offer some type of basic schedule for ingestion.
If you’re particularly interested in using whey protein supplements for your post-workout, many people attest that a 15-20 minute window after finishing is when it’s most beneficial. Your mileage may vary, and it might be a good idea to consult with a dietitian just in case!
There are some people who take it after waking up, some people who take it in the middle of the night, and some people who take it right before bed. There are several options for taking the supplement, and there is no one more qualified to make that decision than you and those you’ve trusted with taking care of your nutritional health.
As you’ve noticed, a common theme throughout this article is that you should consult with a licensed dietician and your doctor. As with all supplements, it’s a fantastic idea to ensure that not only are you being safe, but you are also taking the steps necessary to maximize your health.
The famous cliché that you’ve heard since childhood that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing holds true, and everything is held to this. Heck, just have a look at the people who eat way too many carrots.
Be safe, be educated, and ensure that you are meeting all your needs. Whey protein has the ability to either fill the gaps in your diet or improve your workout routine, allowing us to confidently label this supplement as doing exactly what it’s advertised to. There are no tricks to be found here.