Whey protein: An amazing protein that can benefit everyone

Anyone interested in nutritional supplements or sports nutrition has undoubtedly heard a lot about whey protein. Here's the story behind this incredibly amazing protein. 

Whey is a by-product from the cheese-making process. Once the milk proteins (casein) are removed from milk, a thin, watery liquid is left which contains whey. For years, this "useless" liquid was just washed down the drain in dairies across the nation. Crude or sweet whey contains a large amount of lactose, minerals and unique proteins. New filtering techniques are able to remove almost all the carbohydrate (lactose) and fat, leaving behind an almost pure protein.

The most common forms used in supplements today are whey protein concentrate (80-85% protein), and even more highly filtered and purified whey protein isolate (about 90% protein).

Is whey the best protein?

Whey protein has the highest Biologic Value (BV) of any natural protein source. This means it is digested and absorbed by your body better than beef, soy, egg or milk protein!

Whey protein is also a terrific source of Essential Amino Acids (EAAs). These are amino acids that your body can't produce by itself and which must come from your diet. Approximately 50-60% of the amino acids in whey protein are EAAs. Many vegetable sources of protein are low in one or two EAAs, making it harder for your body to utilize vegetable protein completely.

Whey is loaded with BCAAs to minimize muscle breakdown

Whey protein contains the highest Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) content of any natural protein source. BCAAs (valine, leucine and isoleucine) are three EAAs that are critical for building and maintaining muscle during exercise. After intense training or exertion, the body breaks down muscle (catabolism) so the BCAAs can be used energy. All types of athletes need a good source of BCAAs to help minimize this post-training muscle breakdown. BCAAs may also promote muscle growth through increased release of growth hormone.

Whey contains many beneficial protein fractions 

Whey protein is approximately 5% bovine serum albumin, a protein rich in glutamylcystine. Glutamylcystine and the amino acid cystine are needed by your body to make glutathione, an amazing molecule found in every cell of your body. By increasing glutathione production in the body, whey protein may provide health benefits for athletic performance, HIV, certain cancers, hepatitis and even macular degeneration. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant and intracellular "manager," controlling vital cell functions on an immediate basis. Whey protein can increase intracellular glutathione levels and may optimize the function of every cell in your body! More research is ongoing in this new area of glutathione metabolism.

Additionally, whey protein supplements have been shown to increase the amount of tryptophan in the bloodstream and reduce the negative effects of stress on the body. Whey protein is 15-20% alpha-lactalbumin, which has a naturally high tryptophan content. Tryptophan is a building block of serotonin, a powerful neurotransmitter.

Whey protein also helps the stomach and intestine fight off potential infections and stay healthy. Whey protein is 15% glycomacropeptide, a molecule unique only to whey. Glycomacropeptides serve as a growth factor for beneficial intestinal bacteria. It can bind cholera and bacterial toxins, and may prevent some viruses from binding to intestinal cells. Whey that is processed using a filtering technique retains these valuable glycomacropeptides.

About 5% of whey protein consists of different immunoglobulins (IG). Although more research is needed, scientists speculate that IG from whey protein may also help provide immunity against ingested bacteria and viruses.

Finally, whey protein contains lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein that is critical for normal red blood cell production. By binding to free iron in the bloodstream, lactoferrin can also inhibit the growth and reproduction of many types of harmful bacteria.  In some Asian countries, it is added to infant formulas because of its many benefits.

Whey's individual components create a superior protein

As you can see, whey protein can provide health benefits for people with diverse nutritional needs. It is easily digested and absorbed. It has an excellent amino acid profile, providing the EAAs and BCAAs your body needs for normal cell metabolism and muscle growth. But whey's most unique properties are found in the many different protein fractions that, together, make up "whey protein." If you are looking for a protein supplement, whey protein is an excellent choice.


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