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Expert Advice -- Latest protein research
Whey protein with fiber lowers blood sugar response to food
An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and at least twice that number have pre-diabetes, two conditions associated with dysregulation of blood sugar. Recent evidence indicates that regular consumption of whey protein may help manage blood sugar levels.

Australian researchers wanted to find out if low doses of whey protein combined with fiber would be an effective strategy for significantly lowering blood sugar levels. The diabetic and pre-diabetic test subjects consumed a standardized breakfast consisting of 2 slices of bread, margarine, jam, and tea or coffee. Fifteen minutes before breakfast, subjects consumed water only (control condition) or a whey-fiber drink consisting of whey protein (17 grams), lactose (5 grams) and guar gum (5 grams). Compared to water only, the whey-fiber drink significantly reduced the blood sugar response to breakfast. For example, blood sugar levels 45 minutes after breakfast were 38 mg/dL lower when the whey-fiber drink was consumed 15 minutes before the breakfast. The whey-fiber drink reduced blood sugar levels during the 3 hours after breakfast by an average of 14 mg/dL.

Consuming a modest dose of whey with fiber prior to breakfast was effective at significantly decreasing blood sugar responses to a standard breakfast, and therefore may represent an effective strategy for better management of high blood glucose. Guar gum is a fiber from the seed of the guar plant. It is found in a few multi-fiber powders. You should expect similar results from more common fibers like psyllium, acacia, glucomannan, oat bran or chia seeds. Consider adding fiber to a whey shake to reduce the normal rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal.

Reference: Hansen M, Bangsbo J, Jensen J, Bibby BM, Madsen K. Effect of Whey Protein Hydrolysate on Performance and Recovery of Top-Class Orienteering Runners. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Jul 14.



Whey protein reduces hunger, weight and body fat
According to results of a new study, regular consumption of whey protein before meals may help shed excess weight. Overweight and obese men were randomly assigned to a whey or soy group. Each group was provided packets of either whey protein concentrate (65 grams) or soy protein isolate (60 grams) which yielded the same quantity of protein (about 54 grams). They were then asked to mix it with water and consume it in the afternoon 30 minutes before their largest meal. They were also instructed to maintain their usual dietary intake and activity patterns.
After 12 weeks of daily protein supplementation, ratings of hunger were reduced more in the whey group (43%) than the soy group (25%), and this translated into a greater decrease in energy intake, especially from carbohydrates. The whey group lost almost twice as much weight (-14.1 pounds) as the soy group (-7.7 pounds). The percentage body fat decreased from 29.6% to 20.4% in the whey group and from 28.2% to 25.1% in the soy group. Lean muscle mass increased more in the whey group (9 pounds) than the soy group (1 pound). While both whey and soy protein resulted in significant improvements, these findings indicate that consuming a whey protein beverage 30 minutes before a large meal is more effective than a soy-based beverage at decreasing appetite and promoting greater weight and fat loss.

Reference: Tahavorgar A, Vafa M, Shidfar F, Gohari M, Heydari I. Whey protein preloads are more beneficial than soy protein preloads in regulating appetite, calorie intake, anthropometry, and body composition of overweight and obese men. Nutr Res. 2014 Sep 2.



Study shows two ways to maintain and build muscle when dieting
If you restrict calories to lose weight, you want to ensure most of the weight you lose is fat, not muscle. Unfortunately, many people tend to lose significant amounts of lean muscle mass when restricting calories. What can you do? Research indicates that resistance exercise combined with whey protein may be effective for preserving or even building muscle mass while losing body fat. In one recent study conducted in healthy men and women, researchers examined the protein synthesis response to energy deficit conditions (when more calories are burned than consumed). Under these dieting conditions, their muscle building levels were studied with and without resistance exercise and with whey protein supplementation.

Compared to results obtained during energy balance (calories burned equaled calories consumed), the rate of muscle protein synthesis was reduced by 27% after 5 days of moderate caloric restriction (calorie intake reduced one third below calorie balance). Surprisingly, just a single bout of resistance exercise restored muscle protein synthesis to levels similar to energy balance. They were tested again under moderate caloric restriction, but this time 15 grams of whey protein was consumed immediately after exercise. Muscle protein synthesis increased 16% above resting energy balance. When the amount of whey protein was doubled to 30 grams, muscle protein synthesis increased by 34% above resting energy balance.

In summary, these results confirm that simply restricting calories leads to a loss of muscle. Performing resistance exercise during caloric restriction helps to restore muscle protein synthesis to normal levels. But the best results were achieved when whey protein was consumed after resistance exercise, 30 grams being twice as effective as 15 grams.

Reference: Areta JL, Burke LM, Camera DM, West DW, Crawshay S, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Phillips SM, Hawley JA, Coffey VG. Reduced resting skeletal muscle protein synthesis is rescued by resistance exercise and protein ingestion following short-term energy deficit. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Apr 15;306(8):E989-97.


Jeff S. Volek is a registered dietitian and Full Professor in the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University. He has published 270 articles examining health and performance effects of low-carbohydrate diets and other dietary supplements including seminal work on creatine, carnitine and whey protein.
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