Whey protein has many benefits for the avid gym goer and has been a favorite supplement for the majority of the workout market for many years.
So you may be thinking what really is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is one of two categories of proteins found in dairy (along with casein) and is a byproduct of cheese and yogurt production. Basically, you start with liquid milk and strain out the curds for cheese or yogurt, leaving whey behind.
Once processed, whey protein is typically sold as a powder on its own, or mixed into smoothie powders and drink mixes. It’s used as a supplement to address malnutrition and protein deficiencies or most often in an effort to increase athletic performance and improve body composition.
Before being absorbed in the body, the large fractions of protein are broken down by the body’s digestive enzymes into amino acids. Amino acids are then pieced back together in different combinations to make new proteins the body will use to build muscle, enzymes, hormones and other substances needed for structure and function.
Whey protein supplies all nine essential amino acids and is particularly high in leucine and cysteine. Protein sources that provide leucine are thought to be the strongest determinant of muscle protein synthesis and growth, which is why it is the preferred choice for most gym goers.
What are the benefits of Whey Protein? When should I use it?
Whey protein is known to have a relatively high biological value, meaning that the amino acids found within it are more efficiently used by the body than other proteins. This is a great benefit, because if you eat healthy foods your body can’t use, it’s a total waste of time.
A study done on college-aged males suggested that ingestion of 48 grams of whey protein isolate three days a week for eight weeks resulted in increased lean body mass, muscle mass, strength and power, as well as a decrease in overall fat mass. Protein after a super intense workout, in general, is a good idea.
When thinking about taking Whey you must remember building muscle doesn’t actually take place during your workout; rather, your workout is the tool you use to put your body in the necessary state for muscular hypertrophy during recovery. Proper post-workout nutrition stimulates the repair of tissues in a way that leads to muscle growth. Therefore immediately following a workout, the blood flow to skeletal muscles is stimulated, and the act of working out “opens up” muscles to function a bit like a sponge – they’re primed and ready to absorb nutrients.
By consuming a fast-absorbing protein like whey protein immediately after your workout, you’re supplying your muscles with the amino acids they need to repair and grow, precisely when they benefit the most. The sooner you can consume whey protein following your workout, the better. Generally speaking, you have up to a two-hour window (the “anabolic window”) post-workout to consume a protein-carbohydrate meal.