The benefits of whey protein in your diet are well documented in many research papers and studies. Research is finding that undenatured whey protein that maintains the natural fragile protein structure may also have health benefits.
Whey proteins are high quality proteins naturally found in cow’s milk. Milk contains two major proteins: casein (80%) and whey (20%).
Whey proteins are complete proteins containing all of the essential and non-essential amino acids needed by the body. When protein is digested, it is broken down into organic acids essential for metabolism, growth, and repair and maintenance of all the body’s tissues.
Amino acids are the chemical building blocks that make up proteins. Proteins are chains of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds with each group of amino acids tailored for a specific need. The body breaks down protein and uses the amino acids to build the specific proteins it needs.
Some of the major findings on the benefits of whey protein are outlined below:
Tissue Repair, Muscle Recovery, and Healing
Dr. Burke at the University of Colorado found that whey protein increases the production of collagen, which has a direct role in strengthening and growth of the bone, stimulates IGF-1 that enhances protein synthesis, muscle development, pain-killing effects, decrease muscle soreness, and influences Glutathione production. (1)
When injury in ligaments and connective tissue occurs, increasing the intake of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals helps speed the synthesis, repair and regeneration of injured tissue. (2).
The benefits of whey protein as it relates to aging is a new area of study.
Older people don’t process the protein they eat into their muscles as efficiently as young people. That means as we age our muscles gradually begin to make less protein so our muscle mass declines.
Studies show that amino acids supplied by whey caused the muscles of the elderly to not only repair, but increase muscle mass even without exercise. (3) See effects of Protein on Muscle in older men.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut found that a peptide extract from undenatured whey protein improved blood pressure in middle-aged adults. See more on Whey Boosts Heart Health.
The relationship between weight loss and whey protein is one of the benefits of whey protein that is well documented. Adding whey protein to your diet can help jump-start a weight loss program. It's a key ingredient in many weight loss and meal replacement products because it has little fat or carbohydrates.
A double blind 12-week study performed at the Minnesota Applied Research Center tested two groups of patients, each cutting out 500 calories per day.
The group who consumed whey protein 20 minutes before breakfast and 20 minutes before dinner lost significantly more body fat than the group who did not have whey protein.
Protein digests slowly, which allows you to feel fuller longer. This helps you maintain good portion control and avoid hunger. One of the benefits of whey protein is that it doesn't contain unhealthy fats or extra calories.
The body will use more energy to digest protein than it does for other foods, which helps you burn more calories.
Whey powder may help to suppress the appetite in other ways. The Whey Protein Institute states that, "Whey protein contains bioactive components that help stimulate the release of two appetite-suppressing hormones: cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon-like peptide-1."
A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June 2000) found that whey actually helped the body consume fat. Four test groups were used for their study.
According to research by the University of Colorado and University of Pittsburg (June 2002), people who added protein to their breakfast lost weight and kept it off for the 6 years of the study. Whey protein helps manage weight by curbing hunger and creating a feeling of food satisfaction.
Feeling stressed can also lead overeating and weight gain. Whey protein helps to reduce stress levels to combat this effect. According to Energy First, whey protein slows production of cortisol, a stress hormone, reducing stress and depression while helping releasing the calming hormone serotonin.
For more read Lose the Weight, Not the Muscle
Disease Prevention and Increased Well Being
Whey protein can be used to improve your overall physical health while also preventing diseases and infection. According to the Whey Protein Institute, whey protein can help to slow cancer growth in the body, prevent type-2 diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels and promote new skin growth to speed up wound healing. Faster skin growth can be especially beneficial for large wounds and burn victims.
Regularly consuming whey powder before or immediately after a strength training work out can lead to an enhancement in lean muscle mass.
In 2001, the International Journal of Sports, Exercise and Nutrition Metabolism conducted several studies which found that males who participated in a six-week strength training program while taking whey powder experienced increased lean muscle mass than those who did not take the whey supplements.
Whey powder is quickly digested, making it readily accessible to the muscles after a workout, at which time the muscles are most receptive to growth and repair.
Whey powder has beneficial effects on the immune system. According to the Whey Protein Institute, several studies have demonstrated that cysteine, an amino acid, elevates glutathione (GSH) levels, which is responsible for the additional immune system benefits.
The Institute states that, "This may help reduce the risk of infection and improve the responsiveness of the immune system." Animal experiments have also shown that elevated GSH exhibit anti-carcinogenesis and anti-cancer activity.
One of the benefits of whey protein powder is its convenient for people who are on the go. Because it does not require refrigeration, it can be stored at room temperature.
In addition to large containers for home use, some manufacturers sell single-serving packets that can be stored in a purse, gym bag, car or briefcase. The powder mixes easily with juice or water and after just a few vigorous shakes is ready to consume. For heartier meals, the powder can easily be added to a blender with frozen fruits to create a nutritious, anti-oxidant rich smoothie.
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DID YOU KNOW?
"Whey protein is the highest quality of proteins because it contains the perfect combination of overall amino acids."