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Whey Protein and Sports Nutrition

Whey protein is one of the two proteins found in cow’s milk. The other protein is casein. Whey protein makes up only 1% of cow’s milk and is considered a “high quality” protein. It is very nutritious, since it is a complete protein, which means it contains all essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make by itself, so we must consume them.

To make whey protein, milk is pasteurised, then separated from the casein and milk-fat, which are used to make cheese. Concentrated liquid whey is purified and dried to remove water, then packaged as a powder for sale.

Whey Protein for Athletes and People who Exercise

Whey protein, in addition to being a complete protein with all essential amino acids, is an excellent source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs are important for people who exercise and for athletes, because skeletal muscle takes BCAAs up directly during and after exercise. In particular, iso-leucine, leucine, and valine are three amino acids that are broken down first by muscles during exercise. Having an adequate supply of them is important to building and maintaining muscles. Other amino acids are first metabolized by the liver, which takes time. Therefore, low levels of BCAAs can cause fatigue.  Many athletes consume BCAAs before and just after exercising, to help efficiently repair and rebuild muscle tissue.

Even if you’re not a professional athlete, whey protein has many advantages for people who are active in any kind of exercise program. For example, whey protein is an excellent component of a weight loss program. Whey protein is included in sports supplements because it helps people build more lean muscle tissue and lose more body fat. Whey protein also helps you feel more full after eating, which can be a great boost to your weight loss efforts.

Whey Protein Compared to Other Proteins

Since whey protein is a complete protein, it is of higher quality than many other proteins. It is absorbed more quickly by the body, and it contains immunoglobulins that help support the immune system. In comparison to soy protein, many athletes prefer whey protein because it has BCAAs and because it has a neutral taste that does not change the flavor of foods it is added to. While it is important to get protein from a variety of dietary sources, a supplement of whey protein contains very little fat and cholesterol so won’t make your training or weight-loss efforts any more difficult. Whey protein is also suitable for vegetarians who include dairy products in their diet.

Whey Protein Forms

Whey protein comes in three forms: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolyzed whey protein. Hydrolyzed whey protein is usually used in infant formulas. Isolate is the purest form, and it contains at least 90% protein. It is absorbed slightly faster and is best for lactose intolerant people, because the lactose has been removed. It is also somewhat more expensive than the third form, which is concentrate. Whey protein concentrate has 29%-89% protein and includes some lactose. There are also mixes of the isolate and concentrate, which may be a good choice since it will cost less than pure isolate and the results are virtually identical to that of isolate alone.

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