When it comes to macronutrients, protein is king. But not all proteins are created equal. Some types are more efficient when it comes to weight loss while others promote muscle growth more effectively.
Whey protein, for example, is one of the two proteins found in milk, accounting for approximately 20% while the rest is casein. Whey protein can be separated from casein or created as a by-product of cheese and yogurt manufacturing process. In other words, whey is what’s left behind after liquid milk has been curdled and strained.
Whey protein is usually used as a supplement, in powder form or already mixed into smoothies and drinks which also include other nutrients. It has a high nutritional value and its consumption has been associated to various health benefits. Let’s see what these are and what science has to say about them.
Provides high-quality protein
Whey protein is one of the two proteins milk is made of, alongside casein. It is considered a complete protein as it includes all 9 essential amino acids, particularly high in leucine and cysteine.
It has a low lactose content and compared to other types of protein, whey protein can be digested easily. All these make it a high-quality protein source with a high biological value.
Facilitates muscle growth
Muscle mass and strength usually decrease with advancing age. That is why whey protein supplementation has been shown to be quite effective in preventing and counteracting age-related muscle loss.
According to studies, combined with resistance exercise, whey protein promotes muscle protein synthesis and a higher muscle growth. This is mostly due to its high content of leucine, which is the most powerful amino acids in terms of building muscle.
Promotes weight loss
Protein consumption is a well-known practice among individuals who are trying to lose weight.
Among the various types of protein, whey protein is reportedly more efficient in terms of burning fat and promoting feelings of satiety for a longer period of time.
For instance, in one study on 158 individuals, subjects receiving whey protein registered a higher decrease in overall body fat while maintaining a lean muscle mass compared to those drinking control beverages.
For more information on how whey protein can help with weight loss, check out this article.
Lowers blood pressure
In general, dairy products may help people with hypertension reduce their blood pressure. This is due to a group of bioactive peptides called angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors or ACE-inhibitors.
Whey contains such natural inhibitors under the name lactokinins, used in treating high blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health. According to one study on overweight people, their blood pressure significantly decreased after only six weeks of introducing whey protein into their diets.
Helps with type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition which affects how your body metabolizes glucose. Type 2 diabetic subjects suffer from high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
Recent studies have shown that taking whey protein before meals, especially high carb ones, may increase the insulin response and reduce the sugar level in the blood. Whey protein seems to be even more efficient than other sources of protein such as egg white or fish and its effects have even been compared to diabetic drugs.
Inflammation is one way your body responds to damage. In turn, the liver produces C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. For a short period of time, it may be beneficial but in more serious situations, it may become chronic and, subsequently, a risk factor for many diseases.
Various studies have concluded that high doses of whey protein can significantly decrease CRP levels, thus reducing inflammation.
Increases antioxidant defense
Antioxidants are substances that protect cells against free radicals and oxidation in the body, reducing the risk of chronic conditions. One of the most powerful antioxidants produced by the human body is glutathione.
Whey protein is a rich source of the amino acid cysteine, a precursor of glutathione. Due to this, whey protein supplements can improve the body’s antioxidant defense and restore cellular damage.
Helps reduce hunger
Among the three macronutrients, namely protein, carbs and fat, protein is by far the most filling. In turn, among the various types of protein, whey protein seems to be more satiating, compared to casein and soy for example.
This powerful reduction in hunger is likely due to whey protein’s high content of leucine, an essential amino acid with numerous benefits. Consuming whey protein 90 minutes before a meal boosts the satiety hormones and helps you consume fewer calories.
Lowers high cholesterol
LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol represents a major risk factor for various diseases such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Whey protein supplements are reportedly efficient in helping individuals with high cholesterol problems, especially overweight individuals.
According to one study performed on 70 overweight men and women throughout 12 weeks, the total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels decreased significantly for the group that received whey protein, compared to the casein group.