Whey protein has turned out to be one of the best sources of protein. It promotes muscle growth, keeps us feeling full, and helps us achieve our weight loss goals. You can read about all the 10 amazing health benefits of whey protein for more details. In short, whey is the go-to protein for most bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness freaks.
But have you ever wondered what makes whey protein so effective? Why is it considered the best source of protein?
Today, we will answer the question and tell you what makes whey stand out from other sources of protein. You will find out exactly why nutritionists and sports bodies around the world recommend whey as the choice of protein.
First, we will start with the basics.
The Protein Profile of Whey
Let’s check out how whey turns out as a protein!
We know that whey is a by-product of making cheese. Based on the type of whey, it can contain about 90% protein.
In comparison, a serving of roasted chicken contains only 25% protein. A dish of lean, cooked beef provides 26% to 27% protein.
Vegetarian sources generally have lower protein content.
Number of Amino Acids
Have you ever wondered why animal products are called complete sources of protein?
It’s because whey has the highest concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s). Whey contains all nine essential amino acids along with a few others. And as you know, amino acids are the building blocks of muscle.
The Goodness of Milk
Whey protein contains all the goodness of milk minus the carbs, fat, and lactose. If you are lactose-intolerant, you can safely have whey isolate and get all the benefits of milk.
Now, we will analyze whey protein based on certain benchmarks.
Quality Ranking of Whey Protein
The US Dairy Export Council brings out a reference manual for whey and lactose products from time to time.
We are going to analyze whey protein based on certain benchmarks highlighted in the 2nd edition of the Reference Manual for US Whey and Lactose Products. You can also refer to the manual for detailed information on whey protein rankings.
Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER)
PER is one of the most popular methods to assess the quality of a protein. It has been used since 1919 and still prevalent today. PER uses a calculation based on the weight gain of a person divided by the intake of a particular protein. The higher the PER, the better is the quality of the protein.
Here’s a comparison of the PER or whey and other proteins-
|Protein Source||Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER)|
Biological Value (BV)
BV measures the proportion of protein that our bodies use for protein synthesis. The metric shows how readily protein from food gets incorporated into the protein of an organism’s body. Proteins with higher values are better and aid significantly in protein synthesis.
Let’s check out the BVs of common sources of protein-
|Protein Source||Biological Value (BV)|
Net Protein Utilization (NPU)
NPU measures the ratio of the amino acid amount converted to protein against the amount of amino acid provided. It’s an important marker of protein quality and used for nutritional purposes. NPUs can range between 0 and 1. A score of 1 means 100% utilization of dietary nitrogen to protein. A score of 0 means none of the nitrogen got converted to protein.
Here are the scores for most common protein sources
|Protein Source||Net Protein Utilization (NPU)|
Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score
Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score measures the quality of a protein-based on-
- Our amino acid requirements
- Ability to digest the protein
The highest possible score is 1, which means per unit of the protein provides all amino acids required.
Here’s the chart for your reference-
|Protein Source||Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score|
From the rankings, it’s clear that whey protein trumps others when it comes to quality. We also know that whey contains a high percentage of protein. It also has all the essential amino acids and the goodness of milk. In short, it’s one the best source of protein among all.
Still not convinced? Let’s check out a few other pointers!
What Makes Whey Protein the Best of All
Whey Protein Lays the Foundation for Muscle Building
Amino acids are the building blocks of muscles. They help our bodies in protein synthesis and grow muscle mass. Specifically, our bodies need 20 amino acids to facilitate the protein-building process.
- 9 are the essential amino acids, and
- 11 are the non-essential amino acids
Now, we must get the essential amino acids from our diet. As we already said, whey contains all the nine essential amino acids. They also boost the other non-essential amino acids made by our bodies by supplying them from outside.
Whey even comes with added amounts of leucine. Leucine aids in muscle protein synthesis, and helps us build more muscle mass. So if your goal is building muscles, whey is the best protein for the purpose.
Researchers have called whey the purest protein source available readily for consumption. It contains 90% protein and the highest concentration of BCAA’s among any protein product. Whey effectively maintains and builds muscle mass and eliminates catabolic activity during intensive training.
Our Bodies Absorb Whey Rapidly
Our bodies don’t react the same to all sources of protein. For instance, our bodies find it difficult to break down animal protein and take more time (even hours). In comparison, our bodies can break down most plant-based protein quickly.
Research shows that our bodies prefer quick-digestible sources of protein just before and after a workout. Why?
We rapidly absorb proteins that get quickly digested by our system. As a result, the protein reaches our muscles faster and helps in protein synthesis. And protein synthesis naturally leads to growth in muscle mass and volume.
Whey protein is highly soluble and quickly digested by our bodies. Researchers believe the absorption rate of whey is 100% in the first 10 minutes. In comparison, rice has an absorption rate of 63%, while soy has an absorption rate of 10%.
You can maximize your protein synthesis as more amino acids flow to your muscles. Even studies show that fast-digesting proteins like whey may increase protein synthesis and result in muscle growth.
For best results and muscle building, take your whey protein within-
- 45 minutes of working out
- 30 minutes after intense resistance training
You can get the benefits of whey by taking it 24 to 48 minutes after working out.
The Rate of Protein Intake
The rate of protein intake has a direct impact on the amount of amino acids released in the body. In a study, the researchers divided participants into two groups.
One group consumed 25 grams of whey at once. The other group divided the dose into 2.5 grams and had it 10 times over a period of 200 minutes.
The researchers found both groups to experience an increase in amino acids. But the group that took all the whey in a single dose experienced higher peak levels.
This shows that taking whey in a single dose is more effective in building muscles.
Whey Boosts the Release of Anabolic (Growth) Hormones
Anabolic hormones aid in protein synthesis and muscle growth. This is a known fact. But what is less known is that whey can increase the release of anabolic hormones in our bodies.
A study measured the effect of whey on anabolic hormones. The researchers gave some participants oral whey protein for 6 weeks, coupled with resistance training. The other participants joined the control group and only undertook resistance training. What did the researchers find?
The group that took whey protein-
- Experienced higher growth of anabolic hormone levels
- Build more muscle mass
Proteins like whey that come from dairy sources increase the levels of IGF-1 in our bodies. IGF-1 plays a big role in childhood growth and provides anabolic results in adults. The hormone also contributes towards healthy growth and development of bone and tissue.
In simple words, whey increases the levels of a range of anabolic hormones in us. The more anabolic hormones, the higher is the level of protein synthesis, resulting in more muscle growth.
Whey Makes It Easy to Fulfill Your Daily Protein Goals
Protein is the key to improve our overall body composition. We need to consume around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle mass. We are not saying this, but the American College of Sports Medicine has laid down the dosage.
Now, if you weigh 180 – 200 pounds, you need to consume around 180 to 200 grams of protein per day. Certainly, that’s not realistic. You have to keep eating all day long and still be short of your protein requirements.
Substances with high protein content, like whey isolate (90%), help us achieve our daily protein goals without gaining additional weight. You can sip on your whey shake between meals and add to your protein intake. Whey has a proven safety profile, and you can take 25 to 50 grams each day without any concern.
Whey also keeps us feeling satiated and reduces hunger and those food cravings.
Whey is Most Researched
Whey has a substantial body of research and literature to prove its efficacy and superiority.
The site Examine.com lists over 280 studies on whey that show the beneficial effects of whey protein. None of the studies note any factor or drawback that can make whey unsafe or dangerous.
It’s one of the safest and most-researched supplements with guaranteed results.
Whey protein is the choice of leading athletes and bodybuilders. We can take whey protein safely to achieve our muscle-building goals and attain strength and vitality.
You will get all the benefits of protein at higher levels, as whey is one of the best sources of protein. We have discussed more than enough points showing the superiority of whey amongst all proteins. You can, too, do your research and arrive at your conclusion independently!