What is Whey Protein?

Protein contains Amino Acids and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) which are the building blocks for muscle. Without sufficient amino acids the body cannot repair and build muscle and so recovery from muscle damage done through training can be slow or nonexistent. The body can be in a catabolic state, using more protein (muscle) than it is rebuilding. Different proteins contain different amounts and types of amino acids as well as offering different absorption and digestion properties so benefits can be gained from using combinations of proteins depending on training and dietary requirements.

Good protein is obtained from whole food protein sources like turkey breast, tuna, chicken breast, lean red meat, cottage cheese and milk, and from protein supplements, popular today due to convenience, ease of use, and economy.

Whey Protein
By far the most popular protein supplement available today is whey protein. Whey is one of the two major proteins found in milk (casein is the other) and is isolated from milk as a by product in the production of cheese and casein. Pure whey contains a large amount of the milk sugar lactose, as well as a variety of proteins, fat and cholesterol.

Whey traditionally used to be considered a waste product and dumped on fields and into the nearest lake. Fortunately whey was discovered to contain high quality proteins and so methods have been developed to remove as much of the undesirable lactose, fat and cholesterol as possible from the protein. Original methods developed included acid treatment and high temperature drying. This unfortunately destroyed much of the protein and ruined the quality of the protein extracted.

New methods have been developed that can extract the protein from the whey while maintaining its quality. The most common methods today include ultra-filtration, micro-filtration, ion-exchange and cross flow micro-filtration. Ultra-filtration and micro-filtration use a low temperature process where the proteins are physically separated by filters. The ion-exchange process removes the protein through an ion-exchange column that takes advantage of the specific electronic charges of the protein, fat and lactose contained in the whey and uses opposite charges to extract each individual component. Crossflow micro-filtration uses natural, nonchemical ceramic membranes to separate the undenatured whey protein from the fat and denatured protein.

All of these processes result in a high quality whey protein, low in fat and lactose. Always be sure to check the label for which method or methods have been used, as some of the cheaper proteins may use whey proteins that have been processed by cheaper acid treatment or high temperatures and contain high levels of undenatured proteins. Undenatured proteins are unusable by the body and result in the whey having a bitter taste when consumed. A good quality protein powder will always list in the ingredients panel or on the label whether it is microfilltered, ultrafiltered or ion-exchange. If it simply lists whey protein concentrate or isolate you can only assume that it contains a cheaper form of protein.

To build muscle you have to train hard, sleep well, and eat your protein. Pretty simple really. But with so many different protein sources available many people are confused about what their personal requirements are and so are not eating enough and are eating the wrong types of foods. When doing any form of training, whether for strength and muscle gains in the gym, endurance work including running, cycling and swimming or for team or individual sports, protein is crucial for aiding in recovery and helping rebuild damaged muscle tissue.

Benefits of Whey Protein
There are several benefits to choosing whey protein over other protein sources. Whey protein has an extremely high biological value (BV) afforded to it (Whey Protein BV = 104 with Whey Peptides having a BV between 110-159). The BV of a protein is essentially a measure of how well it is utilized by the body, and takes into account the amino acid profile, solubility and digestibility of the protein. Whey protein is an ideal source of protein post workout as it is absorbed extremely quickly to help rebuild damaged muscle.

Whey protein contains the highest percentage of BCAA’s of any protein source as well as high levels of essential amino acids. BCAA’s protect muscle from protein breakdown and help to stimulate protein synthesis or muscle growth. Whey protein also contains protein fractions. These are the active components that high quality whey proteins should contain. These include Alpha-Lactalbumin, Immunoglobulins, Glycomacro-peptides and Lactoferrin. These components possess properties that support the immune system, act as antioxidants and can help with cell growth and repair in the body.

Essential amino acids are important as the body cannot manufacture these itself and relies on getting them from the diet.

Whey protein may also suitable for some lactose intolerant individuals as it is extremely low in lactose with some whey protein isolates being virtually lactose free.

High quality whey proteins tend to be relatively expensive, with whey protein isolates being the most expensive source of protein available. Many companies produce several different sizes with the larger containers being more economical. Whey protein is also low in the essential amino acid phenylalanine as well as glutamine when compared to other protein powders. Many brands add these two components to help increase the BV of the protein and improve its effectiveness.

With so many protein powders on the market you could be excused for not worrying too much about what sort of protein you use. Many people probably don’t care about whether the protein they are using is instantised, partially hydrolysed, ultrafiltered, ion exchange whey protein isolate with low molecular weight whey peptides, featuring full spectrum whey protein fractions, including Glycomacropeptides, Beta Lactoglobulin and Lactoperoxidase. If you understood all of that then you probably don’t need any help. But if you’re like the majority of people who base their decision on whatever they find tastes best or which one your favorite bodybuilder used to pack on twenty kilo’s of solid muscle, then you may find some of the following information useful. optima expert reviews

While it may not be necessary to know exactly what all these terms mean, if you want to be able to make an informed choice and get the most from your training, it can be of benefit to know a few of the basics.

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