What is Whey Protein: Types, Benefits & Side Effects

Since there are many different types of protein in the field of sports nutrition, keeping an overview of the details is difficult. Therefore, you will find a summary of the most important facts about protein in this article.

In detail, I would like to explain what whey protein is, detail the benefits of it and clarify the question whether whey protein is good for you or not.

Before we dive deeper into the topic, you find you a brief summary of the essential advantages of whey protein below:

  • High proportion of protein
  • Excellent amino acid profile
  • High biological value
  • Good solubility
  • Good price-performance ratio

Protein – Building Blocks for your Muscles

Proteins are essential nutrients. They have numerous physiological functions, which is why they are also called the basic building blocks of life.

They are long chains of strung amino acids. During digestion, proteins are broken down into these amino acids and absorbed into the blood. The efficiency of protein intake is about 95%.

Proteins form the basis of every human cell and are involved in the synthesis of important enzymes. Every protein molecule consists of amino acids. Some of these amino acids can be formed by your body, while others can only be absorbed through nutrition.

Because your protein requirements increase with regular and intensive training, proteins play a crucial role for your muscles. Thereby, proteins are not only important in strength and endurance sports. When losing weight, you can save calories through a protein-rich diet and thus achieve your desired weight. The supply is therefore crucial for both goals.

As a busy professional you are often on the go or have limited time for lunch, which can make it difficult to have access to enough protein-rich food. In this case it makes sense to use a protein supplement.

Protein Quality – BCAAs are key

The quality of a protein depends on its proportion and composition of amino acids. Below you find a list of known proteinogenic amino acids:

  • Phenylalanine
  • Isoleucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Valine
  • Lysine
  • Threonine

They are called essential amino acids because your body does not produce them on its own—you must get them from food and supplements.

Three of the eight essential amino acids are called Branched Chain Amino Acids (= BCAAs). They are considered crucial for building muscle.

They consist of the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. It is this combination that makes them particularly valuable for your body.

While other amino acids are absorbed by the small intestine and initially used in the liver, the BCAA’s enter the muscles directly through the intestine.

Leucine is particularly important for the body. It serves as a valuable source of energy and prevents protein breakdown in the muscles. Taking BCAAs also increases the release of insulin. This hormone transports glucose into the muscle cells, which can be released into energy there.

How much Protein do you need?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends 0.83 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. This guide value refers to non-athletes.

If you exercise regularly, you should adjust your protein intake accordingly. When building muscle, my recommendation is 1.3 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram every day.

Continuous absorption is beneficial during the muscle building phase. For example, if you split your protein intake into 5-6 meals a day, your muscles will be supplied continuously.

Building muscles without adequate energy and protein intake is impossible. Only if our organism has enough protein building blocks it can build new muscle mass.

Types of Whey Protein – Powder, Powder or Powder

Protein supplements are provided almost exclusively in powder form. There are the following differences in the powder forms:

  • Concentrate
  • Isolate
  • Hydrolyzate

While the first two forms differ mainly in their protein proportion (concentrate: 80%, isolate: 90%), the hydrolyzate is already broken down into tiny parts, which ensures a maximum absorption rate.

In a further process step the long-chain amino acids, as known from isolates and concentrates, were broken down into individual amino acids by heating.

However, the hydrolyzate is exponentially more expensive, which is why a large part of the supplements on the market are available as a concentrate or isolate.

Tip: Some manufacturers offer a mixture of concentrate, isolate and hydrolyzate. Since isolates and hydrolyzates are much more expensive, many mixtures mainly contain concentrate. That’s why you should keep an eye on the ingredient list.

I prefer an isolate, as it provides you with some more proteins and accordingly less carbohydrates and fats. You get exactly what you want, almost exclusively whey protein with a reasonable price.

The ideal intake per serving is always stated by various manufacturers between 30-40 grams. You usually mix your protein powder with 200-300 milliliters of liquid.

A higher intake makes no sense, because your body needs a certain time for utilization and conversion into amino acids. A too high dosage is therefore a waste of resources and money.

Tip: Taking water instead of milk is more beneficial for the utilization of whey protein, because milk delays the digestive process and thus the absorption and utilization. However, if you like the taste of a creamy milkshake, then you should consider taking milk instead.

Whey Protein – Why it is a good choice

Whey protein is one of the main components of milk and is a by-product of cheese making. It naturally makes up about 20 percent of the protein in cow’s milk.

With the help of elaborate filtration methods, the lactose (milk sugar), milk fat and water are removed. The result is whey protein in different quality and with different protein content.

Whey protein powder is one of the best-selling protein supplements. Below I would like to point out the main advantages and show you why this supplement is a good choice for you.

  • High proportion of protein: A good whey protein powder contains at least 80% protein per 100 grams of product. Isolates can even have a proportion of more than 90%.
  • Excellent amino acid profile: Whey protein is short-chain and contains a particularly large number of essential amino acids. Compared to other protein powders, it has a high proportion of BCAA.
  • High biological value: Whey protein has a high biological value (104). This means that it can be converted to a very high degree into your body’s own protein.
  • Fast protein supply: Compared to other types of protein (e.g. casein), it has a fast absorption rate and therefore is quickly available for your body. The first amino acids enter the blood just 30 minutes after intake.
  • Good solubility: Whey protein dissolves well in liquids and can be mixed well in for example milk shakes or juice.
  • Good price-performance ratio: As it is a by-product of cheese making, the protein powder is available at a fair price.

Your body needs high-quality amino acids in order to build muscle sustainably. Therefore, a whey protein shake is particularly suitable if you are currently improving your strength and endurance.

Since the whey protein can be quickly absorbed by your body, taking a whey protein in the morning is extremely helpful, since your body has received no nutrients or proteins overnight.

For this reason, a supply in the morning makes sense as well as after an exhausting training session in which the respective muscle proteins have been damaged and must be repaired by proteins and their amino acids.

One of my favorite protein powder at the moment is the BRF Whey Protein of Bauer. The protein powder is a clean and comes with high quality isolate powder (90% protein proportion).

Does a Busy Professional need Whey Protein?

This blog is focusing on busy professionals who want to stay fit. The question of whether whey protein makes sense for this group of people is easy to answer. Yes, of course!

With whey protein your protein balance can be replenished throughout the day. Therefore, it is an easy way to meet your protein needs and you are not dependent on the offer of canteens or restaurants.

The preparation is simple. All you need is a shaker in which you fill the corresponding amount of whey protein in the morning. Mixing with liquid then takes place at work.

These options make whey protein powder an ideal companion on the go. When I am in the hotel for several days, I simply fill the appropriate amount in a can and put it in my suitcase.

Side Effects of Whey Protein

The effect of whey protein on the body has been extensively studied and can be regarded as positive and harmless. Side effects are not expected within the recommended doses.

Depending on the product, there may be corresponding reactions if hypersensitivity to milk protein and lactose is present. These can be eliminated by changing the product to a lactose-free whey protein.

In addition to the tasks of protein in terms of muscle building, numerous other biological functions are favored, strengthened and appropriately controlled. The entire metabolism therefore works better, internal processes are positively influenced, the energy supply is ensured, and the immune system is also strengthened.

Further Types of Protein

Besides whey protein, there are some other types of protein in sports nutrition. Below you will find a list of the most important types:

Casein Protein

Casein is the predominant part of milk protein (80%). Casein comes from the Latin and stands for cheese. As the name suggests, the structural protein is the main component of cheese and quark.

In contrast to whey protein, casein protein is absorbed by the body more slowly. Due to the slower absorption, I recommend taking a protein shake with casein before going to bed to ensure your protein supply overnight.

Tip: Casein powder often tastes a bit floury. Therefore, you should always mix it with milk or a juice. My current recommendation of a high quality casein protein is Alpenpower Bio Casein Protein.

Egg Protein

The basis of this protein powder is the egg white from whole eggs and is one of the most important animal protein sources. Since most of the fat in an egg is in the egg yolk, the egg white protein powder has a low fat and carbohydrate content.

Just like the whey protein, it has a high biological value.  However, it loses some quality because the egg yolk is not used and due to its bitter taste, it is rarely used separately and more common in a multi-component mix.

Multi-Component Protein (MCP)

As the name suggests, a multi-component protein powder consists of several parts of different protein powders. Thereby, the distribution is not standardized.

Basically, the mix of different protein sources is a sensible idea, but everything can be hidden behind a multi-component protein.

For example, it is not uncommon that you found a low-quality protein (e.g. wheat) in such a mix. Therefore, always have a closer look on the ingredients.

Tip: The 3K Protein of foodspring uses three high-quality sources and enables a particularly high biological value and the supply of your muscles with all essential amino acids. This ensures both the short-term and long-term supply of high-quality protein.

Plant Based Protein

All products described above are animal sources of protein because they are derived from milk or egg protein. However, there are also a variety of products that are derived from vegetable protein.

Basically, vegetable protein powders have a lower percentage of BCAAs, but by taking enough vegetable protein, this disadvantage should be negligible for an amateur athlete.

Since vegetable proteins contain fewer carbohydrates and fats overall, a vegan protein shake is not only suitable for building muscle, but also for losing weight.

The most common sources of vegetable protein are soy, rice, peas or hemp . Sometimes you also find wheat protein, although this is not recommended in terms of quality.

You can find a product review of an organic rice protein in the following article:

<<< Erdschwalbe Organic Rice Protein >>>

For simplicity reasons, I have summarized my recommendation regarding when to intake the different type of proteins in the table below.

Whey   Isolate Whey Concentrate Casein MCP Plant Based
Breakfast ++ ++ o + +
Pre-Workout ++ ++ + +
Post-Workout ++ ++ + +
In-Between + + + ++ +
Before Sleep o o ++ + +
Lactose Intolerance + o o o ++
Within a Diet ++ + ++ + +
Vegan ++

Explanation:
++           well-suited
+             suited
o             less suitable
–              not suitable

Conclusion

Whey protein is the most popular supplement in the field of sports nutrition. It comes with all essential advantages at a moderate price. The high biological value, a high number of essential amino acids combined with a fast supply are the key factors of its popularity.

As stated above, I prefer an isolate because of the higher proportion of protein (approx. 90%) and therefore low proportion of carbohydrates and fats. Moreover, a protein shake with water or milk is perfect to re-energize your muscles.

I hope this article was helpful to give an overview about protein and in particular the advantages of whey protein. If you have additional questions or want to get further insights on that topic, feel free to leave me a comment. I look forward to a lively exchange with you.

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