Whey protein, a milk derivative, is by far the most popular protein
on the market. Whey protein comes in various forms like concentrate
and the better isolate form. Whey protein concentrate is a lower
grade whey protein that does not provide the benefits of
microfractions and is usually higher in fat and lactose. Whey
protein has a very high biological value which means it’s most
readily utilized by human muscle tissue thus making it a very fast
absorbed protein (hence anabolic). There are some advanced
procedures (like cross flow microfiltration) that lead to a higher
quality whey with added benefits over ion-exchange whey isolate in
preserving key microfractions which are essential to it’s benefits.
Whey protein isolate that is not heat treated contains these key
microfractions like alpha lactalbumin and glycomacropeptides which
can both positively support immune function. Some of the
microfractions or growth factors found in whey protein can even
enhance IGF-1 levels which can increase lean muscle mass—good news
for hard training athletes! Most of the whey protein on the market
is usually found as ion-exchange (a process where electric charges
are used to extract the protein). Some users of whey protein
concentrate may experience bloating or gas due to its lower quality
but it is very cost effective.
BENEFITS: Quality whey protein isolate provides key
microfractions discussed previously, has a very high concentration
of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) which can positively effect
lean muscle mass and lower muscle breakdown (whey protein contains
about 25% BCAA’s—the highest of any protein source), enhances
glutathione levels in the body (glutathione is the body’s most
powerful natural anti-oxidant and is a key part of the immune
system), features high digestibility and absorption rate, contains
virtually no lactose and very low fat, and provides about 50% of
the essential amino acids.
DOWNSIDE: Whey protein is lower in natural glutamine and
arginine content, is less filling than other more slower absorbed
proteins, and quality whey protein isolate with preserved
microfractions is a bit pricier than other proteins.
Due to its quick absorption, whey protein is excellent to take
before or even right after a hard workout. It also works as a
between meal snack for a protein boost in the middle of the day.
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