Whey protein – composition and effects of whey protein

Whey protein, i.e., whey protein, is often classified as better for muscle building in the field of food supplements than other proteins, but is that true? In addition to caseins, whey proteins are the second, smaller protein components of mammalian milk. They actually have a high biological value, which means that the body can easily produce its own proteins from one whey protein unit. The whey protein obtained from whey shows a higher efficiency in converting food proteins into the body’s own proteins than other protein types. Protein powder – what’s the point? – Article overview:

Whey protein
  • What is so valuable about milk protein?
  • Muscles need protein
  • Whey protein: ingredients
  • For whom it is suitable
  • Manufacture of whey protein
  • Purchase and protein selection

What is so valuable about milk protein?

Milk protein is the sum of the proteins found in milk. Caseins make up the main part with around 80 percent. The remaining 20 percent is made up of the whey proteins found in whey. Protein (animal as well as a vegetable) plays a decisive role in building muscle. Still, the easier food proteins can be converted into body proteins, the faster and easier it is to build muscles. The fact that strength athletes, in particular, like to take advantage of, but more about that later.

What is certain is that the body must be supplied with proteins through food to build muscle. Nutritionally, there is still disagreement about whether animal and vegetable protein equally serve the purpose. What is certain is that unprocessed whey protein contains lactose and is therefore not suitable for people with lactose intolerance. However, there are special whey protein preparations from which lactose was withdrawn during production and which are therefore also suitable for people with lactose intolerance. However, because of their animal origin, vegans have to forego whey protein in any case and use products made from peas, rice, hemp, or sunflower.

In particular, animal protein in general and whey protein are characterized by a higher biological value than vegetable protein sources. Therefore, it can usually be better utilized by the human organism than vegetable protein since its amino acid composition is more similar to that of the body’s own protein.

The whole egg is used as the reference value for the biological value, the biological value of which was defined as 100 (100%), since it was considered the protein source with the highest known biological value at the time the definition was made by the nutritionist Karl Thomas (1883–1969).

Here is an overview of the biological value of selected foods for assessing the quality of proteins in foods:

Muscles need protein

Strong muscles are essential for health. They not only help to stabilize the musculoskeletal system but, at the same time, promote a vital everyday life. If the muscles are too weak, this affects almost all activities. Sport is essential for good muscle management. But movement alone is not enough. The supply of muscle-promoting nutrients is even more important than the muscular strain. Protein powders such as whey protein make an important contribution to building muscle. Whey protein, in particular, is popular because of its high biological value. But for whom is it suitable, and how are such supplements made?

Whey protein: ingredients

Whey protein is whey protein. The term whey protein is just the English translation. This also makes it clear which source is used to produce this valuable protein. “Whey is a watery, greenish-yellow liquid that is a by-product of cheese production and is made from the curdled milk after the fat and casein have been separated,” explains the Austrian Nutrition Society.

While 94 percent of whey consists of water, only around 0.6 percent of it is whey protein, which is popular among athletes. The best from the whey is therefore only minimally represented. But isolating this component is worthwhile. This is rich in amino acids. In fact, it contains the following nine essential amino acids :

1. Isoleucine
2. Valine
3. Threonine
4. Tryptophan
5. Lysine
6. Leucine
7. Methionine
8. Phenylalanine

The semi-essential and therefore not quite as important but still valuable amino acid histidine is also found in whey protein. The essential amino acids, which have to be taken in through nutrition, are particularly crucial for the organism. Whey protein is ideal for meeting protein requirements. Such a supplement is not only suitable for consumption because of the ingredients. The good solubility in water is also advantageous, as the protein can be easily prepared. On advice portals of fitness coaches and personal trainers, it is even advised to take it with water, since the whey protein is used faster than when mixed with milk.

For whom it is suitable

Whey protein is ideal for those who work intensively on building muscle and expect corresponding results. If the muscles are heavily and often used, the conventional diet’s protein intake is often no longer sufficient, which would result in an undersupply. Regular consumption of such supplements promotes muscle growth and shortens the regeneration phase. While high-performance athletes are increasingly turning to the expensive hydrolyzate with the highest bioavailability, somewhat less active athletes can also achieve good results with the cheaper alternative of the concentrate.

But inexpensive protein powders that are not 100 percent whey protein are also an alternative. Provided that qualitative protein sources are still used. A high proportion of vegetable protein sources should be avoided with multicomponent proteins because this indicates inferior goods. If you want to supplement your healthy diet with a plus in protein, you are well-advised to use high-quality whey protein products.

The general motto is of better quality than quantity. Also, caution is advised with the amount. Excessive protein powder can damage kidneys. Protein shakes and Co. must always be consumed with sufficient liquid. The additional protein intake through protein powder and whey protein is less advisable for recreational athletes. You can easily meet your protein needs with a balanced diet with dairy products, meat, eggs, nuts, potatoes, grains, and legumes.

Manufacture of whey protein

There are different types of whey proteins that differ in terms of purity. The table provides information on the possible products:

Degree of purityconcentrateIsolateHydrolyzate
abbreviationWPCWPIWPH
ManufacturingBy filtering whey.By microfiltration.By splitting protein chains, which actually only happens in the body. The proteins are virtually pre-digested.
Protein content75-82%Approx. 90%Max. 95%
advantageThe concentrate is the cheapest form of whey protein.High protein content and no lactose, therefore also well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.Highest degree of purity and optimal protein absorption in the body. Hydrolyzate has the best bioavailability.
disadvantageThe lactose content is slightly higher than in the other products. People who are lactose intolerant can have their problems with it.Isolate costs significantly more than concentrates.Hydrolyzate tastes bitter. It is offered in tablet form for pleasant consumption. It is also added to multi-component protein products (blends).

Purchase and protein selection

Confusing for the buyer is the endless selection of whey protein brands, multi-component products, and protein powders. There is a multitude of flavors, qualities, and dosage forms. It is advisable to orientate yourself on authentic and current whey protein tests, in which several products were tested and evaluated.

While whey protein is the classic among protein powder protein sources, many other proteins can be contained in the powder products, including soy protein, hemp protein, or rice protein. Vegans can use such solutions because they do not contain any animal ingredients. However, these vital substances are not absorbed by the body faster than whey protein.

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