Arguably, the most essential supplement that you should use if you desire to build muscle is whey protein powder. In fact, you probably eat it everyday without even knowing it!
Whey is one of two essential protein components in milk (the other is casein protein).
There is a good reason why whey protein is so popular among athletes and people in general; it quickly aids in muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth) when consumed 20 to 30 minutes after the end of your resistance training workout.
If you are serious about building your muscles naturally, especially if you are an exercising beginner or an athlete, then whey protein is a perfect supplement to add to your training program.
This article will educate you about the health benefits of whey protein and other protein sources.
The 3 Best Whey Protein Powders
ON Gold Standard 100% Whey
per 1-scoop serving
per 1-scoop serving
per 1-scoop serving
1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
100% Whey (Editor's Choice)
This is hands down the most popular brand of protein powder.
Packed with 24 grams of protein and over 5 grams of BCAA (Brand Chain Amino Acids), this is probably the protein powder that your daddy started using in order to build muscle back in the 1980s.
Optimum Nutrition (ON) 100% Whey Gold Standard contains Why Protein Isolates (WPI), some of the purest form of whey protein that exists.
2. BSN SYNTHA-6
If a weightlifter with bodybuilding aspiration isn't taking on 100% Whey Gold Standard, then they're likely taking BSN Syntha-6 protein powder instead.
With each scoop of BSN Syntha-6 containing 22 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of essential amino acids, it promotes muscle growth and recovery.
Most people agree this is one of the most tastiest protein powder brand on the market.
3. Muscletech Nitro-Tech
This is one protein powder that has likely been in your local meathead's gym bag.
The reason for that is Muscletech Nitro-Tech delivers 30 grams of protein in every scoop!
Like on 100% Whey Gold Standard, Nitro-Tech contains WPI to ensure they have the highest quality whey protein.
Though it's not the best creatine supplement, it does have 3 grams of creatine monohydrate per scoop.
What Is 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 isolate from milk as a byproduct 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 cholesterol.
Traditionally, whey used to be considered a waste product and was dumped on fields and pitched into lakes. 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. Unfortunately, this destroyed much of the protein and ruined the quality of the protein extracted. Fortunately, new methods have been developed that can extract the protein from the whey while maintaining its quality. The extraction method determines the potency of protein.
The most common extraction methods today include:
Nonetheless, all of these extraction methods result in a high quality whey protein, low in fat and lactose. When you look at whey protein, 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 (AVOID THIS)
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 micro-filtered, ultra-filtered or ion-exchange.
If it simply lists whey protein concentrate or proprietary blend, you can safely assume that it provides low quality protein.
Denaturing of protein destroys the important protein fractions, lowering the biological activity or effectiveness of the protein. Denaturing can also occur after manufacturing due to high temperatures.
The 3 types of whey protein
1. Whey Concentrate
Whey protein concentrate (WPC) are typically 70-85% protein, and are reasonably low in fat and lactose. It is one of the cheapest and simplest forms of protein which can be found in any type of supplement store (and some grocery stores) you go to.
WPC is recommended for beginners that are trying to add some protein to their diet.
The issue with this type of protein is that it can upset people's stomachs and make them gassy and bloated. Why is that? Because a great amount of people are lactose intolerant, which means that their bodies have difficulty digesting a sugar present in milk-based products such as whey protein.
2. Whey Isolates
Whey protein isolate (WPI) are typically greater than 85% protein, with some being over 90% protein. WPI are another type of protein that is quickly digested within the human body. It tends to be slightly more expensive than whey concentrate but is extremely good for people on low-carb diets.
These type of proteins tend to have very low carbohydrates and sugars. Therefore, if you're in your "cutting“ phase or desiring weight loss, this tends to be a good choice.
Isolates are also great a pre- and post-workout protein because it is absorbed very quickly in the body and can get right to the muscles where it needs to be to stay anabolic.
3. Hydrolysate Protein
This type of protein is the most expensive source of protein that you will find in a supplement store because it is the highest quality protein available. If the price of supplements isn't a concern for you, this is the type you should invest in (except for some casein protein if you wish to take that at night as well).
This type of protein is easily absorbed by the body and has a great anabolic effect when taken. In addition, hydrolysate protein is very gentle on the digestive system when compared to other protein.
Whey Protein Vs Casein Protein
Whey and casein are brothers and milk is their mother. Unfortunately, like Cain and Abel, they both hate each other - or do they?
Many people in the health and fitness world feel that they should go with one or the other, but it shouldn't be this way. Whey and casein work better together when it comes to protein supplementation.
To see why, let's do a quick comparison of both proteins.
Whey is the "fast“ brother that quickly aids the body with muscle building after a strenuous workout. Studies show that whey increases protein synthesis but does not alter protein breakdown.
Casein is the "slow“ brother that prevents muscle loss over several hours. Studies reveal that casein decreases protein breakdown but hardly effects protein synthesis.
So why are some people in the fitness wold trying to pit casein and whey against each other? It makes little sense because they both cancel out each other's weaknesses. With that said, consider investing in a quality casein protein powder as well.
6 Health Benefits of Whey
1. Boost Muscle Size And Strength - This benefit is the reason you see the meatheads in your gym using whey protein powder. Protein powder helps build strength and muscle size. Countless studies show that people who take whey protein powder have increased muscle synthesis. This means that if you hit a strength plateau in your workout, whey protein powder will likely get you over the hump.
2. Helps Burn Fat While Maintaining Muscle Mass - When you exercise, you are putting your body in a catabolic state (i.e. breaking down muscle tissue). Studies have shown that taking whey protein powder post workout helps burn fat while preserving muscle tissue.
3. Decreases Appetite - One study showed that people who drank 50 grams of whey protein had drastically reduced their levels of ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates your body to eat) up to 4 hours after drinking it. This can be highly beneficial, especially if you're a big snacker.
4. Boost Immune System - Research revealed that protein powder revitalizes the immune system. In addition, studies show that exercise has a positive effect on your immune system. So as flu season approaches, let exercise and whey be thy medicine.
5. Alleviate Stress - Been heavily stressed lately? Turn to whey protein powder for relief. Research suggests that individuals who consume whey protein express fewer symptoms of depression and a better mood than those who didn't consume it. While whey protein is not a bubble bath or hot oil massage, it still has the ability to ease your stress.
6. Aids In Cancer Prevention - Does cancer run in your family? If so, then investing in whey protein powder may be a lifesaver. Several studies show that whey and other dietary milk products may aid in fighting cancer. While you should get regular screenings for cancer (especially if it runs in your family), whey protein can help prevent it.
How many should you drink a day?
Remember: Whey protein powder is a supplement, not a substitution for real food or even a mass gainer shake (more info). Therefore, you should be eating a proper amount of protein-rich food in addition to drinking protein shakes.
I recommend that a beginner takes no more than 1 to 2 scoops of protein per day (1 to 2 protein shakes). As you get a better sense of how whey interacts with your system, you can up your dosage to 3 to 4 scoops.
When should you take whey protein?
Your shaker cup will allow you to time your protein intake, but it's debatable whether that really makes a big difference or not.
While whey is beneficial no matter when you take it, the two most critical times to consume whey protein are: 30 minutes before your workout and within 30 minutes after your workout. The reason for this is to maximize protein synthesis, also called the muscle building phase.
Are there any side effects to taking whey?
Most people show little or no side effects when they take a moderate dosage (1 to 2 scoops) of whey. However, if a person is allergic to milk, they shouldn't take whey protein powder.
Also, taking too many doses of protein powder can cause:
- Stomach pains
- Severely reduced appetite
To avoid these issues, limit your intake to 1 to 2 scoops per day, preferably around the time you workout.
What should you NEVER do to whey?
What Is the Best Whey Protein Powder?
Whey protein will greatly assist in your muscle building, fat-burning, and athletic endeavors. In addition, it will help you be a healthier person.
As a reminder, whey isolate or whey hydrolysate is what to look for when shopping for a quality whey protein powder.
Which type of whey protein powder will you choose or have you chosen? If you're already using one, is your physique progressing?
Optimum Nutrition: Gold Standard
Our #1 Whey Protein for Men