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Most people have heard about Whey Protein but does everyone actually know how it can benefit their training? In this week’s article, I will be describing what Whey does and what it is comprised of, along with several other types of Protein and their functions.

What is it?

Whey is a by-product from the manufacture of cheese. It is the watery part that is left over after the milk has been curdled and strained. Protein is made up of chains of amino acids called peptide chains. When they are all linked together this is how whole proteins are formed. When Whey Protein is consumed, the digestive process then starts to break down the peptide chains so that the amino acids can be absorbed and used by the body for energy. Amino acids are also used by the body to repair damaged muscles and muscle fibres.

Why is protein important?

Your body uses proteins in your diet to build new cells, maintain tissues, and synthesize new proteins that make it possible for you to perform basic bodily functions. Proteins are also present in;

  • Your hair, your nails, and the outer layers of your skin. These are made of the protein keratin. Keratin is a protein resistant to digestive enzymes. So if you bite your nails, you can’t digest them.
  • Muscle tissue. This contains myosin, actin, myoglobin, and a number of other proteins.
  • Bone. The basic, rubbery inner structure is protein. The bone marrow (the soft material inside the bone) also contains protein.
  • Red blood cells. These contain Hemoglobin, a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. Plasma, the clear fluid in blood, contains fat and protein particles known as lipoproteins, which carry cholesterol around and out of the body.

Your ability to see, think, hear, and move and do just about everything that you consider part of a healthy life requires your nerve cells to send messages back and forth to each other and to other specialized kinds of cells, such as muscle cells. Sending these messages requires chemicals called neurotransmitters. Making neurotransmitters requires proteins.

Protein also plays an important part in the creation of every new cell and every new individual. Your chromosomes consist of nucleoproteins, which are substances made of amino acids and nucleic acids.

Muscle protein accounts for approximately 50% of the total body protein. Muscle growth relies on adequate proteins being available. To achieve muscle growth an individual should combine weight training along with a positive protein balance; meaning that protein intake and synthesis (process of building protein) is higher than protein breakdown.

During a heavy weights session your muscles are forced into protein breakdown. Following training, to promote muscle, your body has a small “window of opportunity” to re-fuel and change its current catabolic (muscle breakdown) state into an anabolic (muscle Building) state.

You may now see the importance after exercise of protein for muscle building, but you may be now wondering if there is a specific amount or type or protein that provides the best support.

Which protein should I use?

Whey Concentrate protein has a higher biological value than many foods, including fish, beef and soya. This means that more of the protein is actually used for muscle building by your body. This is a great starting point for beginners and those looking to add protein to their diet without making your wallet lighter. Some people will find though that they have a hard time digesting the concentrates and will end up feeling a little gassy and bloated.

Whey Isolate Protein is one of the quickest absorbing proteins. These proteins are perfect for those with low carb diets. Many of the protein tubs on the market these days that are strictly whey isolates have very low if any carbs/sugars. Isolates are great pre and post workout as they are absorbed quickly and can supply the muscle the nutrients needed to help recover and grow.

Casein Protein is an option if you are looking for a protein that will slowly breakdown over the course of several hours that you can use as a meal as Casein takes anywhere from 5-7 hours to fully breakdown. This is the preferred source of protein to use at night before bed.

Soy Protein (even though not a huge seller for bodybuilders) is a good source of protein for those looking for a vegetarian source of protein. It is loaded with Glutamine (to help with recovery), Arginine (help dilate blood vessels to allow nutrition to get into the muscles quicker), and BCAA’s (help with recovery). This type of protein can be used both pre and post workout or anytime throughout the day if needed to get in a meal/snack containing protein. This source is not preferred to use at night.

Hydrolysate protein is the most expensive source of protein you will find on the markets these days and is the highest quality of protein available. They provide highly absorbable peptides that can have a great anabolic effect (highest absorption rate of the proteins available). Hydrolysate protein is also much better on the digestive system compared to whey concentrates. This protein can be used both pre and post workout.

Egg whites (whether separated from the yoke or found in a container) are an excellent source of egg albumin. The amino acid profile on these are great and has been used since back in the day to help build lean muscle mass.

How much do I need?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more protein is better, but this just isn’t the case. Protein utilisation is limited by the rate of absorption and the resultant change in protein synthesis. Research studies have identified that irrespective of the goal, the limit for protein intake should be 1.5/ 2g per kilogram of body weight per day so for an 80 kg individual the maximum intake should be 160g protein per day to aid muscle growth.

Which form of protein is best?

Protein food sources such as meat, fish, dairy, beans and nuts, are all good sources of protein but due to their amino acid make up, along with other nutrients (carbs, fats etc) contained within, all will have varying digestion rates. Food sources such as dairy, meat and fish all contain the ideal balance of the essential (can’t be made by the body) amino acids to support protein synthesis.

So now it’s up to you to make your decision. To Whey or not to Whey – that is the question.

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