You see those huge containers of whey protein powder all the time at health-food stores. And, if you are like most of us, you walk right past them, assuming that they are just for bodybuilders. Not so. While whey protein is a popular nutritional supplement for bodybuilders, it often is overlooked by many other people who could benefit from taking it. For example, whey protein can help people who need to boost their protein intake because they have a difficult time consuming enough dietary protein…and it can help people who are underweight and need to consume extra calories to reach a healthy weight. What’s so good about whey protein…
WHERE WHEY COMES FROM
Whey is one of two proteins that come from milk (the other is casein)—and it is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled to make cheese. Whey protein contains all the amino acids that the body needs to synthesize protein. It has the highest bioavailability of any protein (eggs are second), meaning that it is the most efficiently digested, absorbed and utilized in the body.
Compared with other protein sources, whey has a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, isoleucine and valine—amino acids that are vital for tissue growth and repair. Whey protein, which also is rich in the sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine, can enhance immune function as well.
HOW TO USE WHEY
Look for whey powder (whey tablets contain very little protein). Mix 20 grams (g) to 25 g with water or low-fat milk. One good milk option is nonsweetened almond milk because it is lactose-free and low in sugar. For those who are underweight and need to gain, use 25 g daily in addition to meals. People who are allergic to dairy should avoid whey. Those with lactose intolerance can select a pure whey protein isolate, a concentrated form that has less lactose. Caution: If you have liver or kidney disease and need to monitor your protein intake, speak to your physician before adding any extra protein to your diet. Look for a product that is low in sugar—5 g or less per serving. Brand to try: Whey Factors by Natural Factors (available online and at www.iHerb.com).