Supplement Series: Whey Protein - Holy City CrossFit

Supplement Series: Whey Protein

By Joe Jacobs | Nutrition

One of the most common questions that I am asked is “What supplements do you use?” Find any serious gym goer and you are sure to discover that they have a supplement stack that they will swear by.

Navigating the topsy turvy world of exercise supplements can be a daunting task, especially for those that are new to fitness. It seems that for every fitness goal there is a least ten varieties of pills or powders that “GUARANTEE RESULTS FAST!!!”

In this series we will examine the most popular supplements: what they are, what they do, and if you need them. We will start with arguably the most popular…whey protein powder.

Where Does Whey Come From?

Milk is made of two proteins, casein and whey. When milk is extracted from a cow it is roughly 80% casein and 20% whey.

When an acid is added to whole milk, curds begin to form from the fatty portions of the milk and a watery liquid known as whey separates from the mixture.

Remember the story of Little Miss Muffet, who sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey?

Before cheese makers discovered the commercial use of the whey liquid it was often discarded. Luckily whey was discovered to be greatly beneficial.

How and Why Whey Is Used?

Quite simply, whey protein is an easy way to introduce more protein into your diet.

Whey is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids. The amino acids are not produced in the body and are only gained through diet.

Whey is a quickly digestible protein that is often taken after a workout or vigorous activity. This is because your body is in need of nutrition in its weakened state, and whey will quickly digest and aid the body in a variety of ways.

Whey is used to aid in muscle growth when combined with weight training, repair muscles after activity, and can be used as a healthier alternative to some protein sources. For instance, a typical 6oz steak will have approximately 460 calories & 42 grams of protein, where two scoops of whey protein powder will have roughly 200 calories & 50 grams of protein, depending on the brand.

That same steak will have roughly 33 grams of fat and the whey powder will generally have fewer than 5 grams of fat per serving.

Which Type of Whey Should I Buy?

There are three types of whey powder: whey protein concentrate (WPC), whey protein isolate(WPI), and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH). These are differentiated from each other by protein content and to what level each form is processed. 

  • WPC contains low levels of fat and carbs but protein content can vary wildly from brand. Lower end brands can sometimes possess as low as 30 % protein content. This is typically the cheapest of the three.

  • WPI is processed further to remove all the fat and lactose found in WPCs. It is rare to find a WPI that is less than 90% protein. An obvious bonus is that WPIs are generally lactose free as approximately 65% of people have a reduced capacity to digest lactose.

  • WPH is the easiest of the three to be digested and contains a comparable percentage of protein to that of WPI. WPH is also frequently used in medicinal settings and infant formula due to its ease of digestion and reduced potential for allergies. Typically the most expensive of the three.

Your choice will most likely depend on your budget, but I would recommend getting an isolate whey protein due to its level of purity. You will get what you pay for with whey protein powders.

In Conclusion

Whey protein is arguably the supplement king. It is everywhere and is made by thousands of companies. Some are cheap and not very pure, while others are more expensive and contain a high yield of protein per serving.

It is a staple of the exercise and fitness industry. It will aid in muscle growth and maintaining muscle mass. Whey will digest quickly and is superb at feeding hungry muscles.

It is important to remember to READ LABELS so you know exactly what type you are getting. Are you getting a lower quality concentrate or a high end hydrolysate protein?

If you are looking to get into a fitness regimen, it is highly recommended that you start out with a good quality whey protein as you begin to jump into the maze that is fitness supplements.

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