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Whey Protein- When to Take Protein Supplements

October 13, 2010

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Proteins are an essential part of the human diet because they are vital for the body’s metabolism as well as the cellular processes. For years nutritionists, fitness experts and diet creators have been toting the benefits of protein within our diet. Unfortunately most people don’t get enough protein in their diet which can cause limitations on how the body functions and its ability to produce energy. This lack of protein is due to the increase in consumption of carbohydrates, which are essential to health as well but in abundance can lead to obesity and in the long run diseases. Although protein is normally consumed through the ingestion of meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs and milk products in recent years a new supplement advertising Whey protein has caught the interest of bodybuilders, nutritionists and people who want to lose weight. 

Protein is made up of amino acids, joined together in a linear chain. Once in the body these amino acids are used for several functions. Metabolism, production of new proteins to replace damaged proteins, enzymes for catalysts, structural and mechanical functions within muscles, cell signaling, immune response, cell adhesion, and cell cycle are just a few of the ways that proteins and amino acids are used throughout the body.  Some of the amino acids can be synthesized within the body however others must be obtained through our diet. Ten out of the twenty amino acids are essential to our health and without them you can see how the functioning within the body can diminish.

            Whey protein is a collection of globular proteins that is extracted from whey. When cheese is manufactured from cow’s milk, whey is the by-product. Whey contains a mixture of lactose in water, minerals and lactalbumin. The fat is extracted to leave whey protein. Whey protein naturally becomes bioactive when introduced to the body. Bioactive proteins are capable of functioning more efficiently due to their increased number of amino acids when introduced in vivo.  Whey protein has three separate forms: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Concentrate whey protein contains a low level of fat and cholesterol. Additionally, this type of whey protein contains the highest level of bioactive compounds, however, it also contains lactose. Isolates are processed to remove the fat and lactose, which results in less bioactive compounds. However, isolate whey protein is better for people who are allergic to milk. Even more so, hydrolysate whey protein causes less allergic reactions. This is due to hydrolysates being predigested and partially hydrolyzed. Hydrolysates are more easily absorbed within the body.

            Whey protein is primarily marketed as a dietary supplement. However, its additional health affects are still being studied. Protein is needed to repair and build muscles therefore; whey protein is an excellent source of protein for bodybuilders and people looking to build muscle. Whey protein can be rapidly digested within the body, which accelerates muscle development. Taken before a workout whey protein inhibits enzymes that restrict blood vessels during exercise, which allows for increased blood flow and nutrients to the necessary parts of the body. Taken after workouts, whey protein increases the amount of amino acids, which can be used within the muscles to build, repair and increase muscle mass.

            Clinical studies are still being done on the additional health benefits of whey protein. Consuming whey protein increases the process of protein synthesis. This process aids in the recovery process and the adaptation of stress from exercise on the body. Therefore whey protein can help athletes recover faster and return to normal function. Additionally whey protein has been toted as an anti-inflammatory with rehabilitative benefits. However, human clinical studies lack the evidence to support this. Some research has shown that the increase of bioactive compounds such as cysteine can lead to the increase production of an antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione defends the body from toxic free radicals. It has also been suggested that it reduces the risk for cancer. Even more so pregnant women have been suggested to increase their intake of whey protein. Whey protein has been used to improve and speed up the development of a growing baby. Children require more amino acids than adults because they are continuing to grow, therefore a growing fetus can benefit from additional amino acids to improve growth.

            Although there are several benefits to consuming whey protein, it is important to follow the directions when taking any whey protein supplement. Too much can lead to complications with liver functioning. Therefore it is important to takes a recommended, as well as reading the label. Not all supplements have healthy ingredients. If you have questions about which whey protein supplement to take, ask a personal trainer, nutritionist, or medical doctor. Whey protein can be obtained at any health food store, vitamin shop or specialty store. The clerks are usually well advisable on which brands work the best, or are the most popular.