Home Nutrition Whey Protein: Health Benefits & Potential Side Effects

Whey Protein: Health Benefits & Potential Side Effects

Written by Decyry Jhoy Serrano, RPh

If you have been putting (or planning to consume) some whey protein on your body, you might be wondering, is whey protein good for you?

According to Kinesiologists from Canada, enough protein supplementation enriches your body’s performance and recovery during and after exercising.

If you are an athlete, this might sound good for you!

However, take note that it also comes with minimal side effects.

In this article, you will be able to learn the benefits of whey protein, its side effects, how to properly take a protein supplement, and what foods and alternative supplements you can take to fill your body with this protein.

Whey Protein: Benefits, Side Effects, Risks & More…

What is Whey Protein?

So, you might be looking for answers, what is this milk protein exactly? Does it come from cheese production?

Aside from knowing that protein whey comes from the cheese-making process, there is more information about it that must be learned.

Generally, it is the protein from the whey. This whey hydrolysate (by-product during cheese production) is the remaining liquid after straining a cow’s milk.

Milk contains two parts: casein (80%) and whey (20%).

To know which of these two parts is the whey hydrolysate, take a look at the watery part of the milk.

Types of Whey Protein

For bodybuilders, athletes, and potential users of this product, it is a must to learn that there are three main types of whey protein:

  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Any of these whey protein types is a great source of essential amino acids. Although whey protein concentrate is the cheapest, it does not mean that it provides a less nutritional amount.

In the next section, aside from targeting nutritional deficiencies, the benefits of liquid whey will be discussed.

Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the strategies of many athletes today.

Aside from having a noble nutritional value and the ability to kill bacteria, it comes with other health benefits as well.

Take a look at the information below:

1) Digestible Source of Protein

First things first, some people cannot digest actual protein foods.

Since protein is very important in keeping your body healthy, those who cannot take enough protein are risking their immune system.

Therefore, one benefit of a hydrolyzed whey protein is that it comes in a digestible form.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, whey protein has a high digestibility profile that is why it is very appreciated in sports nutrition.

2) Promotes Muscle Growth

Since whey protein is rich in essential amino acids such as leucine, the growth-promoting amino acid, it is safe to say that it promotes healthy muscle growth.

According to a study published in the Journal of Food Sciences, protein supplements enhance muscle protein synthesis that leads to muscle gain.

Furthermore, aging also causes muscle mass loss.

But not to worry!

Although muscle loss is age-related, taking whey protein concentrate can help in preventing muscle wasting and can improve your overall looks!

Moreover, compared to other protein sources like soy and casein, whey protein appears to be slightly better for muscle growth promotion.

3) Regulates Blood Pressure

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure and hypertension are silent killers as they are responsible for the death of around 10 million people worldwide.

Fortunately, the proper use of whey protein concentrate can be a solution to this issue.

Regular consumption of whey protein concentrate can bring back the normal BP of a person in just 12 weeks.

In the same study, it was also reported that a 6-week consumption of protein drinks or beverages can reduce the blood pressure of a person.

4) Prevents Diabetes

Just like hypertension, diabetes is one of the leading causes of mortality in the world.

There are two types of diabetes mellitus: DM type 1 and DM type 2 where the former is genetically related while the latter is caused by unhealthy lifestyles.

When one sticks to unhealthy living, the risk of developing DM type 2 is increased.

However, according to a clinical trial in Sweden, adding protein whey to your varied diet combats this risk. 

In the same study, it was reported that when protein whey is added to your meals, especially during breakfast and lunch, the blood sugar level is regulated.

Moreover, according to a study comparing it to other sources of protein sources such as eggs and fish, protein whey promotes better blood glucose regulation.

5) Reduces Inflammation

When there is an infection or damage in your body, your C-reactive protein increases and this leads to inflammation. 

Although this may be an advantage as it tells you that there is something wrong inside you, if this inflammation lasts longer, this is considered as a big Oh-no.

If left untreated, this could lead to chronic inflammation — a painful and discomforting condition!

Fortunately, according to a study, it was found out that taking a whey protein supplement, at high doses, could help in this inflammation by reducing the C-reactive protein levels.

In another study published in the Journal of Dairy Science, depending on whey protein quality or protein content, even inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Colitis can be treated by taking protein supplements. 

6) Boosts Antioxidant Defenses of the Body

Understand that the body has its natural antioxidant defenses such as glutathione. 

Although this glutathione is naturally produced in the body, its supply still depends on the amino acids.

Therefore, when the body has low amino acids, the level of glutathione might become low.

For this reason, foods that can increase the amino acid levels in the body are necessary to be added to your healthy diet.

And, whey protein is one of them.

Whey protein supplementation boosts the levels of antioxidant defenses in the body, causing the production of new immune cells which will eventually lead to enhanced immune cells.

In the same study, it was also found out that whey protein supplementation is a great choice for those people undergoing cancer treatment.

7) Reduces Cholesterol Levels

In the body, we have two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

Take note that the HDL is the healthy one while the LDL is the bad one, and when the level of the latter increases, cardiovascular disease is possible.

According to a randomized controlled trial study in Australia, 12 weeks of use of a whey protein powder may significantly reduce LDL levels. 

Because of this, under a doctor’s medical intervention, whey protein supplementation may be considered for people with cardiovascular disorders.

8) Suppresses the Appetite

Taking whey protein gives you the feeling of being full. Thus, this whey protein reduces your hunger and cravings, allowing you to lose weight.

So, for those who want to take a break from eating too much, considering whey protein supplementation might be a great option for you.

Other protein sources such as soy and casein are also good appetite suppressants, but, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, whey protein gives more satiating effects.

9) Helps Lose Weight

As you age, your muscle growth declines because of muscle protein synthesis changes.

When this happens, you tend to accumulate fat in your body, leading to weight gain. 

However, according to a study published in Nutrition and Metabolism, when you consume whey protein, you help your body burn your stored fat and prevent future weight gain.

How does this happen?

Together with resistance training, when you take whey protein, you accelerate your metabolism, and this leads to both fat loss and calorie burning.

But, how about your muscle mass? Does it also get reduced?

In the same study, it was reported that even though you experience weight loss while on whey protein supplementation, your muscle mass will be retained.

Side Effects: High Protein Intake

Moving on, although whey protein concentrate consumption offers lots of benefits, there are still some downsides.

However, take note that these downsides of protein whey may only be experienced when too much whey protein is used.

Usually, these adverse reactions are focused on gastrointestinal problems. Take a look at some of the side effects below:

  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal Pain
  • Bloating and Cramping
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea

Take note that a whey protein contains milk sugar, and, the side effects above may be experienced when a whey protein user has lactose intolerance.

For this reason, if you are sensitive to milk sugar, you might want to seek medical advice before undergoing a whey protein supplementation.

Lastly, take note that whey protein also has its drug interactions.

When taken with tetracycline antibiotics, the effects of the antibiotics change. Therefore, those who are taking these medications must consult a medical doctor before taking whey protein.

Whey Protein Dosage

Since too much whey protein consumption causes side effects, it is necessary to know the protein requirements per day.

According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 800 mg of whey protein per day is enough to supply the body with the nutrients it needs.

For starters, a dose of 25-50 mg is fine as well.

If you are taking whey protein powders or supplements, you can refer to the product’s label and follow the dose instructions strictly to avoid adverse reactions.

Sources: Foods Rich in Whey Protein

Aside from infant formula, there are many whey protein-rich foods that you can take. Some of these include the following:

  • Ricotta cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese

Aside from these, some cereal bars also contain whey protein. You might want to read this article about the best-tasting protein bars that contain great whey protein content.

Whey Protein Supplements

For those who want to take protein supplements to build muscle or gain muscle, there is good news for you!

According to a report, there is an increased market growth rate globally with regards to whey protein supplements.

This means that more and more protein supplements are being available on the market worldwide!

Since there are many protein powders on the market, what is the best whey protein supplement you can ever have for building muscle?

To answer this, you can read about the best-tasting whey protein powders and select the most suitable one for you and your taste buds as some may contain artificial flavors and added sugar (at a healthy amount, of course) which you may like!

For those who want hassle-free whey protein preparation, take a look at this article about the best whey protein shakes for building muscle.

The Bottom Line

Indeed, taking a whey protein supplement offers lots of health benefits, especially for bodybuilders and athletes.

Aside from keeping your weight healthy, it also keeps you away from various illnesses!

Being a safe addition to your food intake, you have to understand that it also comes with side effects but these may only occur when the whey protein is misused or if you have lactose intolerance or dairy allergy.

Lastly, there are different whey protein supplements and on-the-go whey products which you may also consider.

So, if one of these products produces no side effects, why not give it a try today?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the amino acids present in whey protein?

Whey protein contains the nine essential amino acids. These nine essential amino acids are important for bone mineral density and muscle growth, and the strengthening of the immune system.

Does the body produce essential amino acids?

Take note that the body produces amino acids but not essential ones. Because of this, adequate protein intake is a great step in filling up your body with these essential amino acids. 

What is the best time to take a whey protein isolate?

If you are not a bodybuilder, and you are taking dietary protein isolate powder for weight management, you may want to take it during meals. However, for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who use whey protein for muscle building, the best time to take a whey protein isolate is 15-30 minutes before exercising.

Are branched-chain amino acids included in whey protein?

Yes, whey protein also contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Aside from promoting healthy muscle protein synthesis, these branched-chain amino acids also help in boosting your energy.

Can I take whey protein and amino acids together?

It is safe to take both whey protein and amino acids together, just like when you consume cottage cheese (a source of whey protein) and quinoa (filled with essential amino acids). Taking whey protein plus amino acids together is a complementary activity that provides you with better muscle building and body composition results.

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