Does Whey Protein Work?

When choosing a dietary supplement you want to be sure that it is effective, delivering the promised benefits, so when considering whey you will want to know is it the best protein powder available. Whey protein supplements offer a number of benefits over other protein powders and there is scientific evidence to back up the effectiveness of this milk protein. This is the case for both whey protein and weight loss, and also its most well-known use of aiding muscle gain.

Whey Protein Powder Weight Loss

When a number of different approaches were compared in relation to their ability to aid weight loss, whey protein in combination with resistance training was found to offer a larger loss of fat than a casein supplement or simply a low calorie diet(1). Whey protein for women and men looking to lose weight therefore offers a helpful addition to a low calorie diet and exercise. However, by what mechanism might these milk proteins exert their beneficial effects on body weight? Instead of simply promoting fat burning by increasing lean body mass to raise the metabolism, whey protein also appears to decrease someone’s appetite through its action on the hormones related to feelings of hunger and fullness(2); if you already use these powders, think back to when you have used these shakes and how much fuller you feel after consuming these in comparison to other drinks of an equivalent volume. This explains why regimes to promote weight loss using whey protein often advise you to take the supplement prior to a meal, as this reduces how much you subsequently eat.

Muscle Building with Whey Protein

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Anyone looking to increase their lean body mass knows that increasing their intake of protein alongside resistance exercise is essential. However, not all proteins are equally effective at achieving an increase in muscle bulk. Research has shown whey protein to be a better option than soya protein for increasing muscle mass, as it more efficiently enhances protein synthesis for the creation of new muscle tissue(3). This isn’t the only benefit though, as besides increasing muscle growth an increase in muscle strength is seen when whey protein is taken in combination with resistance activities. This isn’t just beneficial for bodybuilders and those in training for sports, but all of us, as enhanced muscle strength aids completion of day to day tasks, particularly among older adults(4). However, the best whey protein for muscle building and strength gains is still a matter of debate, with some advocating whey protein concentrate and others its isolate form.

Whey Protein Effectiveness

One of the factors that aids the effectiveness of whey protein is its high bioavailability. This is a measure of how much of a given dietary protein can be incorporated into our body tissues when eaten. The bioavailability of proteins is frequently compared in relation to that of an egg and when this measure is used, whey protein is given the value 1.04, indicating that this protein is even more available to be used by the body. In fact, when using this measure of protein quality(5), no other sources have such a high biological value and when you compare soy protein vs whey protein in terms of their bioavailability, there is no comparison with the milk protein carrying a far greater value. This may explain why studies have indicated whey to be superior to soya protein supplements.

When you try whey protein supplements for yourself, it is important to adhere to the instructions provided to provide you with the best chance of achieving favorable results. However, you do need to be aware that owing to individual variability it may take longer to see weight loss or gains in lean body mass, so it is advisable to persevere with a given powder and only then consider switching to a different formulation.

References

1. Demling RH & DeSanti L (2000) Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism [Online]. Available here [Accessed 2 December 2013]

2 Bowen J, Noakes M & Clifton (2007) Appetite hormones and energy intake in obese men after consumption of fructose, glucose and whey protein beverages. International Journal of Obesity [Online]. 31:1696-1703. Available here [Accessed 2 December 2013]

3. Phillips SM, Hartman JW & Wilkinson SB (2005) Dietary protein to support anabolism with resistance exercise in young men. Journal of the American College of Nutrition [Online]. 24(2):134S-39S. Available here [Accessed 2 December 2013]

4. Willoughby DS, Stout JR & Wilborn D (2007) Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass and strength. Amino Acids [Online]. 32(4):467-77. Available here [Accessed 2 December 2013]

5. Hoffman JR & Falvo MJ (2004) Protein – which is best? Journal of Sports Science and Medicine [Online]. 3:118-30. Available here [Accessed 2 December 2013]