The Ultimate Whey Protein Guide Contents:
What is Whey Protein and How is it Made?
Ever hear of Little Miss Muppet? You know, the little girl who sat on her tuffet "eating her 'curds and whey." Well, you may know her nursery rhyme, but did you know this little trailblazer was actually setting the stage for the way many of us would be getting our protein some 200 years later?
Whey is produced when milk is transported from a dairy farm to a cheese producer and separated into curds and whey. The curds go on to produce cheese, whereas the whey is split into proteins and fats.
Often times the whey is pasteurized at this point which has been shown to denature it , which over time leads to many people consuming raw milk, despite the pathogen risks. When companies produce cheese, they create a byproduct that we call whey protein. The protein itself is made of globe-shaped proteins called 'globular proteins,' which are a very common type of protein.
Whey protein is somewhat water-soluble, which can create problems when mixing it. If you've tried whey, you may have noticed that some proteins mix better than others.
Raw Whey: Is There Such a Thing?
The short answer is "no." Despite what the ad or label says, you're not drinking pure, raw whey.
Whey protein is required to undergo processing and pasteurization, which eliminates dangerous components such as disease and bacteria. All Whey protein undergoes a process called “denaturing”.
Whey protein denaturation is one of the main effects of heating milk, which causes modification of the chemical and nutritional properties of milk. Denaturing sounds like a negative term, when in reality it isn’t. It just means that the natural state of the whey is altered.
Think about what happens when you cook chicken, steak, or eggs. You're not stripping the protein from them, you're just changing their structure.
Why is Whey So Popular?
Whey has taken the fitness, bodybuilding, and now general public by storm. It is arguably the most popular dietary supplement in the world and there are literally thousands of different whey protein bars, drinks, shakes, and powders on the market.
Whey is likely so popular because it's low calorie (1g of whey protein is 4 calories) and is an ideal macronutrient for several fitness-related purposes, including:
- Building lean muscle mass
- Supporting strength gain
- Losing weight
- Curbing hunger
- Maintaining muscle
It's no wonder whey is coveted by individuals with fitness goals, or people who need that extra protein boost throughout the day.
Why is Whey Protein Important for Nutrition Supplementation?
Building Muscle - Increase your protein intake and BCAA's by taking Whey Protein Supplements.
It's the single main reason a vast majority of people who supplement whey protein take it.
Protein is one of the building blocks of muscle, in particular the parts of the muscle that cause contraction. When you exercise or weight train you are causing your muscles to expand and contract repeatedly under stress.
This causes tiny minute tears in the muscle fibers and connective tissues. Your body then tries to adapt to the added stress and workload by activating chemical pathways that increase the rate of protein synthesis in your muscle fibers. This response is what causes muscle growth, development, and the strengthening of ligaments.
Of all factors we have studied when it comes to hypertrophy (increasing your muscle size), taking larger quantities of Whey Protein has been the single most conclusive factor 
You get various types of proteins from many of the whole foods we eat, from chicken breasts to soy, and everything in between. But supplementing your protein intake with whey protein can be an easy way to increase your protein levels and make sure that your body is getting a full spread of BCAA's. To read about our five favorite whey protein companies and their supplements, scroll down to the bottom of this article.
Does Whey Protein Cause Weight Gain?
Whey protein can make you lose or gain but don't be too fast to blame the whey if the scale changes.
Macronutrients or macros (Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat) should be consumed in moderation. A major spike in any of these three areas has the potential to cause weight gain. Conversely, if you lower your macro intake, you will most likely lose weight.
For example, if your goal is to hit 140g of protein a day and you consume 240g, some being from whey shakes, you may gain weight. Although you consumed whey, it’s not clear whether or not it’s the culprit. You consumed several other sources that need to be examined.
Some whey protein supplements are meant to be used as meal replacements because they have a considerable amount of protein and they're low-cal compared to other meal choices. There are also varieties meant to aid in weight gain with their large amount of protein and carbohydrates.
If you’re worried about weight gain or want to make sure you’re on the right track to losing weight, counting macros is a great solution. Apps that track macros provide an easy-to-use platform to do just that. You can enter the foods you eat daily and they provide you with a macro and calorie breakdown throughout the day.
Calories In, Calories Out.
If you eat more calories than you’re burning, then you will inevitably gain weight. In reverse, if you eat fewer calories than you’re burning, you will lose weight.
Most whey protein shakes clock in around 100-200 calories per serving. That's not much compared to the 2,000-2,500 recommended daily calorie intake. It’s also crucial to pay attention to other nutrition info on your supplement of choice. Keep an eye out for carbs and sugar.
It’s easy for most people to fit that small chunk of calories into their nutrition plan, even without working out like a maniac. On the flip side, exercise will maximize the results of the whey protein by aiding in muscle building.
The amount of time and effort you put into working out is completely up to you—you’ll get more out of the supplement with exercise and you’ll see fewer results with less activity. Determine your personal goals and research the protein supplements you're interested in. Look them up online. Read nutrition facts. If you need some recommendations, we have awesome choices at the end of this article, for individuals with an array of goals.
Should You Be Taking Whey Protein?
Whey Protein can be a critical component when it comes to increasing muscle mass and strength, as well as losing weight. It is the cornerstone macronutrient and is an easy way to accomplish a lot of goals at once. If you are looking to lose fat, whey protein is a great way to keep your muscle mass intact while you exercise, or are doing a cut.
Since protein provides 4 calories per gram, it's easier to feel full when you eat low-fat protein sources like boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you're a 140lb woman and your basal metabolic rate is approximately 1,400 calories per day, you're going to be able to eat more without consuming too many calories by sticking to foods like chicken breast and vegetables.
Although many whole foods contain significant protein levels, one of the advantages whey has over food is that it digests rapidly, starting muscle growth and stopping muscle loss as soon as possible.
Post-workout, you may not feel hungry enough to eat a full meal even though your body is starving for protein. Whey protein solves that issue because it's extremely easy to consume, like drinking a glass of flavored milk.
Concentrate, hydrolyze, Isolate. Which Whey Is Best?
There are a few factors to consider when deciding which form of whey to go with, such as price, digestibility, protein per serving, etc. We broke down each one to give you a general sense of how they differ:
Whey Protein Concentrate
This form of whey is one of the cheapest on the market, but don’t let that turn you away. It’s the cheapest because it goes through the least amount of processing, which means it contains the most lactose & fat out of the three variations.
The more lactose, the more potential for digestive issues which may turn some customers away. Although it's a lower grade of whey, it still provides anywhere from 35-42g of pure protein per 50g serving. That is a significant amount of protein per serving, which may be beneficial to incorporate into the average diet.
Whey Protein Isolate
This is our top choice for protein because of its price, digestibility, and quality. Whey Isolate goes through meticulous processing that filters out most of the other components, leaving the good stuff behind (the whey, of course!) It’s a purer form of whey that’s easy to digest because it contains virtually no lactose. Each 50g serving contains about 45-47g of pure protein, which is a little bit more than the concentrate.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
Hydrolyzed protein is the purest form of protein because it goes through an extra round of processing, which results in excellent absorption/digestion. It is the most expensive variation of protein on the market and may be worth it to some individuals. A 50g serving of hydrolyzed whey contains 38-40g of pure protein. Some may argue that hydrolyzed truly does digest easier, but with less than 1% of the lactose in the isolate, they are comparable.
When Should You Take Whey Protein?
Ok, so we've covered why you should be taking whey protein. But, when should you take it to maximize its benefits?
Consuming whey protein post-workout is the most effective, especially when the goal is to build lean muscle. After a difficult workout, muscles are thirsty for instant nutrition and whey delivers just that.
30 Minutes Before Working Out
Consuming a protein shake pre-workout is another ideal time for people who want to maximize their muscle-building workouts. Taking it before your workout allows your body to absorb it during your workout and directly thereafter instead of solely post-workout. Make sure to drink it at least 30 minutes before, so your body has time to minimally digest it before engaging in intense physical activity.
When you're sleeping for 6-8 hours, your body is going without any food or water for a long time. Although you aren’t doing physical activity when sleeping, drinking whey before bed will boost your metabolism and prevent muscle breakdown, maintaining the muscle mass built during your hours awake.
Directly After Waking Up
After those 6-8 hours starved of nutrients, a fast-digesting protein like whey will give your body a nice rush of amino to start the day on the right note. Some protein supplements induce increased satiety which may prevent overeating eating and unnecessary snacking throughout the day.
Our Top Picks For Whey Protein Supplements
To rate protein supplements you have to take several factors including flavor, Labdoor results , solubility, and taste.
Best Whey Protein for Building Muscle
1. GRIND Nutrition Diesel
Our number 1 pick in terms of value, flavor, and macronutrient levels is GRIND Nutrition's Diesel product. Diesel includes creatine, whey protein, and an ideal 3:1 ratio of rapid absorption carbs and whey protein isolate. Many whey proteins do not include a good carb-to-protein ratio, and because of that they are better suited for appetite suppressants than they are for muscle building.
GRIND's addition of Creatine to this product, really makes it the ultimate muscle-building cocktail of supplements. If this ratio has been working for GRIND founder Chad Wesley Smith, one of the strongest men in the world, you know it has some efficacy behind it.
2. IMSOALPHA Instantized Natural Whey Protein
It's no secret that our team is big fans of Mike Rashid. He is already a fitness icon and has some incredible totals himself. He swears by this protein powder and after discussing it and researching it further, we understand why. As stated in the name, this protein is instantized, meaning it is absorbed into the bloodstream immediately, which is a huge plus when your muscles are craving protein post-workout. We love the fact that it is natural, with no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or fillers, which is difficult to find in most supplements. If Mike Rashid loves it, you most likely will too!
3. 1st Phorm PHORMULA-1 Whey Protein Isolate
It can be tough to find a protein powder that mixes well. You won't have that problem with PHORMULA-1. 1st Phorm pride itself on being the best-tasting and best-mixing isolated protein in the world. This protein can be taken at any time throughout the day but works most effectively post-workout. One great thing about this choice is that it has virtually no carbohydrate content, which means your macros won’t suffer if you’re keeping your carb count down. Customers rave about this protein and give it 5/5 stars on SuppReviewers .
Best Whey Protein for Appetite Suppression:
1. Quest Nutrition Protein Powder
What if you could include cookies & cream, salted caramel, and chocolate milkshake into your diet guilt-free while building muscle? Each Quest shake packs only 110 calories with 23g of protein and less than one gram of sugar. It tastes like you’re eating dessert and the shakes keep you feeling satisfied so you won’t binge on an actual chocolate milkshake. Reviewers report superb mixability, rich taste, and no chemical aftertaste, which is a common issue with other powders.
2. MyProtein Impact Whey Protein
This choice is Europe’s #1 premium protein powder, which holds a lot of weight. This supplement in particular is known for keeping you full and providing a quality source of protein, packed with aminos and nutrients that whole food can’t deliver on its own. Each serving packs 80% protein, 2g of Leucine (aids in activating the muscle-building process), 1g of carbs, and 2g of fat. The price tag on this whey is definitely a plus and although it’s priced low, the product is superior.
Creative Ways To Use Whey Protein
The great thing about whey protein is that it’s so versatile. The fastest way our bodies absorb it is in liquid form, which would be as a shake. But if you need a break from a shake and you’re feeling creative, there are some delicious ways to get your daily whey.
Whey Protein Iced Coffee
Get your caffeine fix while consuming much-needed protein. Mix together a cup of coffee, chocolate whey protein, and ice for a “mocha” protein iced coffee. A protein-packed DIY iced coffee also keeps your coffee shop money in your pocket, meaning you spend less while gaining more.
Whey Protein Fruit Smoothie
Smoothies are always refreshing, and they can pack some valuable nutrients. Strawberry-banana is a classic combo that pairs well with plain or vanilla whey protein. Remix your classic smoothie by making a strawberry banana protein shake and gain vitamin C, potassium, and protein all at the same time! Feeling decadent? Try a peanut butter, banana, and chocolate protein shake for a guilt-free treat that only tastes sinful.
Baking with Whey Protein
Everyone loves baked goods, so why not bake them with some nutritional value? Check out these quick and easy recipes for chocolate protein mug cake (34g of protein per serving) and 2-minute molten chocolate protein lava cake (23g of protein per serving).
Or, if brownies are more your thing, cater to your craving with this healthy gooey black bean brownie recipe. Full of rich dark chocolate, these gooey chocolate protein brownies are a perfect healthy dessert alternative. Not only will you save at least 100 calories from these brownies versus a traditional brownie, but you will also get a solid amount of protein from these as well!
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1. Top 10 Protein Supplements - Labdoor
2. Protein Quality Ratings-- Nutrition Express
3. The Effects of Protein Timing on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy: A meta-analysis.
4. Our In-Depth Phormula-1 Review
5. Whey Protein Concentrate: A Brief Summary