Athletes should consume whey protein because it’s an excellent source for muscle recovery 1-3. Whey protein typically falls into two types: whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate consists of: protein that varies from 25-80%, lactose from 4-8%, and fat content from 1-7%4. This is the supplement form commonly found in health and nutrition stores5. In contrast, whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey protein, containing anywhere from 90-95% protein with virtually no lactose or fat. The additional process of cross-flow micro-filtration removes the impurities, yielding 8% more denatured protein while excluding remaining fats6. The next step of adding whey protein hydrolysate allows for rapid utilization and excellent absorption7.
What is whey protein?
Whey proteins are high quality protein naturally found in cow’s milk. Milk contains 2 major proteins: casein and whey. Whey proteins comprise of about 20% of the total milk protein, which is more soluble than casein and has higher protein quality rating8-9. They are also a rich source of branched-chain amino-acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine. These proteins contain all of the essential and non-essential amino acids needed by the body. Whey proteins are complete proteins10.
The process of creating whey protein starts as cheese making. All milk should be from organic, grass-fed cows (high in omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio.) Corn-fed cows produce high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which are inflammatory. Unfortunately, for most of the nutritional supplement industry, corn fed cows are the source of whey protein. Beware!
This is the reason I only recommend third-party certified companies (GMP, NSF, TGA) that validated this grass-fed process.
Whey Protein for Sports Nutrition
The amino acid profile of whey protein is almost identical to that of skeletal muscle11. Its high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) help to maintain and repair lean muscle tissue following exercise and prevent muscle breakdown. These BCSS’s help to prevent fatigue during intense, long duration sports events. Leucine, which is found in abundance in whey protein, helps to stimulate protein synthesis and maintain a positive nitrogen balance to enhance muscle repair and recovery12-15.
Whey protein can be effective when combined appropriately with exercise. Whey protein consumption for post-workout may be one of the most beneficial things that one can do to maximize lean body mass16,17. It is low-glycemic but insulinogenic at the same time18,19. This creates a unique opportunity for muscle growth without fat gain, especially is a post-workout setting.
The addition of an appropriate amount of carbohydrates with whey is beneficial in terms of muscle gains. In studies analyzing post-workout intake of protein alone, carbohydrates alone, or combination of both, protein and carbohydrates together generates the greatest insulin response. This enhances muscle glycogen synthesis, glucose uptake, and increase in protein synthesis20,21.
Whey Protein Post-Workout Ratios
Research indicates the consumption of 20 grams of whey protein post-workout:
- For a power workout (eg. weight-lifting) the appropriate ratio is 2:1 carbs to protein
- For a team sport (eg. lacrosse) the appropriate ratio is 3:1 carbs to protein
- For an endurance workout (eg. cross-country distance running) the appropriate ratio is 4:1 carbs to protein
The optimal window of opportunity for absorption of all the carbs/protein is within 30 minutes of an athletic endeavor completion.
Further Benefits of Whey
Whey protein provides an excellent source of cysteine, enhancing glutathione status, which optimizes immune function. Additionally, it aids in recovery from eccentric exercise.
Whey protein provides an excellent source of muscle recovery from athletic activity. This occurs as a result of whey protein yielding high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and aiding in protein synthesis. The purest form is whey protein isolate from organic grass-fed cows (third-party certified). The consumption of proper ratios of whey protein and carbohydrates remains critical to ensure muscle recovery and performance. It’s the whey to go for athletes.
Dr. Robert Silverman
280 Dobbs Ferry Rd. Ste. 204
White Plains, NY 10607
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