Is Whey Protein A Supplement Necessity?

Whey Protein

Do I take whey protein?

Yes.

Do I believe you need it after your workout in order to get results?  Hell no!

Truth is, many of you are shelling out $100+ each month because the never-ending relentless slurry of marketing ads being pumped by the supplement industry has you believing that without whey… you shouldn’t even step foot in the gym.

Where in the hell did we go wrong?

I mean, seriously.  Do you honestly believe that Arnold and the boys were slamming whey shakes after each lift?  I can see it now… “hey Arnond, you want to hit the beach after this lift”?  “No”… he says as his head sinks low.  I forgot my whey at home and without getting it into my system in the next 30 minutes my muscles are going to eat themselves!

What a freakin joke!

Look around your gym.  Go ahead.  Take a look.  Actually judge what you see.  90% of the guys in there are getting shitty results!  Is it because they are not buying 5 lb tubs of powder on a bi-weekly basis?  Yah… right!  It’s because most of them have not figured out how to eat or lift in order to make their body respond.  Not just the guys.  But most of the women too!

Sounds harsh.  It’s not meant to be.  It’s just the truth, and the truth is hard to argue with.

Pillsbury Doughboy

Pillsbury Doughboy

I’m telling you right now, if you are shelling out a good portion of your paychecks at the local vitamin store, but still looking like the “Pillsbury Doughboy”, STOP.  Double STOP!

Save your money.

First get educated.  Learn how to eat.  Learn how to workout.  For crying out loud, learn how to get a response from your body that actually shows up in the “real world”.  Then, and only then, start experimenting with supplements.  Because all the whey protein in the world is not going to help you if you keep acting like a dumb dumb.

So am I saying that whey doesn’t work?

No.  Not at all.  A quality whey protein can help you.  But remember, it’s only a supplement.  It’s designed to “supplement” an already solid eating plan.  Not replace it.

And when you use it correctly, it can provide many well documented benefits:

Who Should Take Whey Protein?

Most people have the idea that only the pumped-up meat-head with bulging biceps over there in the corner letting out those ridiculous grizzly bear grunts as he pounds out his last 3 reps on the squat rack is going to benefit from using whey protein.

Wrong!

And many of you need to start thinking beyond just muscle development too.  Sure, study’s have proven that getting adequate protein is vital for growth, but there is a myriad of other health benefits that are associated with whey and it can surely benefit all different types of fitness goals.

I’ll list benefits below, but for those who don’t know there are basically 3 types of whey protein currently on the market.  The difference is simply that they contain varying amounts of protein and fat according to the level of filtration.  Whey is simply a byproduct of cheese.  In other words, when you make cheese you get whey.  It basically hasn’t changed for thousands of years.  It is the “left-over” product when milk is coagulated while making cheese.

  • Whey protein concentrate: This is what you get after the initial byproduct is taken and dried.  It’s typically between 60% to 80% pure protein depending on filtration process. (Better wheys will be around 80%)
  • Whey protein isolate:  This is what you get when you filter the whey concentrate a second time.  It’s typically about 90% pure protein.  Some are even higher, again, depending on filtration.
  • Whey protein hydrolysate: This is simply broken down using the third step of “pre-digestion”.  Acids are typically used to pre-digest the whey so that when you drink it it absorbs even faster.

Some gurus would like you to believe that whey isolate is superior to concentrate because it’s pure protein, but that’s not true.  A concentrate will have many of biologically available compounds from it’s slight fat content that would otherwise be stripped away in an isolate.  And on the flip side of the spectrum… many super “health-freaks” will tell you the concentrate is superior to the other forms because it contains more fat and other substances and as a result, is more of a “whole food”.  But as Mark Sisson, author of the New York Times Bestselling “Primal Blueprint”, points out:

“The vast majority of studies examining whey protein’s beneficial effects on general health, immune functioning, and recovery from training use whey protein isolate, not whey protein concentrate.”

I’ve taken all three and have gotten results with all three.

One is not necessarily better than the others.  It really boils down to the quality of the process.  Some brands obtain their whey from superior sources than others.  To me, this is what makes for a higher quality whey protein supplement.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that might just intrigue you:

Improve Blood Sugar

One benefit of whey that research has pointed to is improved insulin resistance.  Something that has staggering implications in not only burning belly fat, but also offsetting type 2 diabetes.

In one study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 14 individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were served a high glycemic index breakfast followed by a high GI lunch.  It looked like this…

  • Breakfast: White Bread
  • Lunch: Mashed potatoes with meat balls

Individuals supplemented with whey for both meals on one day and lean ham and lactose on the next (strange – but, whatever!).  Researchers took blood samples after each mean and found that insulin secretion was higher after the meals containing the whey… which led to a significant 21% reduction in blood sugar response.

As I pointed out in this article on balancing blood sugar…. controlling blood sugar spikes plays a great role in many health factors for not only diabetics, but also health individuals looking to burn fat.  This is huge!  (I also discuss insulin and it’s impact on increasing belly fat in that article).

Listen.  If you want to lose belly fat or just flat out get trim in general… learn to balance your blood sugar!

Increase Weight Loss

I know how you’re clever little mind works.

When you envision the person needing to lose weight you tend to paint a mental image of fat guy Fred and his hairy ass belly wearing a butt print in his couch while guzzling a “cold-one” as his wife’s hand searches the bottom of the Doritos bag for the last orange crumb.    Sure, they both could stand to lose 50 pounds.  But these are not your typical people who are trying to lose weight.

Nice try though!

From what I’ve seen, it’s the hard working mom who’s making time to workout daily and just needs to lose those last 10 pounds… most of which are congregated on her belly.  Or, the 40 year old family man who works a desk job and is simply trying to better his body by trimming down his midsection.

These are the majority.

Well, assuming they are disciplining their diet, adding a solid whey protein can make a difference.  Especially when it comes to burning pure fat.  And hey, if you do really need to lose 50 pounds plus, you can certainly do that and whey can help!

Iv’e discussed the benefits of animal protein in the past.  One of which is increasing thermogenesis in the body.  Thermogenesis is very simple to understand; when you eat protein it actually raises the internal temp in your body because it must expend more energy to break down that protein… as apposed to carbs and fat.  Well, research has proven that this increased heat actually causes your body to burn more fat!  This is why study after study confirms that a higher protein diet can help you burn more fat.

As Mark Sisson points out in his article “Not Just For Bodybuilders:  The Many Wheys Whey Protein Can Improve Your Health”:

“If you’re trying to lose weight or prevent obesity, increasing the amount of energy you burn at rest and decreasing the amount you consume – by manipulation of satiety and fat-burning hormones – are indispensable effects.”

Increasing protein increases energy burned.  It’s just that simple.

And when you take a quality whey protein, you’re not only increasing fat loss potential, but you’re also getting other internal health benefits such as:

Enhance Muscle Development

The #1 reason most of you are taking whey is to build muscle.

But is it better than other sources of protein?

My answer is simple:  Yes… and no.

Listen.  I realize I’ll get some supplement pounding moron shoot me an email listing all the reasons why whey is the king of proteins, but I’ve heard it all before.  My answer doesn’t change – if you want to build muscle you don’t need whey.

You’ll do just fine on chicken breast or beef or fish or any other type of protein source you may choose.  A combination of all of them works great too.

However, with that said, whey does have it’s advantages in the muscle building category.

The single biggest advantage of adding a whey supplement is that it’s super convenient.  Try getting 1 gram per pound of body weight into your diet eating whole food.  Sure, you can do it, but it typically takes a lot of cooking and eating.  Most people just don’t have time for it.

For those who don’t know, 1 gram per pound of body weight is the typical recommendation for those who are trying to gain muscle.  Some will require more.  Some less.  (And as a side note, carbohydrates are actually more important for building muscle than most people realize.)

Supplementing with whey can really help stack up your total protein count each day.

And here’s the other thing, it’s also giving you a higher biological value than any other protein you can consume.  It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s superior to other sources, but what it does mean is that your body loves the stuff!

Biological value is a measure of how much your body can use a particular protein.  Bluntly speaking, your body is able to absorb certain proteins better than others.  Well, our bodies are able to absorb whey the best!  That means as soon as it enters your stomach it is quickly distributed to muscle cells for building and repair.  Here’s a ranked list of bio-availability of protein sources courtesy of Joey Vaillancourt from his Bodybuilding.com article “Protein Bio-Availability Explained”:

Whey Protein Bioavailability

Source: Joey Vaillancourt “Protein Bio-Availability Explained”, Bodybuilding.com

This is why you hear so many fitness experts recommending you take whey immediately after your workout.  Because it’s so fast digesting and allows you to take advantage of that “30 minute window” when protein synthesis is at it’s highest.

Now, whether or not the whole notion of the “30-minute window” is actually true or not is for another article.  I tend to think it’s mostly “bro-science” as I know many guys do just fine not eating immediately after they workout.

So.  To make a long story short.  Will whey help you build muscle?  Yes.  Absolutely.  It’s amino acid profile is pretty much superior to any other protein and it has the highest biological value of any other protein.  So yes.  If you drink it it is going to certainly help you, with the benefit of being so damn convenient.

And when it does get into your system, it’s not just the muscle building and fat loss enhancements, but research has demonstrated that it does some other cool things as well…

Whey Protein and Life-Span

Generally speaking, any time you can increase the quality of nourishment you are going to increase the quality and length of life.

It’s only common sense.  When your body is getting the nutrition it needs it is going to thank you with improved health.

Here’s the problem with most nutritional studies though… they are usually first done on animals.  Are animals the same as people?  Hell no!  But can they actually allow us to extrapolate some possible benefits?  Yes.

In one study in particular cited in LifeExtension.com by Will Brink in his article “New Longevity Benefits Of Whey Protein” mice were given an amino acid mixture very similar to the composition of whey protein.  The mice received this mixture at 9 months old (middle aged in mice years) and researchers discover the median age increased from 774 days to 869 days in the mice that received the mixture vs. those that did not.

As Will points out:

“In human terms, based on today’s life expectancy of 78.7 years, this median increase—even beginning supplementation only at midlife—translates to an additional 9.4 years of life!”

Decreases Hunger, Improves Satiety

Anyone who feels a constant gnawing hunger knows it’s a daily “pain in the ass”!

From what I see, this is a massive issue among obese people trying to lose weight through typical calorie restriction dieting and other useless methods.

Listen.  Hark unto me.  Stop dieting people!

Instead, you need to play with your macro ratios.  Typically, it’s those of you who eat a higher glycemic load diet that are suffering from constant hunger.  It’s all about blood sugar.  And yours is so F’d up that it’s literally screwing with your hormones.

Macros are protein, fat and carbs.

I’m telling you right now, going lighter on the carbs and heavier on the protein and healthy fat can dramatically improve your satiety and lead to increases in weight loss for those of you who simply want to get thinner.  Actually, lots of studies confirm that protein is the most satiating of the macros.  And amazingly, some of them show that whey is actually superior to other protein sources when it comes to curbing those hunger cravings due to it’s exceptional amino acid profile and other fractional compounds.

Research published in the Advances in Nutrition – An International Review Journal looked at past research on dairy proteins and found that:

“…whey has been found to increase satiety compared with protein from tuna, turkey and egg when measured by VAS (visual analog scale) or ad libitum energy intake.” – () visual analogue scale added by me in order to define.

Improve Cardiovascular Health

It’s no great secret that heart disease is a major issue not only in America, but many other developing countries.

Again, much of the heart-related research done on whey comes from animal studies.  Not ideal, but certainly allows us to draw inferences into what might occur in humans as well.

There are some human studies available though, as it pertains to your heart.  A review published in the Obesity Journal looked a studies on whey protein performed between 1970 and 2012 and found that whey promotes a reduction in blood pressure and arterial stiffness.

In another 6-week controlled study performed on humans, 30 individuals diagnosed with stage 1 hypertension or pre-hypertension were given either hydrolyzed whey protein or a control.  Those receiving the HWP showed improvements in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, along with significant improvements in the heart disease bio-markers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Conclusion

There are three major reasons why I take whey protein on a daily basis:

  1. It’s convenient.
  2. It allows me to consume my daily protein requirements.
  3. I believe it improves health.

If you can cook several meals a day, more power to you.  But for those who are busy being able to add a scoop of whey to a shaker cup and immediately get 25 grams of quality protein in your system can definitely help you.

Keyword is “quality”.

I personally try to avoid as many artificial ingredients as possible and it’s no different with my supplementation.  I also want to make damn sure what is going into my body is pure whey and not a lower quality product that using God knows what as a “filler”.

But, assuming you all do your research and get a quality product, it helps… period.

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