Considering our lifestyle nowadays, we often question the health and fitness levels of our body. Apart from consuming food, we are open to nutrition through substitutes as well due to a busy and planned schedule. Whey protein is one such product which is consumed by many, especially those who are athletic, highly active and gym goers. Here we have Pavithra. N. Raj, Chief Dietitian, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital who will help throw light on what this food substitute is and how it should be consumed.
What is whey protein?
“Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production. It is left over when milk is coagulated during the processing of cheese and contains everything that is soluble from milk after the pH (potential of hydrogen) is dropped to a certain point. It has a high concentration of branch chain amino acids”, says Pavithra. There are 3 different types of whey and they are whey concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate.
Using whey protein
Pavithra shares, “Whey protein contains an incredible range of essential amino acids, which are absorbed quickly and can help you increase strength, gain muscle and lose significant amounts of body fat.”
When and how it should be consumed
“People often wonder when the best time to take their protein powder. This depends on your health and fitness goals. You may want to consume it at a particular time of day, depending on whether you want to lose weight, build muscle or preserve muscle,” says Pavithra. She also gives a few tips below:
- Losing Weight – Eating protein-rich snacks between meals is ideal for fat loss. It may help curb hunger, which could lead you to eat fewer calories later in the day.
- Building Muscle – To build muscle, aim to consume protein within two hours after working out. People who train in a fasted state, like before breakfast, should ideally take protein right after working out.
- Preventing Muscle Loss – To help prevent muscle loss, aim to eat 15-20 grams of protein per meal. Taking a supplement at meals during which you consume less protein, such as breakfast, can help spread your intake over the day.
- Exercise Performance and Recovery – Endurance athletes may see improved performance and recovery from taking protein with a source of carbs during and after exercise. Resistance-training athletes can benefit from taking it either immediately before or after a workout.
Benefits of consuming it
Here, Pavithra shares a few points on the pros of consuming Whey protein.
- Excellent Source of High-Quality Protein – It has a very high nutritional value and is one of the best dietary sources of high-quality protein
- Promotes Muscle Growth – Is an excellent promoter for muscle growth and maintenance when coupled with strength training.
- Help You Lose Weight – Eating plenty of protein is a very effective way to lose weight, and some studies show that it may have even greater effects than other types of protein.
- Aids Lower Blood Pressure – Due to bioactive peptides called lactokinins, it helps regulate elevated blood pressure.
- Supports Reduce Inflammation – High doses have been shown to reduce blood levels of C-reactive protein, indicating that it can help reduce inflammation.
- May Enhance the Body’s Antioxidant Defenses – This supplementation may strengthen the body’s antioxidant defenses by promoting the formation of glutathione, one of the body’s main antioxidants.
Common concerns addressed
Here, the expert answers some common questions related to whey protein…
Does whey protein help in building muscle mass?
The powder has all the amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. One such key amino acid is leucine, which plays a vital role in promoting muscle building and growth.
Can it be a substitute for our daily food or does it need to be consumed as a portion of our meal?
Pavithra says, “Protein shakes can be beneficial as occasional to a normal diet, but they should not replace the nutrition you get from food.” She also adds, “They are quick and convenient, as they provide many of the nutrients. Most of the shakes are typically fortified with vitamins and minerals that whole foods might offer.”
The expert goes on to explain, “Whole foods also contain fibre, which is important for hunger satisfaction and proper digestive health. They also have antioxidants, which are disease-fighting and immune-boosting compounds that can’t be replicated in supplements. Replacing multiple meals per day with protein shakes over a long-term period could result in nutrient deficiencies, digestive distress, nausea, bloating, headaches, and fatigue.”
Who should consume whey protein?
It can be consumed by people like athletes, gym goers, bodybuilders and for weight loss.
Age matters – Few younger people may not be able to digest protein. Consult your doctor or dietician if you prefer taking whey protein form adolescent age.
Body weight matters – Excess of protein, more than the body weight may lead to kidney damage, digestive distress, nausea, bloating. “Exercising also matters and also depends on the kind of workout you do,” says Pavithra.
Do we need to consult our trainer or a nutritionist for knowing how much and when to consume it?
Yes. 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight per day has been a bodybuilding rule of thumb for decades. Higher levels of intake, usually in the range of 1.2 – 1.5 grams per kg of body weight are commonly recommended when “cutting” to lose fat (consult your doctor or dietician).
What is the importance of having whey before/after a workout?
Pavithra shares, “Before and after your workouts are the best times to incorporate this supplement into your diet.” Research suggests taking in about 10-20 grams of whey about 15-20 minutes before your workout and about 20-40 grams within that brief 30-minute window after your workout is beneficial.
Pre-workout protein help to fuel protein synthesis, prevents fatigue during a workout and burn more calories. Post workout protein helps in muscle recovery and to prevent muscle catabolism.
What kind of workout should one have it after?
“Intake of whey depends on the workout we do like from moderate intensity exercise (brisk walking, dancing and jogging) to vigorous intensity exercises (Fast swimming, fast cycling),” Pavithra suggests.
If you are looking out to lose or gain weight, whey protein can be opted as a go-to substitute. With keeping the above tips in mind, you can consult your dietician or doctor to help you plan your diet according to your activity.
Pavithra. N. Raj, Chief Dietitian, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital