Whey Protein is still the King – If you are targeting performance goals.
Protein is the most complicated, but arguably the most important macro nutrient of all.
Every working unit in the body is as protein, enzymes, genes, organ, muscle and brain cells, they are all proteins, from the contraction of a muscle to the blink of an eye, an emotional response to a thought.
The body makes 350,000 different proteins, some are as long as 34,000 amino acids long and like computer coding, these strings of amino acids have to be exact.
For them to be exact, the body of course needs every amino acid in the spectrum to be readily available. The body manufactures the non-essential amino acids, whereby we need to consume the essential amino acids through our diet.
The point I’m making here is that we need to get our protein nutrition correct, we need to consume high quality protein that provides a great source of all the essential amino acids in a highly bioavailable form, along with all the associated micronutrients that the body needs to support absorption and bio-functionality of protein. Remember, nutrients work together like an orchestra within the body, not individually, they need each other to flourish, It’s teamwork at its very best!
Biological Value is still the best indicator of protein quality.
Scientists have been kind enough to develop a really useful scoring system to establish the quality of each protein source. Its called the BV (Biological Value)
The BV is the most accurate indicator of biological activity of a protein and measures the actual amount of protein deposited per gram of protein absorbed. It’s the league table of proteins and guess who is top of the league? You’ve guessed it, Whey Protein.
As a rule, high BV proteins are better for nitrogen retention, immunity, IGF-1 stimulation and are superior for reducing lean tissue loss during various wasting states than their low BV counterparts. Therefore, as a general rule, high BV proteins are more anti-catabolic than low BV proteins.
Biological Value of Proteins
What is Whey Protein?
Here we will discuss what whey protein is, its benefits and why it is indeed the king of all protein sources. We’ll discuss the different types of whey protein and how they are manufactured, and how whey consumption can help with muscle building and fat loss.
Whey protein has become a staple supplement for most bodybuilders and other athletes because it's a great protein. Whey has an exceptionally high BCAA content vs other proteins. BCAA’s are very popular with athletes as these 3 amino acids are recognised as being vital for muscle growth and repair. BCAA’s provide the raw materials for the body to make L Glutamine. Given that muscle protein is approx. 50% L Glutamine, a rate limiting step to muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is the amount of L Glutamine available in the body. BCAA’s also protect muscle tissue by offering themselves as a source of fuel during exercise. L Leucine (one of the 3 BCAA’s) is also popular for its impact on MPS, think of L Leucine as the ignition key that ignites MPS through the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) signalling pathway.
One of whey proteins major effects is its apparent ability to raise glutathione (GSH). The importance of GSH for the proper function of the immune system cannot be overstated. GSH is arguably the most important water-soluble antioxidant found in the body.
What Is Whey?
Whey is a by-product of cheese production. When cheese is made, a thin liquid is left over. That liquid is whey and it is less than 1% protein. It is concentrated and dried, and you have a protein powder.
Whey protein is considered a "fast acting" protein. But what, exactly, is meant by 'fast'?
Fast refers to the amount of time it takes to be fully metabolised. More specifically, the time it takes for it to be digested (if needed), absorbed into the blood, taken up by a bodily tissue and complete one of many metabolic fates.
It will take only 20 minutes before almost all of what you have consumed is coursing through your veins. Somewhere between 20-40 minutes, the level of amino acids in your blood has reached its high point. Within the hour it will have gone through the various metabolic processes, either protein synthesis, or oxidation.
What really is Whey?
When we talk about Whey, we are actually referring to a complicated protein made up of many smaller protein sub fractions such as beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, immunoglobulins (IgGs), glycomacropeptides, bovine serum albumin (BSA) and minor peptides such as lactoperoxidases, lysozyme and lactoferrin. Each of the sub fractions found in whey has its own unique biological properties.
Up until quite recently, separating these sub fractions on a large scale was either impossible or prohibitively expensive for anything but research purposes. Modern filtering technology has improved dramatically in the past decade allowing companies to separate some of the highly bioactive peptides from whey, such as lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase.
Some of these sub fractions are only found in very minute amounts in cow's milk, normally at less than one percent. For example, though one of the most promising sub fractions for improving immunity and overall health, lactoferrin makes up approximately 0.5% or less of whey protein derived from cow milk (where as human milk will contain up to 15% lactoferrin).
Over the past few decades, whey protein powders have evolved several generations from low-grade concentrates to very high-grade concentrates and isolates.
Types of Whey Protein
There are basically three major types of whey protein. Each reflects a different degree of filtering and processing.
From the least processed to the most processed, the types of whey are
Whey protein concentrate (WPC)
• Whey Protein Concentrate is made with gentle cold filtration processes known as micro- and ultrafiltration
• These processes create a supplement that is around 70-80 % protein, with the remainder being carbs and fat
• These processes also retain most of whey's beneficial peptide fractions, which are small particles of protein that perform various biological functions in the body, these are lost with extra processing which is why some people favour WPC over Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
• For example, whey peptides provide helpful antioxidant benefits and support immune function
• Modern concentrates now contain as high as 70-80% plus protein with reduced amounts of lactose and fat. Many people are under the impression that a WPC is inherently inferior to an isolate. This is simply untrue.
• Though WPCs will contain less protein on a gram for gram basis than an isolate, a high-quality WPC contains all sorts of interesting compounds not found in the isolates.
• Good Whey Protein Concentrates contain far higher levels of growth factors, such as IGF-1, TGF-1, and TGF-2. They contain much higher levels of various phospholipids, and various bioactive lipids, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and they often contain higher levels of immunoglobulins and lactoferrin.
• Although data is lacking as to whether these compounds found in a good WPC will affect an athlete's muscle mass or performance, studies do suggest these compounds can improve immunity, intestinal health, and have many other effects that both athletes and "normal" people alike may find beneficial.
• The drawbacks of WPCs are they have slightly less protein gram for gram than an Isolate and contains higher levels of fat (though these fats may in fact have beneficial effects) and higher levels of lactose.
• People should not be under the impression that a well-made WPC is inherently inferior to a whey protein isolate (WPI) and may in fact be a superior choice, depending on the goals of the person. For example, some people don't tolerate lactose well or are trying to watch every gram of fat in their diet while others may want the potentially beneficial effects of the additional compounds found in a high-quality concentrate.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
• Is more protein-packed than concentrate.
• WPI is made with longer filtration times or additional types of processing, such as cross-flow microfiltration or ion-exchange chromatography.
• These methods basically make a more protein-packed powder.
• Because of the additional processing, WPI often has protein concentrations around 90%.
• Isolate is thus a great choice for dieters because of its extremely low carb and fat content.
• WPIs generally contain as much as 90-96% protein. Research has found that only whey proteins in their natural undenatured state (i.e. native conformational state) have biological activity.
• Processing whey protein to remove the lactose, fats, etc. without losing its biological activity takes special care by the manufacturer. Maintaining the natural undenatured state of the protein is essential to its anti-cancer and immune stimulating activity.
• The protein must be processed under low temperature and/or low acid conditions as not to "denature" the protein and this becomes an even greater concern when making high grade isolates vs, concentrates.
• WPIs contain >90% protein contents with minimal lactose and virtually no fat. The advantage of a good WPI is that it contains more protein and less fat, lactose, and ash then concentrates on a gram for gram basis.
• However, it should be clear by now that whey is far more complicated than simple protein content, and protein content per se is far from the most important factor when deciding which whey to use.
• For example, ion exchange has the highest protein levels of any isolate. Does that make it the best choice for an isolate? No, but many companies still promote it as the holy grail of whey.
• Ion exchange is made by taking a concentrate and running it through what is called an "ion exchange" column to get an "ion exchange whey isolate." Unfortunately, there are serious drawbacks to this method.
• As mentioned above, whey protein is a complex protein made up of many sub fraction peptides that have their own unique effects on health, immunity, etc. Some of these sub fractions are only found in very small amounts. In truth, the sub fractions are really what ultimately makes whey the unique protein it is.
• Due to the nature of the ion exchange process, the most valuable and health promoting components are selectively depleted. Though the protein content is increased, many of the most important sub fractions are lost or significantly reduced.
• This makes ion exchange isolates a poor choice for a true third-generation whey protein supplement, though many companies still use it as their isolate source due to the higher protein content.
• Ion exchange isolates can be as high as 70% or greater of the subtraction beta-lactoglobulin, (the least interesting and most allergenic subtraction found in whey) with a loss of the more biologically active and interesting sub fractions.
• So, the pros of an ion exchange whey are for those who simply want the very highest protein contents per gram, but the cons are that the higher protein content comes at cost; a loss of many of the sub fractions unique to whey.
• Not an acceptable trade in my view considering the fact that the actual protein differences between a micro filtered type isolate is minimal from that of an ion exchange. Only use a micro filtrated WPI if an isolate is your choice of whey.
The most familiar micro filtered isolate would be Cross Flow Micro Filtrated (CFM)
CFM processing method uses a low temperature micro filtration technique that allows for the production of very high protein contents (>90%), the retention of important sub fractions and extremely low fat and lactose contents with virtually no undenatured proteins.
CFM is a natural non-chemical process which employs high tech ceramic filters, unlike ion exchange, which involves the use of chemical regents such as hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. CFM WPI also contains high amounts of calcium and low amounts of sodium.
Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate (HWPI)
• Is the most highly processed of all the whey proteins and therefore, it's often the most expensive.
• It's produced by putting whey protein through a process called hydrolysis, which breaks longer whey protein chains into smaller peptide fragments (Di-Peptides and Tri-Peptides) Hydrolysis basically pre-digests the whey protein.
• Because it's broken down and pre-digested, HWPI is digested and absorbed even faster than Whey Protein Isolate, making it the ideal protein around your workouts.
• Of course, many protein manufacturers combine two or even all three of these whey proteins into one powder, so you benefit from each form.
How Can Whey Protein Help You Lose Body Fat?
Consuming whey protein pre- or post-workout just might help you tip the scale in favour of muscle growth and strength gains over time. But this mainstay protein powder can help you lose fat, too.
Whey Satiates Your Appetite
Of all the macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein), protein is best at making you feel satiated, or full. If you're cutting calories, choosing foods that are as satiating as possible will help make sticking to your diet less stressful.
Studies show that milk proteins such as whey may satiate your appetite better than some other protein sources.  But, having a high enough protein intake in general is the most important thing. Eat plenty of dietary protein from food sources like meat, eggs, and fish, and supplement with whey protein to max out your protein intake.
Protein is even more filling when paired with fibre. Make a meal replacement shake with whey protein powder, fruit, and some leafy greens to fill up on minimal calories.
Scientific Research on Whey
Whey protein supplementation has a lot of potential to help with weight loss, based on scientific research. For instance:
• In a placebo-controlled study on whey protein and dieting, one group of dieters were given a whey protein supplement, and the other group were given a placebo. The whey protein group lost more fat than the control group and kept more muscle mass. 
• Another study in 2006 found that adding 60 grams of whey protein per day, in comparison to 60 grams of soy protein or 60 grams of carbohydrate, led to decreases in body fat and weight after 6 months. 
Lose Fat, Keep Your Gains
It's tough to diet for weight loss while keeping your hard-earned muscle mass. Whey protein is a crucial weapon in this struggle. As we've seen, the amino acids in whey protein support muscle protein synthesis. This doesn't only help you build new muscle, it also helps protect existing muscle.
During weight loss, when the body doesn't have as many calories available during and after resistance exercise, it can break down muscles to use as fuel. Drinking whey protein can help stop that from happening, because your body will metabolize these amino acids instead of the ones in your muscles.
In Part 2, we will talk about the best ways to use whey protein in terms of usage occasions, combining it with other proteins such as plant proteins, casein, egg and meals. We will also discuss what is best to use around the workout period, BCAA or whey protein.
1. Frestedt, J. L., Zenk, J. L., Kuskowski, M. A., Ward, L. S., & Bastian, E. D. (2008). A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5(1), 8.
2. Baer, D. J., Stote, K. S., Clevidence, B. A., Harris, G. K., Paul, D. R., & Rumpler, W. V. (2006). Whey protein decreases body weight and fat in supplemented overweight and obese adults. The FASEB Journal, 20(4), A427-A427