Original post: September 9, 2010
Whey protein has become a tremendous category in the natural health industry and the reasons exceed way beyond muscle and athletic performance. Whey protein supplies a bounty of immune system fuels and building blocks in a delivery form that is easy to digest and utilize for metabolism. Different sources of protein provide formidably different metabolic influences some of which factor intimately into fat management and lean muscle anabolism. Protein is not protein. Whey definitely is the unprecedented fitness supplement. We’ve all heard bits and bytes about the biological value of the different protein sources in the marketplace. Don’t let anyone cloud your thinking with protein efficiency ratios (PER), gross protein value (GPV), amino acid scores (AAS) or other forms of protein evaluation. Biological value (BV) is the true measure for protein quality actually measuring the amount of protein (based on nitrogen) retained in the tissues. It doesn’t matter how one dances around the amino acid profile, branched chain amino acid score, protein or microfraction content, and even the weight gained from using a protein powder, the ultimate measure worth anything is how much of the quality protein you consumed was successfully retained (and not excreted) and converted into lean tissue. BV measures this outcome. Whey is different from casein, soy and other sources of protein which can’t measure up with the same BV. The amino acid profile and other components of whey often referred to as fractions are similar to those found in human breast milk. These similar characteristics make whey protein familiar to and highly compatible with the human body and the systems involved in digesting, absorbing and using the protein. This similarity is what contributes to the high BV and the reason why whey is therapeutic and supportive of tissue and hormone maintenance and restoration.
Mixing other lower BV protein sources in with the exclusive whey to create the appearance of an impressive ingredient list on a product label doesn’t enhance the performance of the supplement; it only dilutes the benefits of whey. Depending on how well a whey protein is processed it can retain a biological value of 90 – 159. Most of the whey proteins on the retail shelves today are at the bottom end of that range (between 100-110) but this is still a good measure when we consider that chicken has a biological value of about 79- 80, beef 81, fish 80, soy 74, cheese 77, most beans 50 and whole egg 100. Casein powder only rates at 77 and whole milk is a blend of casein and whey plus other elements and measures way lower than pure whey. Whey protein supports maintenance and building of muscle Whey provides an abundance of the essential amino acids required to build lean tissue like muscle. Alpha lactalbumin is the protein fraction (or component) that provides many of the benefits and a good quality whey protein is rich in alpha lactalbumin. Human breast milk can be as high as 80% alpha lactalbumin. . Properly processed protein will provide this bounty of tissue building blocks in peptide form and what is commonly referred to undenatured protein. This unique amino acid profile also includes an abundance of amino acids that contribute to anabolic potential – alanine, glutamine, cysteine and branched chain amino acids like leucine crucial to the anabolic process. Glutamine is an important skeletal muscle amino acid that conveys nitrogen load to help restore and rebuild muscle after hard work (exercise included). Whey abundantly supplies a stable form of glutamine. The result of using an alphalactalbumin-rich whey daily is better recovery from work outs or other physical work and more complete muscle gains, tone, strength and stamina. Research supports all of what you’ll experience.
Whey protein delivers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity The interesting paradox we all face when we workout to improve fitness and reduce the risk for disease is that the actual physical work produces oxidation. We are all faced with multiple sources of oxidation all of which can add up to overwhelm our immune and other restorative and maintenance systems. In addition, the more calories we consume the more likely it is that free radicals (oxidation) are produced as a by-product of the food calorie processing by our cells. Uncontrolled oxidation in the body deteriorates our cells and promotes inflammation and premature aging.
Supplementing daily food intake with whey provides the quality building blocks for the precious glutathione antioxidant in a form that is void of unnecessary fat and carbohydrate calories. Whey protein is rich in the precursor the cells can use for glutathione production – glutamyl cysteine dipeptide. This serves as a better source of glutathione for the cells than even glutathione supplementation itself, since the cells of the body can absorb the smaller precursor faster than it can absorb the larger glutathione tripeptide. From this precursor the cells can abundantly make glutathione. Whey protein supplementation is for all walks of life, not just athletes.
Whey protein helps detoxify the body and chelate heavy metals. Glutathione is a formidable antioxidant involved throughout the body in detoxification and neutralization of oxidation and toxins, including poisons. The liver and immune system rely immensely on this specialized antioxidant. Glutathione and the sulphur content of the amino acids that make up this peptide, also help chelate and remove toxic metals in the body. The naturally occurring lactoferrin also serves as a heavy metal chelating agent.
Whey protein supports immunity better than most other protein sources This antioxidant support from whey is central to the method in which whey protein empowers the immune system and helps prevent disease. In fact, glutathione’s potential for prevention and treatment of disease has far reaching implications – as potent as antitumor and anticancer activity. The rich glutamine supply supports immune system activity in multiple ways to serve a s fuel for immune cells and a building block for glutathione.
Whey supplies other protein fractions or biological components that support immunity such as lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin and immunoglobulins. Lactoperoxidase plays a role in innate immunity where upon contact it kills bacteria. Lactoperoxidase is naturally found in many of our secretions such as lachrymal, salivary and mucosal. Lactoferrin is an iron magnet that chelates and stores iron. Research shows that this fraction also has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Research also demonstrates that lactoferrin can influence the natural killer cells of the immune system making them more active and honing accuracy. Immunoglobulins supplied also by whey convey passive immunity and are usually higher in concentration in the colostrums.
Whey helps control appetite The high glycomacropeptide (GMP) content of a properly processed whey helps improve satiety or the feeling of fullness. Research has shown this fraction of the whey imparts many of whey’s touted benefits and some whey extractions completely or partially eliminate this precious fraction. This delicate fraction is shown to support calcium absorption to help combat osteoporosis and dental carries. The GMP component also plays a role in gut friendly bacteria support and the deterrence of pathogens. A properly processed whey that preserves the maximum possible quantity of this fraction provides the broader health benefits associated with whey based beverages.
Whey protein against cardiovascular disease Research shows that the antioxidant and other benefits offered by whey and similar milk products can help reduce the risk for hypertension and related cardiovascular ailments. The GMP fraction of the whey protein plays a central role in cardiovascular health. Research also shows that this fraction is largely responsible for the cholesterol benefits associate with whey.
Whey protects against catabolism of stress and hard physical work. Whey has a relatively high branched chain amino acid (BCAA) concentration – valine, leucine and isoleucine. BCAA’s are known to convey an anticatabolic property to the body. This means they help preserve lean tissues in the face of anaerobic work (intense work that limits oxygen in tissues) and support energy requirement during this intense work. BCAA’s are also known to help counter the tissue-degradation associated with elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Whey supports brain health, energy and alertness Glutamine is an important skeletal muscle amino acid contributing to nitrogen retention and repair of lean tissues but it is also a key immune system fuel and neurological health nutrient. The BCAA load supplied by whey also regulates brain alertness by helping control neuron response to tryptohphan. BCAA’s down regulate tryptophan availability to the brain to keep it in high gear and they also serve as energy sources for the fatigued muscle to allow it to work through high workload.
What will you notice when you choose to consume a properly processed whey supplement on a regular basis? IMPROVED immunity; appetite control; lean body and fat mass; state of mind, energy and emotional health; aging, health and life perspective. The benefits of whey are further enhanced by the addition of polyunsaturated fat supplements.
Whether we’re trying to maximize lean muscle, reduce body fat, prevent premature aging and disease or produce basic health and fitness, the dietary objective will be quite similar. The goal will be to improve protein quality, reduce unnecessary fat intake and increase antioxidant, vitamin and mineral supply through careful food selection and supplementation. However, the intake of the right fat supplements can catapult you faster toward your goal.
We’ve all heard of the polyunsaturated omega-fats like DHA, EPA and those from seed oils. These beneficial fats also support good health and they’re a perfect adjunct to the protein supplement. These specialized fatty acids and the protein form what are called micelles (fat and protein complexes) in the gut and blood which facilitate transport of the protein and fat to the tissues in need. The polyunsaturated fatty acid (marine oils and / or flaxseed oil) supplement in gel capsule or liquid form further help neutralize inflammation, support brain and cardiovascular health, and facilitate transport of the needed protein.
Choose a diet that fits with your lifestyle and goal. Isn`t health everyone`s primary goal? Choose to take one to two whey shakes taken at the same time as a polyunsaturated fat each day between your food meals. Your meal portions can then be decreased. If more nutrition is absolutely required after an 8:00 pm food curfew, choose to consume another deliciously flavoured whey protein drink mixed in water. This strategy will set the foundation for spontaneous health and fitness that will be noticeable in just weeks. And don’t stop with you. Your family can enjoy the benefits of these health strategies with you from your infant to your parents. Share the health but don’t procrastinate; get on it now!