Lean Muscle, Better Health: The Advantages of Whey Protein

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Whey protein powder is a popular supplement derived from milk during the cheese-making process. While many associate it primarily with muscle building, whey protein has a broader range of health benefits. From supporting weight management to aiding in post-workout recovery and even boosting the immune system, whey protein is a versatile supplement.

What Is Whey Protein?

Whey protein powder is a popular dietary supplement derived from milk during the cheese-making process. Milk contains two main types of proteins: casein (80%) and whey (20%). When milk is coagulated to produce cheese, the liquid whey is separated from the solid casein. This liquid whey is then processed to extract the whey protein, which is further purified and dried into a powder form.

Whey protein powder is a high-quality protein source that is easily digestible and rapidly absorbed by the body. It is rich in essential amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) like leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which play crucial roles in muscle growth, repair, and recovery.

There are three main types of whey protein powder:

  • Whey protein concentrate: Contains a lower percentage of protein (typically around 70-80%) and higher levels of lactose and fat. It is the least processed and least expensive form of whey protein.
  • Whey protein isolate: Contains a higher percentage of protein (usually at least 90%) and has most of the lactose and fat removed. It is more easily digestible and suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.
  • Whey protein hydrolysate: A predigested form of whey protein, which is rapidly absorbed and may cause a faster increase in muscle protein synthesis. It is also the most expensive form of whey protein.

Whey protein powder is commonly used by athletes, bodybuilders, and individuals looking to increase their protein intake for various reasons, such as muscle growth, weight management, or overall health and wellness.

What are the Benefits of Whey Protein?

Whey protein powder offers several health benefits for human health, including:

  • Muscle growth and repair: Whey protein is rich in essential amino acids, including BCAAs, which are crucial for muscle protein synthesis, growth, and repair, making it an ideal supplement for athletes and bodybuilders. [PMID: 31565912]
  • Weight management: Whey protein can help with weight management by promoting satiety, reducing hunger, and increasing calorie expenditure. It can help in maintaining lean body mass while losing fat. [PMID: 29087242]
  • Improved recovery: Consuming whey protein after exercise can help enhance muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness due to its rapid absorption and high amino acid content. [PMC9963065]
  • Enhanced immune function: Whey protein contains bioactive components, such as immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and lactoperoxidase, which may help support immune function and overall health. [PMC9709612]
  • Blood sugar regulation: Whey protein may help regulate blood sugar levels by increasing insulin secretion and improving insulin sensitivity, making it a suitable supplement for those with type 2 diabetes or at risk of developing diabetes. [PMC7504833] Researchers found that the addition of whey to meals with quickly absorbed carbs stimulates insulin release and reduces after meal blood. [PMID: 16002802]
  • Lowering cholesterol levels: Some studies suggest that whey protein may help reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels, potentially contributing to improved cardiovascular health. PMC7504833]
  • Antioxidant support: Whey protein is a source of the amino acid cysteine, which helps produce glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that plays a critical role in protecting cells from oxidative stress and maintaining overall health. [PMID: 12537959]
  • May Be Useful for Cancer Patients: Researchers have found that whey protein supplementation can increase glutathione levels and improve nutritional status and immunity in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. [PMID: 29565716]
  • Wound Healing: Wound healing rates are highly dependent on adequate protein as well as overall nutritional status. Supplementation with whey protein has been extensively studied in animal models of wound healing. [PMC3254143]

Food Sources of Whey Protein

The following table compares the whey content of dairy foods to whey protein powder. One of the practical advantages of using a whey protein supplement is that it offers a much larger amount of protein in a very low-calorie form. This can be especially helpful for meeting protein needs for people trying to lose weight and for older persons with very low calorie needs.

Food Source & PortionTotal Protein Per ServingEstimated Calorie Range
Whey Protein Powder (1/3 cup or 43 gm)25 grams170
Plain Greek Yogurt (6 oz)20 grams120
Milk (1 cup)8 grams80-150
Cheese (1 oz)7 grams100-120
Cottage Cheese (1 cup)28 grams200-250
Note: These are food examples. Products will vary, so check the product label.

How Much Protein Do We Need?

When it comes to protein intake, one size doesn’t fit all. The debate over higher versus lower protein consumption has been a topic of interest among nutrition experts, athletes, and those concerned about long-term health. Whether you’re looking to build muscle, manage a medical condition, or simply improve your overall health, understanding the advantages of different levels of protein intake can help you make informed choices tailored to your individual goals and needs.

RDA for Protein

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for healthy adults. This translates to about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. Both men and women fall under this general guideline. These recommendations aim to meet the nutritional requirements for most healthy individuals. Older adults and those who are losing weight or exercising may benefit from higher levels. Women’s needs during the second and third trimester of pregnancy go up to 1.1 grams per kg (0.5 grams per pound).

Some Experts Call For Much More Protein Than The RDA

Recent research suggests higher protein needs than past RDAs indicated, especially for athletes, the elderly, and those healing from illness. Studies now recommend a protein intake that may be significantly above the standard guidelines, to support muscle health, weight management, and overall well-being.

A growing body of research indicates that protein intakes well above the current Recommended Dietary Allowance help to promote healthy aging, appetite regulation, weight management, and goals aligned with athletic performance. Higher protein intakes may help prevent age-related sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass, and strength that predisposes older adults to frailty, disability, and loss of autonomy. Higher protein diets also improve satiety and lead to greater reductions in body weight and fat mass compared with standard protein diets, and may therefore serve as a successful strategy to help prevent and/or treat obesity. Athletes can also benefit from higher protein intakes to maximize athletic performance given the critical role protein plays in stimulating muscle protein remodelling after exercise. … Despite persistent beliefs to the contrary, we can find no evidence-based link between higher protein diets and renal disease or adverse bone health… Current evidence indicates intakes in the range of at least 1.2 to 1.6 g/(kg·day) [0.55-0.8g per lb.] of high-quality protein is a more ideal target for achieving optimal health outcomes in adults.

Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health [PMID: 26960445]

If you’re engaged in muscle-building exercises like weightlifting or strength training, your protein needs are generally higher than those of the average person. For optimal muscle growth and recovery, it’s commonly recommended to consume between 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This translates to about 0.54 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This higher protein intake supports muscle protein synthesis, aids in muscle repair, and helps you gain lean muscle mass more effectively. Timing also matters; consuming protein before or after workouts can maximize muscle growth. However, individual needs can vary, so consulting a sports dietitian for personalized advice is a smart move.

To increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that lifts weights regularly or is training for a running or cycling event eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.

American College of Sports Medicine

If you’re aiming to lose weight, increasing protein intake can be beneficial. Protein can help you feel fuller for longer periods, reducing overall calorie intake. It also helps preserve muscle mass, ensuring that most of the weight you lose is from fat. A common recommendation is to consume between 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day when you’re on a calorie-restricted diet. However, the specific amount can vary based on individual factors like activity level and metabolic rate. Consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice tailored to your weight loss goals.

For elderly people, protein intake becomes especially important to combat age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, and to support bone health. The general protein recommendation of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight may not be sufficient for older adults. Some experts recommend a higher intake of around 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day or about 0.54 g per pound. This helps maintain muscle mass and strength. Adequate protein can also play a role in reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

What Are the Health Advantages to Lower Protein Intake?

Lowering protein intake can have some advantages, especially for certain groups or in specific conditions:

  • Kidney Health: Reduced protein intake can ease the workload on kidneys, which is particularly beneficial for people with kidney issues. Anyone with low kidney function should seek out a registered dietitian nutritionist to discuss the much wider scope of nutritional requirements.
  • Lowered Cancer Risk: Some research suggests that lower protein intake, particularly from animal sources, may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Longevity: Studies on animals have shown that reducing protein intake may extend lifespan, although evidence in humans is not conclusive. Experts think that in humans, lower protein over the lifespan with higher protein later in life might be optimal.
  • Environmental Impact: Lower protein intake, especially from animal sources, can reduce one’s carbon footprint, contributing to environmental sustainability.

What Are The Advantages of Higher Protein Intake?

Increasing protein intake has several health benefits for specific groups and conditions:

  • Muscle Gain: Higher protein levels help with muscle repair and growth, beneficial for athletes and bodybuilders.
  • Weight Loss: Consuming more protein can make you feel full longer, useful for those trying to lose weight.
  • Elderly: Increased protein can help maintain muscle mass and also support bone health. Adequate protein is essential in reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis in older adults.
  • Post-Surgery Recovery: After an injury or surgery, increased protein aids tissue repair and recovery.
  • Athletic Performance: Athletes may need more protein to help with muscle repair and boost performance.
  • Pregnancy: Protein needs go up during pregnancy to support the growing baby.

Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist for tailored advice, as protein needs can differ from person to person.

Are Whey Protein Supplements Safe?

Whey protein supplements are generally safe for most people and are widely considered to be well-tolerated. They’re derived from milk, a food that many consume regularly without issues. Common side effects are minimal and often limited to digestive discomfort in those who are lactose intolerant. For healthy adults, using whey protein as part of a balanced diet typically presents no safety concerns. However, it’s crucial to stay within recommended serving sizes to avoid excessive protein intake. Overall, whey protein has a solid track record for safety and effectiveness.

Medication Interactions with Whey Protein

  • Alendronate (Fosamax): Whey protein can bind to alendronate, reducing its absorption and effectiveness for treating bone conditions.
  • Antibiotics (Tetracyclines): Whey protein can interfere with the absorption of this type of antibiotic, making it less effective.
  • Levodopa: The amino acids in whey protein can reduce the absorption of levodopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
  • Blood Thinners (e.g., Warfarin): High protein intake can sometimes interact with the effectiveness of blood thinners.
  • Thyroid Medications: Whey protein can affect the absorption of thyroid medications, potentially reducing their effectiveness.

Supplement Interactions with Whey Protein

  • Calcium: Combining whey protein, which has high calcium content, with calcium supplements might push calcium intake above recommended levels.
  • Iron: Consuming whey protein with iron supplements during the same meal can interfere with how well the iron is absorbed because of the competition for absorption sites.
  • Magnesium: Taking whey protein and magnesium supplements together can result in a higher intake of magnesium than necessary, as whey also contributes about 130 mg of magnesium per 200 calories of whey.
  • Zinc: Whey protein might reduce zinc absorption from supplements when ingested in the same meal because both are competing to be absorbed in the gut.
  • Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Since whey protein includes BCAAs, adding more via supplements to the same meal can lead to an unnecessarily high intake of these amino acids.
  • Creatine: While safe to use with whey protein, if creatine supplements are taken in the same meal as whey, it might promote increased water retention in the body.

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Why Professionals Choose the Fullscript Formulary

Your health is on the line. Health professionals know that many other online and retail options set a very low bar for quality–sometimes amazingly low. The Fullscript formulary is the most secure online source for the highest quality brands securely sourced to assure freshness and purity. Here’s what makes Fullscript the best:

  • Meticulous vetting of brand quality. Health professionals trust Fullscript to continuously monitor the quality of each item on the platform. Other retailers operate with profit as their highest or only motive when choosing brands. Fullscript cares only about quality and reliability. Unlike discount stores, large online marketplaces, and other retailers you won’t find ingredients sourced from China or other questionable locations or companies.
  • Free shipping over $50 and best prices when you order through Supplement Sciences.
  • Freshness. Fullscript prioritizes freshness over bulk buying even if it means an increased risk of briefly being out of stock.
  • Top quality phone and online support. When you call, knowledgeable humans at Fullscript answer your questions.
  • How It Works:
    • Easy Sign-up & No Spam Email: Click the “View Product” button below to be taken to Fullscript’s login page where you can quickly create your secure account with just your name, email, and phone number. Then you will be taken directly to the product page.
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Whey Protein Natural Vanilla by NOW Sports

  • No Artificial Ingredients, Ultrafiltered, Microfiltered, With Branched-Chain Amino Acids, Added Glutamine

NOW® Whey Protein is a delicious blend of three of the highest quality whey protein concentrates and isolates from around the world: ultrafiltered, microfiltered and enzymatically hydrolyzed (partially predigested). This blend of specially processed whey proteins is designed to maximize amino acid absorption and biological value (BV). In addition, extra glutamine has been added (460 mg per serving) to this blend.

Whey protein is considered to have the highest biological value (BV) of any protein source – superior in essential amino acid content to beef, milk, casein or soy.
Add 1/3 cup daily to 8 oz. of cold water, milk, or your favorite juice. Stir or blend.

Serving Size: 1/3 cup (43g)

Amount Per Serving
Calories … 170
Total Fat … 2g
Saturated Fat … 1g
Trans Fat … 0g
Cholesterol … 55mg
Sodium … 135mg
Total Carbohydrate … 7g
Dietary Fiber … 2g
Total Sugars … 2g
Added Sugars … 2g
Xylitol … 2g
Protein … 26g
Vitamin D … 0mcg
Calcium … 123mg
Iron … 0.4mg
Potassium … 186mg

Ingredients: Whey Protein Concentrate, Natural Vanilla Flavor, Xylitol, Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Hydrolysate, Xanthan Gum, L-Glutamine, Organic Stevia Leaf Extract.

Contains: Milk and soy.

Does not contain: Wheat, gluten, egg, fish, shellfish or tree nut ingredients. Produced in a GMP facility that processes other ingredients containing these allergens.

Typical Amino Acid Profile:
L-Histidine … 467
L-Isoleucine … 1668
L-Leucine … 2730
L-Lysine … 2364
L-Methionine … 555
L-Phenylalanine … 831
L-Threonine … 2042
L-Tryptophan … 471
L-Valine … 1533

Non-Essential Aminio Acids:
L-Alanine … 1370
L-Arginine … 677
L-Aspartic Acid … 3171
L-Cysteine … 504
L-Glutamic Acid … 4884
L-Glutamine … 460
Glycine … 513
L-Proline … 1671
L-Serine … 1449
L-Tyrosine … 563

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

“To Sum It Up”

Whey protein supplements offer a diverse range of health benefits that go beyond muscle building. They can support weight management, improve post-workout recovery, and even give your immune system a boost. With its high nutritional value and generally safe profile, whey protein is a worthwhile addition to a balanced diet for many people. So whether you’re an athlete or someone looking to enhance your nutrition, whey protein has something to offer.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

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