Whey protein supports anabolic processes, helps normalize body-fat and metabolism, reduces stress and cortisol levels, and has antioxidant effects, all while enhancing strength and exercise performance. It is even synergistic with creatine! Here's the scoop (to be taken, of course, with a large scoop of whey protein):
There are several very solid reasons why whey protein is an absolutely essential nutrient base for any hard-training bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast or other athlete.
FIRST, resistance trainers need more protein than the average person for recovery from workouts and fast strength and mass gains. The requirement can be as high as 2 grams of protein, daily, per pound of lean bodyweight. Whey protein is a complete protein with a unique balance of amino acids that support growth by both pro-anabolic and anti-catabolic hormonal effects. Whey is super-rich in the critical pro-anabolic trio of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). Hard training significantly depletes BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine), so they must be supplemented in abundance--or you're on a fast track to catabolic no-gain-land.
SECOND, whey protein is known as a "fast protein, it's soluble, and digests and absorbs quickly. It provides very fast repletion of the essential amino acids. The best recent research suggests that muscle protein synthesis is optimally stimulated by high extracellular concentrations of amino acids, and the best way to achieve this is with high, "jolt" doses of whey protein. These "jolts" should be spaced throughout the day for maximum tissue amino uptake and anabolic stimulation.
THIRD, whey protein enhances athletic performance by increasing the levels of the antioxidant glutathione. Hard training is an oxidative stress, and this contributes to the sensation of fatigue. Several studies have shown that supplementary antioxidants, which quell oxidative stress, improve athletic performance. One study showed directly how whey (not casein) protein supplements produce significant increases of peak power and work capacity as determined by whole leg isokinetic cycle ergometry. Better performance during workouts will result in faster muscle gains--provided your protein and calorie needs are being met.
FOURTH, whey protein contains a special component called glycomacropeptide, or GMP, which helps promote the body's release of Cholecystokinin (CCK), an appetite-suppressing hormone. The GMPs in whey protein isolates (not concentrates--see below for the distinction) prompt the body to produce its own appetite-controlling molecules, thus helping the user to resist the high-carb goodies and the high-fat, high-cal pigouts that tip the muscle-to-fat ratio in the wrong direction.
FIFTH, whey protein and creatine are synergistic in promoting anabolism and strength gains! That's right: the top two anabolic supplements, when combined, actually have an anabolic effect that is greater than when taken separately. In a 6-week study of 36 resistance-training men, those receiving high-dose whey protein (1.2 g/kg/day) combined with creatine monohydrate (0.1 g/kg/day) obtained much better lean mass and strength gains than men on whey alone or placebo.
SIXTH, the lactalbumin of whey protein is very rich in tryptophan, which promotes serotonin production in the brain. This has an "anti-stress" and cortisol-lowering effect, by modulating the pituitary/adrenal axis. Several studies have shown that whey protein supplementation blunts the cortisol response to artificial stress--a very significant finding. Hard training itself is an "artificial stress" which increases blood cortisol. Anything you can do to diminish the cortisol response will aid greatly in the overall anabolic process.
FOCUS ON FAT LOSS
For anyone who is preparing for a contest--or just wants to look good with their shirt off--altering the body's muscle-to-fat ratio is far more important than "weight loss" or "weight gain" as such. "Weight" can mean a lot of things that have little relation to the real bottom line: how good you actually look, and how healthy you actually are. Bodybuilders were pioneers in making the critical distinction between weight loss and fat loss, of which the dieting lay person had no awareness. Since muscle tissue weighs more than fat, weight loss is a most imperfect indicator of a successful diet. Even the Body Mass Index (BMI), now the standard formula to define overweight and obesity, doesn't account for the percentage of lean muscle mass. For example, former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who at 6'5" had a lean, mean fighting weight of 245 pounds, had a BMI of 29, which is at the top of the "overweight" category, bordering on obese. (If you're curious, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a BMI calculator at http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/). Dieting usually entails a reduction of calories, setting in motion the body's survival mechanism, which views fat stores as more precious than muscle tissue. This prompts the body to cannibalize muscle tissue before it goes to fat for energy. This physiological adaptation once protected our ancestors, but it works against us now, unless the body is provided with the protein it needs to protect the muscle tissue. The frequent "jolt" doses of whey protein mentioned above are an ideal strategy to support and preserve lean tissue while speeding fat loss. Fortunately, whey's anabolic, muscle-building action is complemented by metabolism-boosting, appetite-controlling, blood glucose-decreasing, insulin-lowering, and fat-mobilizing actions as well. Hence whey offers a powerful one-two punch for working on both sides of the critical muscle-to-fat balance. The scientific literature now supports higher protein intake to help reduce body fat and improve insulin sensitivity in people with insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity. The positive implications of this for bodybuilders are obvious. And here again, whey protein has more value than other proteins. In one study, animals fed whey protein lost 10% more bodyweight, and more of it from fat, than animals fed lean red meat. The whey protein-fed animals also had much lower insulin levels.
A diet rich in protein is the common-sense approach to improving the muscle-to-fat ratio. The more muscle you build and maintain, the more calories you burn, even when you're idle. Building and protecting your lean mass makes fat loss so much easier, and will help keep the fat off permanently. Body repartitioning--increasing the muscle-to-fat ratio--avoids the ambiguities and weaknesses of total bodyweight and BMI as indices. Body repartitioning is what will improve how good you actually look, and how healthy you actually are. It is a long-term process. Keep plugging at it and you will succeed, especially if you have the right supplemental ammo on your side--namely, whey protein.
In addition to effectively building muscle, while reducing fat, whey protein has many other health benefits. For example, it increases glutathione levels--as mentioned above in relation to anabolic effects. But glutathione has desirable action that goes far beyond just supporting muscle growth.
Glutathione is vital for protection against oxidants, for detoxification and immune boosting. By supplying plenty of tryptophan, whey protein has anti-stress effects and helps support optimal brain function--including helping to boost mood and confidence. For men, there is an extra bonus: the possibility of reduced risk of prostate cancer. A study conducted at Ohio State University, published in the journal Toxicology, found that treating prostate cells with whey protein elevated glutathione levels in the cells by up to 64%, decreasing the chance of developing prostate cancer. Head researcher Joshua Bomser went on to say that "in diseases like cancer, there's usually a reduction in the body's overall capacity to deal with oxidative stress. Keeping antioxidant levels elevated through diet and supplementation may prevent the development of chronic disease."
The protein content of whey protein preparations can range from 35% to 95%. The higher the protein concentration, the more processing (filtering) is needed, leading to higher costs. Generally, when the protein concentration is greater than 88%, the end product is considered whey protein isolate (WPI), and less than that, whey protein concentrate (WPC). Besides being a great source of bulk protein, whey is a source of specific amino acids, peptides and other fractions that have potent (and very desirable) biological activity. For example, whey protein is a great source of the BCAAs--the key aminos for muscle-building and maintenance. It actually has 50% more leucine than soy protein isolate. But more exciting than that are whey isolate's bioactive protein microfractions, which are richly supplied by the higher-quality whey protein isolates. The principal bioactive microfractions are as follows:
the easiest microfraction to obtain. Along with alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin
is one of whey's main ingredients. Together, they account for about 70% to 80% of
total whey protein.
the second most common microfraction. It is thought to be very nutritious with a low allergenic risk. A good quality product should
Immunoglobulins--this microfraction provides antibodies, which are very important for the immune system. Careful processing can yield 4-10%.
Glycomacropeptides (GMPs)-- these active proteins have a positive effect on the digestive system, antiviral activity, and offer improved calcium absorption and enhanced immune function. They contain a compound known as sialic acid, which acts as an anchor for viruses and therefore reduces the chance of viral infection. The GMPs also promote the release of CCK, an appetite-suppressing hormone.
- Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA)-- the BSA fraction known as the precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is a critical antioxidant, important for reducing oxidative stress and improving athletic performance, for detoxifying chemicals and poisons, and possibly for reducing the risk of malignancy. As you can see, whey protein isolate is richly endowed with powerful fractions and activity that goes far beyond other bulk proteins like casein or soy. It is important to note, also, that whey protein concentrate does not contain significant amounts of all of the microfractions, but cross flow micro-filtered whey protein isolate does.
- Cross Flow Microfiltration (CFM)- is the most sophisticated and advanced processing technique known as it effectively removes undesirable components like fat and lactose, while at the same time, retaining the highest percentage of undamaged, undenatured bioactive microfractions like those described above. As a result, CFM processing of whey protein avoids denaturation of protein microfractions, effectively removes undesirable constituents without the use of heat or chemicals, achieves a better amino acid profile, and has more calcium and less sodium. Note: Fortunately, ProSource sells direct to the consumer instead of going through distributors and retailers, it is able to offer the highest-quality CFM whey protein isolate (such as in NytroWhey ) at a price equal to or less than non-CFM whey proteins.
The problem with raw whey is that it contains too much lactose, fat, and cholesterol. A few years ago, two major processes were developed that have the ability to extract the proteins from whey while preserving their integrity. These processes are micro-filtration and ion exchange. Both can yield a good low-lactose, low-fat whey protein. However, micro-filtration is the superior process, yielding cleaner material, higher protein and higher bioactive microfraction values. The higher-quality micro-filtered whey proteins can be distinguished from the lower-quality ones with a simple turn of phrase: whey protein concentrate versus whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate is the dry portion of whey obtained by the removal of sufficient non-protein components so that the dry product contains not less than 30-35% protein. Whey protein concentrates are rich in proteins but also contain fat and lactose. Some of them contain fair amounts of immunoglobulins, but don't contain significant amounts of the other fractions such as GMPs, BSAs, alpha-lactalbumin, and so forth. Whey protein isolate (WPI), on the other hand, is a much higher-value product with 90-92% protein, and the absolute maximum values of all the bioactive protein microfractions described above. This is important because the value of whey protein for the athlete may depend critically on those microfractions--particularly the Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) fraction, the precursor of glutathione.
WHEY FOR PROTEIN QUANTITY AND QUALITY Choosing a superior-quality brand of protein is absolutely crucial to the success of your repartitioning regimen. ProSource's NytroWhey line of premium proteins has earned a reputation for excellence based on their 100% pure WPI content, high levels of BCAAs and protein microfractions, and superior Cross Flow Microfiltration derivation.
Now that we've established whey protein isolate as the superior source of protein, the next question is, how much protein do you need? The standard recommendation for athletes is between 0.5 to 0.7 grams per pound of body weight per day. This means if you weigh 150 pounds, you should try to obtain 75-100 grams, and even up to 135 grams, per day. In all cases, protein should be of a high quality.
Whey protein is recognized by fitness and bodybuilding enthusiasts as the most effective protein supplement on the market, and now the medical community is jumping on the bandwagon. We know that with whey, you get "more bang for your buck," so to speak, in that your body is able to absorb and utilize a greater percentage of the protein you ingest than with any other protein supplement (like, for instance, egg albumin or soy). Whey protein scored a 1.14 on the USDA's Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS)--higher than any other protein. Along with digestibility, whey (especially whey isolate) also boasts an excellent amino acid profile and solubility, giving it a very high biological value (BV). (BV is a measure of how well a protein is utilized by the body.) In fact, whey isolate holds the highest biological value of any naturally occurring protein. Altogether, whey protein, and in particular whey protein isolate, offers the hard trainer a superior source of protein, the most critical single dietary substance. Whey protein's compelling array of activities make it more than just an optional supplement, it is essential!
1. Burke, D.G. et al. Int J Sport Nutr. 2001, 11, 349-364. The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength.
2. Journal of Nutrition 134:1454-1458, June 2004. Researchers from the University of Adelaide and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization also based in Adelaide, Australia, fed rats a high-fat diet (300g fat per kg) for nine weeks, then switched to a diet containing either 80 or 320g protein per kg, provided by either whey protein concentrate or red meat for six weeks. High dietary protein reduced energy intake and visceral, subcutaneous and carcass fat. Increasing the dietary density of whey protein, but not of red meat, reduced body weight gain by 4%, while whey protein also reduced plasma insulin concentration by 40% and increased insulin sensitivity, compared to meat protein. These findings support the conclusions that a high protein diet reduces energy intake and adiposity and that whey protein is more effective than red meat in reducing body weight gain and increasing insulin sensitivity.
3. Hall et al, British Journal of Nutrition, 2003, 89:239-248. Two studies investigated the effects of two milk protein types, casein and whey protein, on food intake and subjective ratings of hunger and fullness, and on postprandial metabolite and gastrointestinal hormone responses. Blood samples were taken at regular intervals and tested for amino acids, insulin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), glucagons-like peptide (GLP-1), and cholecystokinin (CCK). Both CCK and GLP-1 are hormones associated with effects on satiety. The final conclusion from both studies was that whey protein meals are more satiating than casein meals and are associated with higher postprandial circulating levels of amino acids, CCK, and GLP-1. These findings show that whey protein may play a valuable role in weight management and reduction programs.
4. Neuropeptides. 33(5):387-99, 1999. Evidence that CCK participates in the control of meal size (even in very hungry subjects) is compelling and participation of brain CCK in control of food intake is acknowledged.
5. Physiology & Behavior. 60(1):273-5,1996. There are 19 clinical studies demonstrating the satiating effect of cholecystokinin in humans. The synthetic peptide-analog of cholecystokinin (CCK-8) was shown to inhibit food intake in non-obese men and women, and in obese men. CCK-8 significantly reduced the meal size: people stopped eating sooner with CCK-8 than without. Meal frequency remained unchanged, so the dieters were able to maintain healthy meal patterns.
6. Kent, K.D., W.J. Harper and I.A. Bomser. Toxicology in Vitra. 17:27-33, 2003. Effect of whey protein isolate on intracellular glutathione and oxidant-induced cell death in human prostate epithelial cells.
7. Bohe J, Low A, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ. Human muscle protein synthesis is modulated by extracellular, not intramuscular amino acid availability: a dose-response study. J Physiol. 2003 Oct 1;552(Pt 1):315-24
8. Boirie Y, et al. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1997;94:14930-5