The Right "WHEY" to Use Protein Powders
Protein powders are quite popular these days, and for obvious reason: they pack an awesome punch of filling, muscle building, and recovery promoting protein (aka amino acids) in a small package, and are easy to mix up in the mornings or after a workout. Plus, for individuals who can't stomach a big protein-rich meal due to digestive issues, lack of appetite, etc., protein powders can truly be a lifesaver (take my word for it!). But when it comes to protein powders, NOT all are created equal...in fact, the added ingredients in some protein powders could arguably cancel out the benefit of the protein (think sugar, artificial colors, etc.). However, there are some gems out there, and they're not all that hard to find...that is, if you know what to look for! Today I'll be featuring what is probably the most popular and well-known type of protein powder (cue the re-reading of this post's cheesy title...I couldn't help myself...): WHEY protein. And before you roll your eyes and think "Here we go..." I'd encourage you to hang on. Whey protein is truly taken for granted, as it is one of the most nutritious protein sources out there. Intrigued? Keep reading...
Health Benefits of Whey Protein
Aside from the obvious benefits of whey protein (that it's a quick and easy source of protein!), there are numerous lesser-known perks associated with this type of protein powder, including:
-Easily digestible: Whey protein is one of the most easily digestible proteins out there. It's also a very quick-digesting protein, meaning you'll get the benefit faster, making it there perfect post-workout choice to avoid muscle soreness.
-Lactose-free: A lot of people hear "whey protein" and immediately think dairy. However, the common protein that accounts for up to 90% of lactose or dairy allergies is not whey protein, but casein protein. Casein is a very thick, sticky, hard-to-digest protein, and it's present in most dairy products (thus the increased popularity of things like goat's milk and goat's milk products, as well as "A2" milk products, which both have significantly lower levels of casein). Of course, I'm not saying that if you have a dairy allergy you should go consume cups of whey protein...I'm just saying you may not have to avoid it like the plague as you thought you did (but ALWAYS check with your doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist/dietitian before making any diet changes or deciding to consume a food you may be allergic or intolerant to).
-It can help to lower blood pressure: Numerous studies, such as this one, have all shown that regular consumption of whey protein powder may, in fact, reduce blood pressure--no pills needed! This effect can be attributed to the presence of lactokinins in whey protein (and all dairy products), which act as ACE-inhibitors!
-It can reduce systemic inflammation: While some proteins that are loaded with junk can promote inflammation (especially gastrointestinal inflammation, resulting in bloating, gas, and digestive upset), whey protein does the opposite: it REDUCED inflammation. This study revealed how, when subjects ingested pure whey protein, circulating levels of C-reactive protein (a key marker in measuring inflammation) dropped significantly.
-It can soothe your gut: Various studies, like this one, have revealed that not only is whey protein a "safe" option for individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, but it may actually help to relieve some of the symptoms. More research needs to be done, but the preliminary results are promising.
-It's heart healthy: While the findings are not consistent, certain studies (like this one) have found that regular consumption of dairy products, particularly whey protein, not only lowers blood pressure as noted above, but reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, as well.
-It's CHEAP!: Whey protein is, ounce for ounce, the cheapest of all the protein powder options, when compared to collagen, plant protein, egg protein, bone broth protein, and casein proteins. It's also the easiest to find and generally the most-stocked protein in stores, meaning there's more variety to choose from, whether you want chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, or unflavored.
-It boosts your immune system: This last one is by far my favorite, and the reason I make an effort to consume whey protein powder regularly. The body's "king" antioxidant, glutathione, is made from s few key amino acids, including glycine, cysteine, and methionine. These amino acids are not always easy to get in their ready-to-go form, making deficiency in these three AAs common...but not when whey protein is around! Whey protein is rich in all amino acids, including glycine, methionine, and cysteine (as well as glutamine, which may be responsible for it's gut-soothing abilities), meaning that, by consuming whey protein, you're giving your body the building blocks it needs in order to make more glutathione, fighting off harmful free radicals and keeping you healthy. I always increase the amount of whey protein I consume when I'm sick, whether from a lung infection, a cold, or even allergies, because I know I'll be not only supplying my body with the protein it needs to recover and rebuild in a super-easy-to-digest form, but also supplying easily accessible glutathione precursors, which will help me get better all the more quickly. Plus, my protein nice cream is DELISH, and who doesn't want ice cream when they're sick?!
My Top Whey Protein Brands and Choices
Now, of course, there's a LOT of whey proteins out there...so which one is best? I actually prefer unflavored varieties when it comes to whey, mainly because I just love the taste of straight, unflavored, unsweetened whey protein (it tastes like colostrum powder, which my body absolutely CRAVES!). I like these two brands for unflavored whey protein:
If you're wanting some flavor and sweetness, these are my top picks:
I hope this post has been helpful and informative! I'll be doing these "Feature Friday" posts every so often, in substitute for Wellness Wednesday posts sometimes, so keep a look out! As always, if you have any topics you'd like me to address or discuss via blog post, feel free to shoot me an email!
Until next time...stay happy, healthy, and hopeful.
Dr. Anna Johnson, ND/CNS