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Think that whey protein is something that only athletes or bodybuilders use? Think again.
There are actually many reasons why people seek extra protein in their diet and whey is one of the best sources of protein available.
What exactly is whey protein?
Whey is a rich mix of milk proteins which is produced as a by-product of cheese making.
Whey is a “complete” protein source, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids, including the branched chain amino acids (BCAA) leucine, isoleucine and valine.
We need essential amino acids as they form the ‘building blocks’ of muscle development.
They are known as ‘essential’ as our bodies cannot make by themselves – we have to get them via our diet.
Whey is also a great source of a few other vital nutrients, including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Why is protein important?
Our bodies need protein for maintenance and growth of muscle mass and it also has a role to play in bone health.eneration.
Protein has also been found to keep us full for longer than carbohydrates, which makes it attractive for those who want to support their weight loss goals.
It has also been found to help endurance athletes recover faster from heavy exercise.
Is whey protein isolate a different thing?
Check the nutritional info before you buy a protein powders, as not all are the same.
Some might be concentrated protein, which is made from 60-80% pure whey protein, with the rest of the nutrition coming from carbohydrates and fat.
By contrast, whey protein isolate or isolated protein is 90-95% protein, while hydrolysate protein is approximately 99% protein.
Choose one of the latter two if your goal is to lose weight rather than bulk up.
How to use whey protein
Firstly, read the instructions carefully of whichever protein source you choose and consult your doctor if you are making a significant change to your diet or exercise routine, especially if you have an existing health condition.
There are some guidelines on how much protein to take depending on your lifestyle and sex.
Check out the helpful table on recommended protein levels on our article ‘Types of protein powder: discover the best protein powder for you’ on the Health Hub.
Once you have done that, you can experiment with the whey protein – especially if it is in powdered form – to find out what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Most protein powders can simply be diluted in water or milk to make a shake, but there are more creative things you can do, such as adding protein powder to smoothies, pancake batters and many other types of baked goods.
Check out ‘Tasty protein powder recipes’ on the Health Hub for more ideas.
Most people choose to take a protein shake before or just after exercise. However, it is also possible to use protein powders as a meal replacer if you are following a certain diet.
What is the best whey protein powder?
There are various things to consider when looking for the best whey protein for you.
First, ask yourself why you are taking it.
If you are taking it as a mass gainer (to put on weight or build muscle), look out for whey protein powders designed specifically for that, such as USN Muscle Fuel Anabolic.
If you are looking to grow and maintain muscle mass and also want something low-carb, why not try Applied Nutrition Critical Whey Protein.
A great all-rounder and one of our bestsellers is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey, which comes in a huge array of flavours, including chocolate mint and rocky road.
If you are specifically looking for a meal replacer, check out PhD Nutrition Diet Whey Lean Meal Replacement Shake.
Other types of whey protein
You can of course try whey protein bars, such as Grenade Carb Killa bars.
The same company also produces ready-made whey protein shakes, for on-the-go convenience, like Grenade Carb Killa Shake
They even make whey protein spreads for toast and sandwiches: Grenade Carb Killa Protein Spread.
Women might want to look into the brand Women’s Best, which makes one of the most popular vegan protein powders, as well as Fit Whey which is specially formulated for females.
PE Nutrition from Holland & Barrett, offers a range of products to help with muscle growth, maintenance and athletic performance.