Not all protein shakes and bars are created equal. Not only does each product on the market have differing amounts of fat, carbs, and protein, but also different protein sources. Whey protein is the protein source most commonly favored by exercisers. So what are the benefits of whey protein and why is it such a popular protein source? Let’s find out more.
What is Whey Protein?
Simply put, whey protein is the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production. You’ve probably encountered whey before and not realized it; have you ever opened a carton of yogurt and seen liquid floating on top? That’s whey. After this excess liquid is discarded during cheese production, it goes through a series of transformations to become the whey protein powder that is then added to protein bars and shakes.
Why You Should Choose Whey Protein
Considered the building block of the body, proteins are important for building and repairing tissues, organs, muscles, and even hormones and neurotransmitters. Proteins are made up of amino acids; your body makes some amino acids but other amino acids—referred to as essential amino acids—are only available through the food you eat. The best sources of protein, including whey protein, supply all the essential amino acids.
Studies have shown that whey protein can help you reduce fat. A 12-week study conducted in Minnesota revealed that participants who consumed a whey protein supplement on a daily basis lost a greater amount of body fat—while still preserving their muscles—than those who consumed a similar beverage without whey.
Whey protein may also naturally reduce hunger. In a 2007 Australian study, obese men who consumed beverages with 50 grams of whey protein showed reduced levels of ghrelin (a hormone that signals to your brain you’re hungry) up to four hours later.
Another tally under whey protein benefits: it can also promote muscle growth and enhance athletic performance. In one study, participants who exercised regularly and took a whey protein supplement saw greater gains in muscle mass after 10 weeks of resistance training than a control group.
There’s even research to support that whey protein may help relieve stress. Researchers in one study found that people who consumed whey protein experienced fewer symptoms of depression than those who did not. The scientists of that study have concluded that there were most likely changes in the serotonin levels in the brain.