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What is Whey

Whey is a component of cow's milk that is isolated in the standard cheese-making process. Whey contains proteins, peptides (or protein segments), lactose (a type of sugar found only in milk), fat, salts and water. Whey protein is a group of three main proteins that are distilled from whey into a powder containing little or no fat and lactose and used in a variety of protein supplements.
Whey is nature's perfect protein

Whey protein is considered nature's perfect protein, and the highest-quality natural protein.

Whey protein is widely considered the highest-quality natural protein. All proteins are made up of some combination of the 20 amino acids. Individual proteins contain different numbers and proportions of amino acids. Scientists have various methods of measuring protein quality. Biological Value (BV) is a measure of a particular protein's effect on nitrogen balance (the more positive the better). The protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) is a measure of how well a particular protein supplies the nine essential amino acids (the more completely the better).

Proteins from animal food sources (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) have higher ratings than plant proteins on both scales. First, animal proteins are structurally similar to human proteins than plant proteins are.1 For this reason, our bodies are able to make more efficient use of animal proteins.1 Second, unlike most animal proteins, most plant proteins contain very small amounts of, or are missing entirely, one or more of three essential amino acids: tryptophan, methionine, and lysine. This, too, makes plant proteins less effective in the body. Finally, animal foods tend to contain much larger amounts of protein than plant foods.

1. Wolfe RR. Et al. Protein supplements and exercise. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 72:551s-557s, 2000.

The fastest "Whey" to absorbtion

Whey protein is a complete protein that contains all 20 amino acids and all nine essential amino acids (i.e. amino acids that must be obtained in the diet because the body cannot make them using other amino acids). Its protein digestibility corrected amino acid score is 1.14, as compared to 0.94 for beef protein, and its BV is 104, compared to 100 for eggs. In addition, whey protein empties from the stomach and is absorbed into the bloodstream from the intestine faster than other proteins.2 Moreover, whey protein contains especially high concentrations of amino acids that are metabolized at high rates during exercise—most notably glutamine and leucine.

Whey before, during and after workout: Whey protein contains all 20 amino acids, all nine essential amino acids, and has faster protein muscle synthesis absorption than egg, beef, peanut, and soy protein.

Due in part to its fast absorption, whey protein consumption results in a higher peak amino acid concentration in the blood than other proteins.2 This is important because blood amino acid levels are a key regulator of muscle protein synthesis. The higher the blood amino acid is, the faster muscle protein synthesis occurs. Indeed, whey protein consumption has been shown to result in faster muscle protein synthesis as compared to other proteins.3 This makes whey protein more effective than other proteins for repairing exercise-related muscle damage and building bigger, stronger muscles.

2. Boirie, Yves, et al. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. Vol. 94, pp. 14930-12935, 1997.

3. Rennie, et al. Protein and amino acid metabolism during and after exercise and the effects of nutrition. Annu. Rev. Nutr. Vol. 20, pp. 457-483, 2000.

4. Biological Value (BV) and Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) from reference manual for US Whey Products, 2nd Ed., USDEC.

Whey is rich in amino acids

Whey protein is also the richest source of the essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) leucine, isoleucine, and valine.5 As much as 30 percent of the amino acids in whey protein are BCAA. Unlike other amino acids, BCAA can be oxidized directly by the muscle cells, so they are used at a high rate during exercise. The BCAA have also been shown to have the greatest positive effect on muscle protein synthesis among all of the amino acids.6

Whey protein contains three to four times more bioavailable cysteine (i.e. cysteine in a form the body can readily use) than other proteins including casein and soy.7 Cysteine is an amino acid that plays a key role in the regulation of whole-body protein metabolism, which results in changes in body composition.

5. Kimball, SR. et al. Control of protein synthesis by amino acid availability. Opin. Clin. Nutr. Metab. Care. Vol. 5, pp. 63-67, 2002.

6. Anthony, JC. et al. Signalling pathway involved in the translocational control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle by leucine. J. Nutr. Vol. 131, pp. 856s-860s, 2001.

7. Walzem, RM. et al. Whey Components: Millenia of Evolution Create Functionalities for Mammalian Nutrition: What We Know and What We May Be Overlooking. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Vol. 42, pp. 353-375, 2002.

Whey's powerful antioxidants

And that's not all. Whey proteins contain other critical components with proven health benefits. Its low molecular weight peptides are natural antioxidants potentiators that may protect body tissues from aging and certain cancers.8 In particular, three whey peptides are known to boost the immune system by increasing production of glutathione, the most important antioxidant in the body. Finally, growth factors known as IGF-I and IGF-II promote gut health and wound healing.

Not all proteins are created equal. Whey protein may be more beneficial to the human body than any other protein. When it comes to boosting growth, health, and performance, whey protein outperforms soy, egg, fish, beef, casein (another whey protein) and any other protein you can name.9

8. Bounous, G. et al. Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) and glutathione modulation in cancer treatment. Anticancer Res. Vol. 20(6C), pp. 4785-4792, 2000.

9. Bucci, LR. et al. Protein and amino acids in exercise and sport. In: Energy-Yielding Macronutrients and Energy Metabolism in Sports Nutrition. Driskell J., and Wolinsky I. Eds. CRC press. Boca Raton, FL. P. 197-200, 2000.

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