What is Whey Protein?
Think of Little Miss Muffet sitting on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey. Curds and whey are the two forms of protein derived from milk, curds being Casein protein which comprises 80% of cow’s milk, whilst the remaining 20% is whey. Whey protein is isolated from the liquid that is left during the production of cheese; it is basically all of the globular proteins that are found in milk clumped together. During the processing phase of whey, the fat and non-protein components of milk are removed, leaving the globular proteins to be dried into their characteristic powder form. Once this has been achieved, sweeteners, flavourings and depending on the protein brand, potentially carbohydrates and vitamins are added too. A tub of whey in its raw dried form would not suit most people’s tastes, and this is reflected in the processing that cottage cheese undergoes. Cottage cheese consists of curds (lumps) and whey (liquid) protein, but the whey is usually pressed or washed out as it is not all that pleasing to the taste buds.
Are you getting enough Protein in your diet?
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) (2010), people that do not ingest enough protein in their diet demonstrate reduced muscle adaptations, and recover more slowly from exercise compared to those that do. A lot of controversy surrounds the level of protein that the average person, or athlete, should be consuming. For relatively inactive individuals, a protein intake of 0.8-1.0g per kg bodyweight will generally meet their protein requirements. For those people adhering to more intense, frequent training regimes such as resistance training, running, cycling, triathlons etc, it is highly likely that they would benefit from more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein. The general recommendation for this group of people is to consume between 1.0-2.0g of protein per kg bodyweight, relative to their level of activity. Individuals performing moderate intensity exercise, i.e. attending the gym 3 times a week lasting approx 40-60mins per session would benefit from 1-1.5g protein per kg bodyweight. A person training at a high intensity 4-6 times a week, lasting approx 60mins a session would probably necessitate 1.5-2.0g protein per kg bodyweight.
Where do Supplements come in?
Generally, the larger the person the harder it is for them to meet their protein requirements. Consider a 100kg male involved in intense physical activity, in order to meet his estimated protein requirements of 150-200g, he would need to ingest approx 6 chicken breasts! The practicalities of eating such a large amount of food (time, cost and appetite) means another, more convenient source of protein may be needed. Liquid based protein such as that of a protein shake is far more readily absorbed compared to food based protein and can deliver the equivalent of 1 ½ chicken breasts or 1 ½ tins of tuna in less than 300ml fluid. Whey protein is unique from its casein cousin in that it is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. Upon ingesting a whey protein shake, its amino-acids (building blocks of whey and casein protein) enter the blood stream ready to replenish the muscles in less than an hour; hence we recommend consuming whey protein within 30mins after training to fit inside the 2 hour anabolic window (Kollias, 2008)!
Protein supplements can benefit everyone!
As we age our muscles become less contractile and elastic, consequently we lose power and strength and generally become less mobile. This could be for a number of reasons, but one major contributing factor is the condition known as Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a muscular degenerative condition seen in the older person, and occurs as a result of general wear and tear. The ISSN (2010) therefore recommends the elderly population consume around 1.0-1.2g protein per kg bodyweight to limit the degenerative process. These requirements could be even higher to account for reduced actual bodyweight due to a decline in bone mineral density, and elevated nutritional requirements because of acute or chronic illness. Since an elderly persons appetite generally decreases with age, a protein supplement may be an ideal addition to their diet. Caution should be exercised when supplementing children’s diets with protein due to the ongoing developmental processes that occur during childhood and adolescence. Always consult a Doctor prior to supplementation if you or your child has an underlying medical condition, especially a heart or kidney defect.