Whey protein Isolate can be a healthy addition to many diets. It can be used as a food supplement or consumed with meals. Athletes and bodybuilders are associated with using whey protein because it helps to increase lean muscle mass. However, anyone wanting to build, retain and repair muscle tissue may benefit. Due to the variety available, it is an accessible source of protein for many people. Receiving adequate protein is essential for good health. Though other forms of protein are also high quality, Whey protein Isolate is a safe and natural form which offers many health benefits in addition to retaining muscle.
Whey protein is a mixture of globular proteins isolated from whey. Whey is the liquid portion of milk that separates after manufacturing cheese. It is a globular protein composed of beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin and immunoglobulins. The chemical composition is similar to human breast milk and the branched chain amino acids in human skeletal muscle.
Athletes may use Whey protein Isolate in their training regimen to enhance their performance and increase lean muscle mass. When the body is exposed to physical stress, such as exercise, muscle is naturally broken down and repaired. Whey protein optimizes muscle repair by speeding the time it takes to regenerate tissue. The production of glutathione is increased, assisting the process of muscle building and repair. Fat oxidation is improved to produce greater energy and oxidative cell damage that may occur from training is reduced.
Whey protein Isolate may benefit those with cachexia because it helps to prevent muscle wasting. Cachexia occurs in patients with certain diseases such as the AIDS virus or those with cancer. Consuming whey protein may also benefit senior citizens and others who may be losing muscle mass due to natural aging. A healthy musculoskeletal system increases strength, benefits immune function and improves health.
Whey protein Isolate may improve digestion. It can help to regulate bowel movements and in certain forms, may be consumed by those who are lactose intolerant. It is often used in milk-based formulas for infants.
Whey protein Isolate is a good source of amino acids such as glutamine, leucine, and cystine. The high concentration of branched chain amino acids are specifically responsible for the whey protein's optimal maintenance and repair of muscle tissue. Glutamine and leucine stimulate protein synthesis after exercise and are responsible for reducing tissue damage and improving endurance. Cysteine helps to produce glutathione, an antioxidant which helps to maintain muscle mass. (See also our article on N-Acetyl Cysteine/NAC
Whey protein may be consumed as a protein concentrate, an isolate or in a hydrolyzed form. See also our article on Whey Isolate. Whey protein concentrate is usually found in protein powder supplements and is approximately 80% protein. Whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey protein and is approximately 90-95% protein. The isolate form contains minimal lactose, making it suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. Hydrolyzed whey protein is the most easily absorbed because they protein has already been broken down into peptides. Because of its ease on the digestive tract, hydrolyzed whey protein is used in infant formulas and products for medical and specialized sports nutrition.
Whey protein is available in snack and energy bars, pre-made shakes and sports drinks. It can be consumed in powders and be added to smoothies or mixed with food. Whey protein can also be taken in capsules.
Although whey protein is usually safe, consuming too much can create health problems. High protein diets have been linked to ketosis, kidney and liver damage, kidney stones and osteoporosis. Though protein requirements vary with individuals, the daily value of protein is usually about 0.4 grams for every pound of body weight or 50 grams based on a 2000 calorie diet. Protein requirements may increase due to different activity levels and stage of life.
Side effects of whey protein include nausea, increased bowel movements, thirst, bloating, cramps, fatigue, anorexia and headache.
Whey protein should not be taken by those with allergies to cow’s milk or by pregnant and nursing women. Though the isolate form is usually benign, whey protein may exacerbate people who are lactose intolerant because it contains 5-6% lactose.
Whey protein should not be taken with certain drugs. It can interfere with the body’s absorption of Levodopa, Fosomax and certain antibiotics, such as Quinolones and tetracyclines. When taken in the presence of aspartame, whey protein may act as a neurotoxin.
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