Author: Renu Puri
This blog aims to answer the million-dollar question – “Is whey protein safe for consumption? Is it a steroid? Will my health get affected if I have whey protein?”. With this blog, our goal is to destigmatize the word “Whey protein” and debunk any myths pertaining to the topic.
We also have covered the essential sources, health benefits, potential side effects, as well as some insightful information that is sure to amaze you. Give it a read if you have even one ounce of doubt about what whey protein is and we promise you will have a clear picture after reading this blog.
“Whey protein” is an Indian mother’s worst nightmare. The misconceptions associated with Whey protein due to the lack of awareness have caused a huge ruckus in Indian households. Adil, a 25-year client of ours, has a dream of looking like Sylvester Stallone from Rocky Balboa. When he came to us for consultation with his mother, she wanted him to get healthy in a “clean and natural” way. She elucidated her concerns about him taking ‘pre-workout’ and ‘whey protein’ and was in tears because she thought her son was stuck in a rabbit hole with no return. People often equate whey proteins with steroids and Adil’s case was no different. Despite many efforts of explaining to his mother how steroids and whey protein are different, her mind would not budge. After an hour-long session with Adil’s mother, we managed to convince her that her son was not involving himself in jeopardy by consuming whey protein.
There are thousands of people with a mindset like Adil’s mother, be it men, women, or young kids without knowing what “whey protein” actually means.
Milk is made up of two proteins – Whey and Casein. Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production. It is considered a whole protein as it consists of all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content. Whey protein is extracted from milk and that is one of the key reasons for it being natural and safe. The paneer and cheese we eat often are made up of the protein Casein whereas the leftover liquid mixture that is separated in the process of making cheese and milk is Whey.
Although Whey is safe for consumption in most cases and exudes a plethora of health benefits, it also can be dangerous for some people. In this article, we will be discussing the sources, health benefits, as well as possible side effects of consuming Whey protein.
A whopping 20% of the protein in cow’s milk comes from whey. If you’re looking to have a protein-rich diet, incorporating cow milk or goat milk into your diet would be a great way to begin, especially if consumed post-workout. Have you ever seen Pehelwans in Akhada (in real life or in movies) having a tall glass of unstrained cow milk after an intense workout session? This glass of milk helps them replenish most of the proteins in their body so they can strengthen their muscles and avoid any form of muscle loss.
So, if you’re looking for an all-natural way of building muscle, do try incorporating a glass of Cow or Goat milk into your regimen, unless you’re lactose intolerant.
Some Yogurts are extremely rich in Whey protein. Apart from whey, these yogurts also contain calcium, potassium, probiotics, and important vitamins and minerals to aid gut health. Avoid Greek yogurt if you want to consume whey protein as manufacturers usually strain out the whey to lower the liquid content and replace it with casein to make it thick and creamy.
Cheese is crucified for making you fat. For centuries, people have avoided cheese thinking that it would only cause weight gain and bloating. However, in recent times especially after the emergence of the Keto diet, people were able to understand how cheese could be really beneficial for you if consumed in a proper way. Like everything in the world, cheese also has variations – there’s cheddar, ricotta, mozzarella, blue cheese, gouda, parmesan, etc. To club all of them as one unit is not correct. Each type of cheese has its own qualities and benefits. However, if you are looking for a rich source of whey protein, you should consume Ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese is an unpressed cheese with a lot of moisture content that contains a lot of whey. All types of cheese, including cottage cheese contains a little bit of whey but if you are looking to get your protein fix from cheese, the best option would be Ricotta.
To be honest, these whey protein bars or granola bars have always seemed a little gimmicky to us until we tried one that actually worked. You see, most of these whey protein bars are filled with sugary syrups to make them palatable and tasty. However, a lot of this information is masked from consumers by advertising these as “healthy” and “good for you”. We are not condoning all brands but we do recommend you read labels and check ingredients before making a purchase. If not filled with sugar and unnecessary additives, protein bars can be a powerhouse superfood. Why you may ask? Well, a lot of protein bars contain about 20 gm of whole, unadulterated protein which is almost equivalent to one scoop of whey protein powder.
Here comes the root cause for this article, the center of controversies, the infamous ‘Whey protein powder’. Authentic whey protein powders can never be bad for you. However, with the corrupt health market, one can easily get their hands on an adulterated whey protein powder that can be mixed with harmful chemicals for cost-cutting purposes and marketed as the best-in-class product. If you’re new in the world of protein powders, you need to do your research and be aware of these recurring scams and dupes in the market. If someone is selling you a Rs 5000 protein powder for Rs 999 chances are that you are getting scammed. A lot of news articles have warned us of the ill effects of these dangerous adulterated products that are increasingly targeting younger adults and teenagers who are gullible.
Actual Whey protein powder is a type of protein supplement that can be used either as a meal replacement or as a supplement to your existing diet.
As stated above, Whey protein can be a great, inexpensive source of protein. It is also great for the gut as it is very digestible compared to other kinds of proteins. There are mainly three types of whey proteins – Concentrate, Isolate, and Hydro isolate. The concentrate is the one that is widely available and extremely cost-effective.
Due to this property, it is highly loved and adored by bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts, and endurance athletes who want to bulk.
The amino acids in whey protein are swiftly absorbed by the body and carried on to the muscles where they are utilized for muscle protein synthesis, the process of building new muscle tissue. It also fuels up muscle protein synthesis with more efficiency as compared to other types of protein. This happens due to its high content of leucine, an amino acid that plays a pivotal role in the activation of muscle protein synthesis.
Ageing is inevitable, everyone ages including you and me. With ageing comes muscle wastage. Whey protein can help to reduce muscle breakdown by decreasing the activity of the enzymes that break down muscle tissue. So if you want to age gracefully, natural whey protein could be your knight in shining armour.
Studies have linked frequent intake of dairy products with reduced blood pressure. Fluctuating blood pressure is one of the key reasons for heart-related ailments and haphazard cardiac conditions. Whey protein, just like any dairy product contains bioactive peptides that may act as inhibitors of the angiotensin-converting enzyme which is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. It can also empower the production of nitric oxide to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow.
A lot of times, hypertension can be a result of inflammation. Whey protein has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help to reduce blood pressure by improving the overall health of the cardiovascular system.
Insulin resistance is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes characterised by our body's cells becoming less and less responsive to the consequences and impact of insulin. Whey protein has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity through the triggering of insulin signalling pathways. It can also control sudden blood spikes after your meals by helping regulate blood glucose levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose from the intestine.
If you consume weight protein and are overweight, it can encourage weight loss by reducing your appetite, ensuring satiety and fullness while simultaneously preserving lean muscle mass.
Let’s be real – It sucks to live with Irritable bowel syndrome and there isn’t much you can do to prevent it. Whey protein can indeed help in easing your IBS symptoms as some studies have suggested that a low FODMAP diet (FODMAP is an acronym for a certain class of carbohydrates, called fermentable short-chain carbohydrates, which are more difficult for people to digest. The full acronym stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) which restricts certain types of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and can ferment in the large intestine, and may help to reduce symptoms of IBS. Whey protein is low in FODMAPs, which makes it a suitable protein source for individuals following a low FODMAP diet.
The gut microbiota, also known to be the community of microorganisms that thrive in the GI tract play an important role in IBS. Some studies have shown that whey protein can help to improve the composition of the gut microbiota leading to reduced symptoms of the condition.
As discussed above, adulteration is pretty common in whey proteins. Some whey protein supplements have been found to contain heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead. These metals can accumulate in the body over time and potentially cause health problems. So, instead of purchasing a dupe protein for a throwaway price, invest in a cost-effective, good-quality whey protein powder.
In a place like India, there isn’t much awareness of the dangers of being lactose intolerant. Even slight lactose sensitivity can trigger an abnormal response. We are conditioned to believe that milk is good for us. We have absolutely no doubts about the plethora of benefits of milk and its derivatives but if a person is lactose intolerant, especially in a rural area where people are totally oblivious to the term consumes dairy derivatives, including whey protein on a daily basis, could potentially be dangerous in the long haul.
If you feel like you’re experiencing these symptoms, get yourself tested for dairy allergy and consult a specialist for an alternative:
High doses of protein including whey protein can put a strain on the kidneys and potentially lead to kidney damage or dysfunction in people with pre-existing kidney problems. It can also interfere with the absorption of certain medications, such as antibiotics, tetracyclines, and levodopa which can potentially reduce the effectiveness of these medications.
It is essential to understand that the risks associated with whey protein are generally on the lower end of the spectrum when consumed in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. However, individuals with foregoing health conditions like kidney problems, lactose intolerance and sensitivity, or certain kinds of allergies should consult with a medical professional or a registered dietitian before taking whey protein supplements. It is also important to buy your whey protein from reputable sources and follow the recommended dosages.
Nothing makes us happier than seeing our clients live their best life. We can proudly say that after decades of experience in the health and nutrition space, we have helped thousands of clients achieve their fitness goals - be it weight loss, muscle gain, reversing PCOS, or other health issues like diabetes, etc. Sometimes, no matter how dedicated you are in your fitness journey, you would need an accountability partner to guide you towards the best way to reach your goal while ensuring utmost safety.
We would never recommend you any protein powder right off the bat. We have gotten so many requests asking for the best brand of whey protein powder, which one do we recommend, and which one yields the maximum results? Our answer always stays the same – Our in-person and online consultation will evaluate your body type, fitness goals, budget and recommend you a whey protein powder that you can purchase from a reputed seller. Being in the health and fitness space for decades, we understand the value of quality products and in-depth consultations and would never recommend our clients and supporters products that we don’t trust.
Our registered dietitians educate you on nutrition at every step and curate plans that include food options that can provide you with the maximum nutritional value so you can keep prioritizing your protein intake and build muscles with ease. These diet plans are created considering your body type, genetics, activity levels, busy schedules, and even your tastebuds! Yes, you heard it right. We believe that a diet should never feel like a compromise, but rather a lifestyle that you can sustain, and that is why we recommend mouth-watering recipes that will take care of any cravings and make you feel like you never left junk food.
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