In this article, we will discuss some of the differences you may find between protein powder brands, and learn that sometimes paying more gives you better bang for your buck.
Let’s dive in.
What is Whey Protein
The best way to wrap your head around whey protein is if we zoom out and look at the process of making cheese.
Cheese is pressed through many stages of the cheese-making process, and the liquid by-product that comes from this pressing process is called whey.
Usually, on the first filtration will result in Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), and any additional filtration can result in a finer, pure protein extraction with fewer sugars known as Whey Protein Isolate (WPI).
Health Benefits of Whey Protein
Whey protein, a high-quality protein naturally found in dairy, has become a staple supplement in the diets of athletes, bodybuilders, and health enthusiasts. But its benefits extend far beyond just muscle building.
Before we dive into choosing the right Whey Protein, let’s explore the various health advantages of supplementing with one.
Muscle Growth and Repair
Whey protein is rich in Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), particularly leucine, which plays a crucial role in muscle protein synthesis. This makes it highly effective for building and repairing muscle tissues, especially after exercise.
Studies have shown that whey protein can help reduce body fat while preserving lean muscle mass. This is due in part to its ability to increase satiety, reducing overall calorie intake. The high protein content in whey accelerates metabolism, leading to a higher calorie burn. This metabolic boost is beneficial for those looking to lose or manage their weight.
Improves Athletic Performance
Consuming whey protein post-workout aids in the quick recovery of muscle tissues, reducing muscle soreness and improving performance in subsequent workouts. Its ability to be rapidly absorbed provides a quick source of energy, helping athletes maintain optimal performance during training sessions.
Supports Immune System
Whey protein contains immunoglobulins and lactoferrin, which have been shown to strengthen the immune system. This makes it a great supplement not just for fitness enthusiasts but also for those looking to enhance their overall health. It also increases the production of glutathione, a potent antioxidant that combats oxidative stress and supports immune function.
Not All Whey Protein is Created Equal
Let’s break these down further to give you an understanding of what these areas of purchasing mean.
Raw Ingredient Quality
When purchasing a cheaper whey protein, the ingredients may be sourced from cheaper ingredient suppliers.
Although this is good for the cost of the product from a manufacturing perspective, This could lead to ingredients that contain traces of harmful compounds, such as pesticides, or whey sourced from cows raised in less-than-ideal environments or poor diet regimes.
Sometimes, cheaper protein powders contain questionable, or more so, unnecessary ingredients that could impact your health.
Some ingredients include artificial sweeteners (such as sucralose) or an array of thickeners (such as guar gum) that alter the flavour or texture of the end product.
Although these again significantly lower the cost of producing the product, some of these compounds can have a negative impact on our health.
Some studies have begun to show changes in the human gut microbiota on supplementation of sucralose (del Pozo et al., 2022), and others may even suggest sucralose’s ability to decrease insulin sensitivity, reducing our ability to process sugars in the body (Romo-Romo et al., 2018).
Poor Quality Whey
This one loops back to our first point slightly, but we’ll go into a little further detail.
Grass-fed whey contains practically zero harmful ingredients (such as antibiotics) and contains a higher quality amino acid profile, including higher levels of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) than regular whey proteins.
When looking for a higher quality whey protein powder, look at how many serves you get from the tub. Most cheaper whey products will sit under the 24g per serve mark, whereas higher quality will sit higher.
Tips on Buying Whey Protein
Of course, we can’t all afford premium quality whey protein, and sometimes it’s okay to compromise on some of the above to fit supplements into your budget.
- Look at the protein per serve – A good quality whey protein will be higher than 24g per serve, giving you more bang for your buck.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners (if you can) – Most cheaper protein powders will use artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, this drastically lowers the cost but could be harmful long term.
- Study the label – It’s always best to check the label and most importantly, the ingredients used before buying. Most companies will disclose if they use high-quality ingredients, and do not always state grass-fed (due to Australian labelling laws).
- Check the brand’s website – Things that usually can’t be disclosed on the label will end up on the company website, so it this always good to check if the label isn’t hitting the mark.
Taste it first – Always jump at the opportunity to sample a product first before buying. Most premium whey proteins aren’t overly sweet, and this is due to using less sweetener and keeping more of the protein content in the formula.
The Brand I Recommend
Full disclosure, I am affiliated with this brand and manage the operations and formulation of everything that goes on in the background.
On top of this, other key benefits of UM Sports include:
- 100% use of Natural Sweeteners in all UM Sports labelled products.
- Gluten-free tested and labelled.
- Manufactured and produced in Queensland, Australia.
- Tried and tested formulas for over 15 years, used by world-class bodybuilders and sports athletes.
Frequently Asked Questions on Whey Protein
What is the difference between Whey Protein Isolate and Concentrate?
Whey Protein Concentrate contains about 80% protein with the rest being carbs and fats, while Whey Protein Isolate is more processed with at least 90% protein content and less carbs and fats. Isolate is usually preferred by those with lactose intolerance or who seek a higher protein intake with fewer calories
Can I consume whey protein if I’m lactose intolerant?
Whey protein isolate is virtually lactose-free and may be suitable for people with lactose intolerance. That being said, it’s always best to consult with a health professional should you have doubts.
Can I be allergic to Whey Protein?
While whey protein is safe for most people, some lower-quality whey proteins can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, including gas and bloating. People with dairy allergies or intolerances should avoid whey protein. This is why it’s so important to buy a quality protein powder!
When is the best time to take Whey Protein?
The timing depends on your goals. For general health, the timing is less critical. However, for muscle growth and recovery, if you’ve consumed no protein in the last 10 hours before exercise, it’s beneficial to supplement approximately 30 minutes after your workout.
To reduce overwhelm, always take your time and consider the ingredient quality, protein content and ingredients used in all formulas.
Using the tips provided above, you can begin to find the protein powder that works for you. If you want to jump the gun and try a premium whey protein that ticks all the boxes, I highly recommend UM Sports Platinum Blend or UM Sports Whey Protein Isolate.
Clarity is here to help, so please use the resources we offer, and if you have any questions, do reach out.
- del Pozo, S., Gómez-Martínez, S., Díaz, L. E., Nova, E., Urrialde, R., & Marcos, A. (2022). Potential Effects of Sucralose and Saccharin on Gut Microbiota: A Review. Nutrients, 14(8), 1682. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081682
- Romo-Romo, A., Aguilar-Salinas, C. A., Brito-Córdova, G. X., Gómez-Díaz, R. A., & Almeda-Valdes, P. (2018). Sucralose decreases insulin sensitivity in healthy subjects: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108(3), 485–491. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy152
Former drinker, Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and better understand the nature of addiction. His goal is to help people take control of their addiction, reset their cravings, unscramble their broken brain circuitry and use actionable strategies that work ten times better than anything else.