Whey protein is one of the most popular supplements when discussing muscle recovery. You can’t discuss muscle without discussing whey protein.  It’s the foundation for any muscle-building diet and/or supplement regimen.  Without it, we’d all look like we just competed in the Boston Marathon. Here is our overview on everything you should know about whey protein including the benefits, the downside, how your body responds, what it is made of, and much more.

What Whey Protein Does

Much like grass needs a minimal supply of water to grow, muscles need a minimal supply of proteins to grow bigger and stronger. Protein provides your body with amino acids, the building blocks of not just muscle, but hundreds of various proteins within your body.  Without a minimal supply of amino acids, the body would shift from an anabolic state (building up) to a catabolic state (breaking down), essentially risking the loss of muscle mass to ensure an adequate supply of amino acids for the rest of the body.
Whey protein is one of the highest quality proteins available due to its high content of essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids. It scored higher than soy, egg, and casein on the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score. Compared to casein, it’s considered fast digesting. It’s also the most popular type of protein in supplement products.

What You Can Expect From Whey Protein

Like most supplements, you won’t see results overnight.  It’s no different than a gardener making sure he supplies enough nutrients and water to his growing plants. The effects of proper nutrition can’t be seen on a day-to-day basis, but only after an adequate length of time has passed.  Beginners who consume a small amount of protein in their diets will see quicker, more impressive results than someone who already consumes enough protein in their diet.
Because protein puts the body in an anabolic state, strength and lean muscle mass will increase over several weeks. Protein has also been shown to decrease weight gain, as well as improve recovery and immunity.

When Should You Take Whey Protein?

Protein should be consumed throughout the day. Although the research is constantly arguing over the effectiveness of various protocols, the most reliable option seems to be making sure your body never goes too long without consuming it. Protein feedings every 3-4 hours should be sufficient.
However, the most important time of the day for an adequate supply of protein is pre-, peri-, and post-workout.  During that window, your muscles are basically begging for nutrients, especially protein, so the body can begin rebuilding.

How Much Whey Protein You Should Take?

Once again, it seems futile to select an appropriate dosage, as the research is in constant disagreement.  Plus, it really depends on the source of protein, your goals, and your current diet. We’ll suggest the same range as what the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggested in its  2007 positional paper: 1.4-2.0 grams per KILOGRAM per day in divided doses.
As far as your pre-, peri-, and post-workout shakes are concerned, anywhere from 20-40 grams of whey protein during that time period should provide more than enough amino acids to switch your body back into anabolism.

The Downside of Whey Protein

Very few side effects have been reported. Flatulence is the most common. The kidney risks were grossly exaggerated, and proven time and time again that even a high dose, 2-3 grams per POUND of bodyweight, doesn’t impair kidney function.

TJ’s Inside Scoop on Whey Protein

Before I let any of my athletes consume any supplement, they have to be taking in at minimum 1.5g per pound of bodyweight of protein per day. If not, supplementing is futile.
And when they buy their first protein supplement, we begin with shakes scheduled around their workouts. We’ll then sprinkle in shakes throughout the day depending on their whole food consumption. We try to force them to not depend on shakes, except during that workout window.
I’m personally a whey protein isolate fan (as opposed to casein or soy).  I like its amino acid profile (high in BCAAs and EAAs), and its ability to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly.  Let it stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and then get out. Protein pulsing as I call it. I just don’t like casein’s ability to linger around.

What Does Whey Protein Stack Best With?

Creatine, beta alanine, carbohydrates, arginine

Most Popular Products Using Whey Protein

BSN Syntha6, Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Whey, Gaspari Nutrition MyoFusion, Dymatize Elite Whey Protein, MusclePharm Combat Protein