Whey Protein: A Good Supplement To Food-Based Protein

Whey protein is an excellent supplement for anyone wishing to ensure adequate protein intake. In fact, of all the protein sources (natural and supplemental) it has the highest biological value: a measure of how well it is absorbed by the body.

Whey protein is a by-product from the production of cheese. Since its source is milk/animal it is considered a complete protein and can provide amino acids which the body can not produce on its own.

Complete vs Incomplete Protein Sources

A complete protein means that it contains all of the essential amino acids, whereas an incomplete protein means that it does not. Animal sources of protein are considered complete and plant-based proteins from a single food are considered incomplete. Vegetarians need to ensure they include a wide variety of foods in their diets so that different foods can fill in the protein gaps that any single food may have. For example, both beans and rice are incomplete, but together the provide complete proteins.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins (sometimes these words are used interchangeably). The body has the ability to make some amino acids from other amino acids consumed. However, there are some amino acids, referred to as essential, that the body cannot make and must be consumed directly. Non-essential amino acids refers to the ones that the body can make on its own. There are 9 essential amino acids that must be obtained from food.

Being a protein, whey is considerably low in fat and carbohydrates and ideal for low fat low carb diets. However, sometimes flavoring is added so check the label as this can increase the carbohydrates present.

The 3 Types of Whey

Whey concentrate is the most basic type. It is the least expensive you can purchase. However, some people find it a bit difficult to digest. So, with this one, start slowly and see how it makes you feel. It is also the one, typically, with the lowest percentage of protein and the highest percentage of fat.

Whey isolates is a type that is quick absorbing. Meaning it will be absorbed by the digestive system and sent to the muscles the quickest. Isolates are a bit more expensive, but very good for those that are on a low-carbohydrate diet because when consumed it will curb the appetite very quickly.

Hydrolysate is the most expensive, but is the highest quality, with very highly absorbable properties. Compared to the other 2 listed above, it is gentle on the digestive system.

Other Types of Protein Supplements

Casein, known for its very slow breakdown, is able to supply amino acids to the body slowly through the next several hours.

Soy is a vegetarian source of protein, which is known to help with recovery and to increase ones metabolism.

Egg white, often ignored because it does not 'excite' weight lifters, is a good source of protein and is considered a complete source. Also, fairly inexpensive. You can either purchase eggs and separate the egg white from the yolk, or you can purchase just the egg white in a carton. The best part with the egg white is that it doesn't have the cholesterol and fat that the yolk has.

A Balanced Diet

Protein consumption should make up approximately 15-20% of daily caloric intake. However, some experts recommend a higher percentage, especially for someone that is trying to lose excess fat. The recommended quantity of protein consumed is approximately 1.0 - 1.5 grams per kilograms of body weight e.g. if you weigh 50 kg you should be consuming between 50-75 grams of protein per day. However, if you are in your growing years, or exercise considerably, you should consume a bit more.

Some other excellent sources of protein include fish, chicken, eggs (already mentioned as egg whites), milk, red meat (in moderation), and nuts.

Warning: Don't forget that protein is a source of calories. If consumed, but not used, these calories will be stored in the body as fat. In order to benefit, e.g. to build muscle, a strict exercise program must be adhered to.

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