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April 13, 2021 3 min read

What is Whey Protein and What Does Whey Protein do?

Posted at 11:00 • 4 Apr • Modern Sports Nutrition • Whey Protein

Whey Protein is a well-studied sports nutrition supplement that is likely the most popular workout supplement in the world today! If you train and supplement, chances are you're taking or considering taking a whey protein supplement of some kind.

Athletes generally take Protein Supplements to help build muscle, to help maintain muscle and to increase energy during long workouts.[1]. But, though Whey Protein is Great for Athletes, it also has many benefits for the casual exerciser as well.

However, Protein Whey Formulas come in many types and, despite what you've been told, not all protein is the same and they certainly don't do the same things.

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What is Whey?

Or maybe you really want to know, "what is the Whey Protein actually made from?"

Milk contains two Proteins – Whey Protein and Casein Protein. Milk is generally 80% Casein and 20% Whey. Ever wonder why Casein Proteins and Blend Proteins containing Casein are cheaper? Well, there you have it, Casein is just that much more abundant!

Whey comes from the part of the cheese making process that separates the solider cheese curds from the waterier Whey portion.  

Milk is generally 80% Casein Protein and 20% Whey Protein making Casein protein cheaper and more available.


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What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein, as we now know, is one of the types of proteins found in dairy products. Cheese Makers produce Whey as a by-product of the cheese manufacturing process.

Whey is a Complete Protein that contains all the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) necessary for Muscle Protein Synthesis to take place.

The Essential Amino Acids

Whey Protein is particularly high in the three Essential Amino Acids known commonly as Branched Chain Amino Acids, Branched-chain Amino Acids or simply BCAAs. The Three BCAAs are Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine.

Whey Proteins are both an efficient source of Protein as well as the essential amino acids your body needs to carry out certain functions performed by proteins in general.

Whey Protein Powder is usually added to water, or milk, in a Protein Shaker Cup or Whey Proteins can be added to some soft foods, like ice cream, or blended with fruit and other ingredients to make smoothies.

Athletes generally take whey protein to help improve performance, build muscle and reduce muscle wasting. However, people also choose Whey Protein Supplements to address nutritional deficiencies in their diets.

What does Whey Protein do?

Whey Protein can help Build Muscle, Maintain Existing Muscle and can also act as an Energy Source due to its Extremely High BCAA content. Of the three Branched Chain Amino Acids, Leucine has the greatest impact on Muscle Protein Synthesis and Whey Protein is Chalk Full of Leucine!

A 25 gram scoop of Whey has around 3 grams of Leucine while a similar scoop of Casein has 2.3 grams and Soy has only 1.5 Grams.[1]

The Different Types of Whey Proteins

What's the Difference Between Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), and Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH)?

Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)

Whey concentrates contain up to 80 percent protein, but many contain much lower percentages of protein. Whey Protein Concentrate has reduced lactose and less fat, in comparison to milk, but other protein types, like Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), have even less lactose and almost no fat.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

Whey Protein Isolate or WPC has been processed further than Whey Protein Concentrate in order to remove almost all fat and lactose. Whey Protein Isolate consists of up to 95% protein, leaving little room for anything else.

Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Hydrolyzed Whey is the most processed of these three Whey Protein Types and its quality can vary along with its source. Whey Protein Hydrolysate can be made from either Whey Protein Isolate, higher protein content, or Whey Protein Concentrate, lower protein content, so Hydrolysed Whey Supplements can vary quite a bit – Buyer Beware!


What is an EAA Supplement and How Does an EAA Supplement Work?

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Modern's Guide to BCAAs

Modern Sports Nutrition published 6 Apr