While I will always advocate reaching for a whole, real food source first, sometimes that isn’t an option.
Speaking as one with braces, eating real food can be a pain and it’s easier to drink my food than eat it (and spend 10 minutes cleaning out my braces.) Also, immediately after a work-out, when it’s imperative to ingest protein/carbs, I can’t stomach solid food so a whey protein shake fits the bill.
But isn’t whey protein dangerous? Won’t it dehydrate you and put a stress on your kidneys? If anyone tells you this, politely smack them up-side the head. The answer is “no” and “no, not drinking water will dehydrate you and stress the kidneys.” Silly.
Whey protein provides an easy, portable and well-absorbed protein source which is paramount in fueling anyone looking to get stronger. Protein provides the building blocks for your entire body and it’s important to refuel after you just spent an hour tearing down your muscles during the picking-up-of-heavy-things. More protein means more muscle, more muscle means higher metabolism and that leads to overall less fat and higher levels of Jedi mastery.
Honestly, what other reason do you need? But wait! Whey provides MORE than just muscle-building and Force-wielding powers!
Quick run-down on the health benefits:
- Whey abundantly provides the building blocks for glutathione. There are lots of free radicals in your body, think of them as Death-Eaters, wrecking havoc and death upon your body’s tissues. Glutathione is an antioxidant that acts like Aurors, taking down and totally pwning free radicals. The liver and white blood cells also employ it in detoxifying the body from harmful carcinogens.
The Aurors (glutathione) not only berid the world (body) of Death-Eaters (free radicals) but also clean up their means of dark magic (carcinogens).
- One of those building blocks is cysteine. Cysteine is to glutathione as Mad-Eye Moody is to the fleet of aurors. Just as Mad-Eye is the Head Auror and is the reason why Harry wants to be an auror, cysteine is what gives glutathione it’s ability to take down free-radicals.
Cysteine, like Moody, is rare in most foods and it’s difficult to get enough without supplementing (sadly, Moody-ish qualities are NOT found in food). Oral glutathione supplements don’t cut it; the body prefers to make it’s own using cysteine. Just like aurors, they’re made by Mad-Eye not anywhere else.
- To produce glutathione, the immune system needs energy, usually derived from glutamine. However, intense exercise can deplete glutamine stores up to 50% which can cause a dip in the immune system (which accounts for why one can get sick after a string of hard workouts… your defenses are down.) Whey provides BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) which can be used by the immune system for energy when glutamine isn’t available, thus your defense shield remains intact. (I failed to come up with a Harry Potter analogy…)
- There are protein fractions called beta-lactoglobulins, alpha-lactoglobulins and immunoglobulins found abundantly in whey. These are important immune system boosters that have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Think of them as super-powerful spells that aurors use against Death-Eaters.
Overall, whey protein powder is an excellent protein source that not only fuels your muscles but also provides essential elements to creating an immune system that can withstand the onslaught of free radicals, carcinogens and heavy metals that we’re exposed to daily.
How to choose your whey:
Please note that the quality of your whey is of the utmost importance (that stuff from Wal-Mart… probably not the best choice.) Consumer Reports tested multiple brands for heavy metals like cadmium and lead (not good things to ingest). It’s not to say that all brands are horrid, but that you should be discerning in your selection. This is one area where I do not advocate going with the cheapest option. But don’t fall for those “designer” whey brands that are crazy expensive. Expensive doesn’t equal better. There’s also a LOT of brands out there that add a bunch of gunk to the whey that you either don’t need or don’t want to consume.
-Look for brand with minimal ingredients, I like the brand NOW. I used to use Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard whey (but I’m allergic to artificial sweetners) and that’s not a bad option either. There are a fair amount of “natural” wheys out there but, unless you want to spend a fortune, you’ll be ok without the grass-fed cow whey protein powder.
- Go for “whey isolate” as opposed to “whey concentrate.” Isolate is a purer form of whey as it’s usually closer to 90% protein with a little lactose and fat (also better for lactose intolerant people). Concentrate is can be anywhere from 29-89% protein (depending on the brand) and as the protein content decreases, the amount of fat and lactose increases.
- Buy in bulk if you can. 5-10lb bags will be cheaper per ounce than a 2lb tub. Obviously, if you don’t go through it that fast, a smaller amount will be more practical.
- Don’t buy from GNC. They’re crazy expensive. Shop online, Amazon, AllStarHealth and BulkNutrition are all sites I’ve used with success.
That’s it, a quick run down on whey protein. Use it, delight in it and reap it’s muscle and immune system benefits! Post any questions you have in the comments section.