Whey Protein 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Whey protein is a term used to describe the proteins which are extracted from the milk, they are being separated from the whey which is the leftover product of milk after its state is being changed during the cheese-making process. Whey proteins are taken as amino acids by most of the people but in the true sense, it contains more molecules than just amino acids. One mixture of proteins contain different amino acids when combined forms one single micronutrient. It contains 65% beta-lactoglobulin, 8% bovine serum albumin, 25% alpha-lactalbumin and some small amount of immunoglobulins, lactose and fat.

How is whey protein made?

Whey proteins can be directly made from cheese or milk and generally, the manufacturers extract the proteins directly from the milk.

First the process with separating the whey from the milk with the help of straining methods. The result is a liquid whey product. The manufacturing process starts from this point when the whey needs to be pasteurized with the help of HTST pasteurization. The full form of HTST is High temperature/Short time. The product is then heated as this is a required process and the minimum temperature should be 161°F for around 15 seconds.

Pasteurization of milk is done to kill any kind of pathogen bacteria that may be present. Next step consists of isolation steps which are carried to isolate the proteins from whey liquid. The process can be carried out by using either ION exchange or mechanical filtering.

While carrying out the ion exchange some acids or bases can be used which causes damage to the proteins and as a result denaturation of protein takes place. On the other hand, mechanical filtering is a process which involves physical filtering and it results in better quality products. However, this process can be a bit expensive and may also require several labours to carry on this task. The whey that is produced by this process depends completely on the type of filter that is being used and also its size. Keep in mind to use the finest filter, as it is said that more repetitions of the process with finer filter results in good product. When you filter it again and again, the products tend to lose lactose, fat, ash and other impurities along with every filter.

Vegan whey protein

The main reason for the availability of different types of proteins is that different filters are used by each company and the number of times they filter the product also varies, as a result of which sometimes different types of proteins are available.

Types of whey proteins

Whey proteins are generally available in three different types – whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, whey protein hydrolysates.

Whey Protein Isolate

It is identified as one of the purest forms of whey protein available in the market. The concentration of whey protein present in these whey proteins os about 90-95%, the fat present is of very less amount that varies from 0.5%-1.0%, and the same amount of lactose is present in these whey protein powders. Its properties make whey protein isolate a good choice for people who suffer from lactose intolerance or face issues while digesting lactose. However, whey protein isolate also has some drawbacks that should be considered while consuming this kind of protein is that it lacks other components that are beneficial components of whey that includes immunoglobulins and other molecules that provides benefit to the overall health of an individual. Isolate proteins can be a great fit but some magic is missing in them.

Whey protein concentrate

The comparatively lower amount of protein is available in whey protein concentrate that ranges between around 25%-89%, but it does contain some other commercially available concentrates that contain almost 80% benefits. Concentrate whey proteins contain other minerals that include 4-8% of lactose, fat, etc. This type of protein is generally found in protein bars and other similar food products.

Whey Protein Hydrolysates

Hydrolysates are the whey proteins that are treated with the help of enzymes and longer proteins are broken down into shorter ones. The process makes such proteins easy to absorb by the body and helps in reducing the chances of getting allergic reactions and other gut-related issues. Whey protein hydrolysates are generally found in infant food, medical and sports related nutritional products.

Benefits of Whey proteins

Supplements of whey protein have become popular recently among the athletes and it is believed to improve the athletic performance of an individual. Whey proteins are considered as a dietary protein supplement which is very famous and provides great strength to the muscles. The concentration of amino acids present in it is in good quantity due to which body composition is improved, the branched-chain amino acids results in increased biological value.

Whey proteins are also believed to reduce oxidative stress with the help of increasing glutathione production and compromised gut health is also improved if intense exercise is done along with consuming this whey protein.

However, it should always be kept in mind that food that is rich in whey proteins are a rich source of whey protein and it is considered to be a superior source of nutrient synergy as compared to whey protein supplements.

Increase strength and LBM

The athletic events require a good force that can be produced through increased muscles, the candidate would be able to produce great force with the help of improved performance. We all know the formula of force that is equal to mass*acceleration, so athletes opt for increasing muscle mass to increase the frequency of the force which is produced.

One common factor that influences the Muscle Protein Synthesis and Muscle Protein Breakdown is the concentration of amino acids. Whey protein supplements can be considered as a good source of biological value amino acids and are believed to increase muscle mass and its strength.

Whey protein and Glutathione

Oxidative stress can be defined as an imbalance caused between the antioxidant defence system and the production of highly reactive oxygen species. The oxygen inhaled while doing exercises increases up to 100 times more than what is inhaled during normal resting times, this results in increased oxygen radicals and as a result, oxidative stress also increases. Athletes go through a higher level of oxidative stress due to the increase in the pre-oxidative process they usually expose themselves to. This increased level should be controlled by the body’s antioxidant system so that oxidative stress can be effectively reduced.

Glutathione is an important antioxidant and helps in playing a major role by defending against the antioxidants and creating a nutrient metabolism. Glutathione is also believed to regulate compounds which are used to activate the circulation agents of the immune system. Glutathione helps in improving overall health and copes up with glutathione deficiency as a result of which it is also used to improve the pathological conditions that include cancer, cystic fibrosis, ageing, HIV as well. It is a very famous source of protein among athletes. Studies have also concluded that whey proteins help athletes to deal with acute oxidative stress and is also considered as one of the safest efficient sources of antioxidants that can be considered as an alternative measure.

Whey protein and gut health

A lot of intense physical exercise leads to the reduction of splanchnic blood flow, hypoperfusion of the gut and temperature inside the intestines also increases. This increase in the temperature and reduction of blood flow can cause the barrier to disfunction in the intestine and the permeability of the tight junctions may also increase. This increase in the permeability allows the gram-negative intestinal bacteria to breed inside and the toxic constituents are mixed along with the blood when it is circulated. The endotoxins released are highly intoxicated that contains lipopolysaccharides.

This field of intestinal permeability is new and continuous studies are going on to identify the hazardous risks associated along. The tight junctions comprise of the major components of gut barrier function and it also protects the penetration of molecules entering the lumen.

During the stressful situations such as intense workout, the glutamine produced by the body may be insufficient to meet the requirement and so there is a need of extra glutamine source that can be relied upon to meet the requirements.

Whey protein is considered as a great source of glutamine and according to the studies, whey protein supplements can effectively reduce the intestinal permeability. Thus, it is recommended to consume whey protein which helps to prevent autoimmune disorders and endotoxemia.


Whey proteins are identified as an excellent source of a variety of amino acids and other nutrients that are essential for the body and its overall health. It helps in increasing the body mass in lean figures and resistance pieces of training can be coped up with the help of protein supplements. It is always recommended to stick to a healthy well-balanced diet that may be enhanced with the help of whey proteins that are largely available in the market and whole food sources can also be relied upon to provide regular protein supply.

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