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Does whey protein really help increase muscle mass?

Whey is a powdered protein complex popular in the world of sports nutrition. Here we take a look at the efficacy of these proteins and how they can help maximise your body’s performance and athleticism.

whey protein powder and weights

Whey: proteins derived from milk

Whey protein is a complex of proteins extracted from whey, the liquid by-product left over from the manufacture of cheese. Whey protein is formed by dehydrating this liquid once the lipids and carbohydrates have been removed.

We should first say that whey protein’s reputation is well-deserved: this protein complex is indeed highly effective at increasing muscle mass. (1) But let’s look at exactly why this is ...

Gaining more muscle mass by taking whey protein

A quick reminder of how the body gains muscle: in the course of exercise (such as weight-training) muscle fibres suffer tiny amounts of damage, or microtrauma. In order for muscles to then rebuild themselves, they form larger, stronger fibres, and so it is that with repeated exercise, muscles gradually get bigger.

Whey acts in several ways to promote this muscle reconstruction and growth:

  • it provides amino acids and proteins
  • it is particularly rich in BCAA, branched-chain proteinogenic amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) which stimulate protein synthesis;
  • and it promotes the production of anabolic hormones, which support tissue synthesis and thus muscle growth (3).

In addition, it is absorbed faster than many protein complexes (4). In this way, it delivers a comprehensive action guaranteed to build a strong, muscular ‘framework’.

How and in which form should whey be taken?

There are several types of whey, the main ones being hydrolysate, concentrate and isolate :

  • the first of these is rapidly digested but is rare and costly to produce, and also has an unpleasant taste;
  • the second, whey concentrate, contains on average 70-80% proteins;
  • the third, whey isolate, contains at least 90% proteins, and is very pure. It’s also the form recommended for those allergic to dairy as it is lactose-free. The undenatured form is the best choice as it’s obtained using a method that’s gentle on the proteins and thus results in a higher quality product. This is, for example, the form used in the highly effective supplement Undenatured Whey Protein Isolate.

It’s advisable to take whey protein every day to ensure a regular gain in muscle mass. For even greater efficacy, it’s a good idea to take some just before or during your training session, in addition to your daily dose.

Which supplements can be combined with whey in order to improve performance?

Whey is a complete complex in its own right for improving physical performance and gaining muscle mass. It can, however, be combined with other supplements for even greater efficacy:

  • creatine is a protein derivative which increases muscle mass, provides energy and helps optimise sports performance (5). A good choice of supplement is 3-Creatine ;
  • BCAAs can also be taken in supplement form (for example BCAA's), to maximise whey’s proteinogenic effects and restrict exercise-related damage to muscle fibres (6) ;
  • and L-carnitine and L-glutamine improve post-exercise recovery (7) (8). We recommend the products L-Carnitine Formula or L-Glutamine.

Remember: regular exercise and a protein-rich diet are essential for maintaining healthy muscles. To increase muscle mass and improve your performance, opt for whey protein isolate, a form that’s pure, easy to absorb and rich in proteins. A whey supplement such as Undenatured Whey Protein Isolate will prove an invaluable aid in achieving an athletic body.

References

(1) Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga

  1. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1558S-1561S.

(2) Joy, J.M., Lowery, R.P., Wilson, J.M. et al. The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutr J 12, 86 (2013).

(3) Salehi A, Gunnerud U, Muhammed SJ, Ostman E, Holst JJ, Björck I, Rorsman P. The insulinogenic effect of whey protein is partially mediated by a direct effect of amino acids and GIP on β-cells. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 May 30;9(1):48.

(4) Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson MP, Maubois JL, Beaufrère B. Slow and fast dietary pro-teins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Dec 23;94(26):14930-5.

(5) Nissen SL, Sharp RL. Effect of dietary supplements on lean mass and strength

gains with resistance exercise: a meta-analysis. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Feb;94(2):651-9.

(6) Howatson, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S. et al. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resis-tance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 9, 20 (2012).

  • Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Rubin MR, Gómez AL, Ratamess NA, Gaynor P. L-Carnitine L-tartrate supplementation favorably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Feb;282(2):E474-82.
  • Agostini F, Biolo G. Effect of physical activity on glutamine metabolism. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010;13(1):58–64.

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