If you’ve even stuck as much as a baby toe into a gym, you’ve probably either seen people drinking whey protein or talking about it. Over the past 20 years, whey has become so popular among gym-goers that it’s expected to become a 18.4 billion dollar industry by 2027¹.
Even some of the most casual of gym-goers know about whey protein. It’s the topic of locker room chat, it's the most prevalent protein on supermarket shelves, and it's what most peoples’ minds go to when they think of protein powder, but why?
Why whey? Why is it that whey protein seems to be the talked about protein in gyms and within fitness circles? Is it because it's the best protein source for your body? … or is it something else?
- Why Whey?
- Is Whey Really All It’s Hyped Up To Be?
- Negative Aspects of Whey Protein
- Whey Better Protein
Let’s dig into what makes whey protein so popular and if it's really the right protein for you …
Whey has become widely popular with athletes and bodybuilders as a muscle-building supplement. It’s a post-workout muscle recovery go-to. It’s no secret that consuming protein directly following a workout encourages muscle growth and recovery, however building muscle is more complex than the concept of protein in - muscle out.
The body needs the right protein for the job, a complex pure protein (more on that later).
Whey is cheap to manufacture because it’s a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. The combination of cheap manufacturing and savvy marketing has turned whey into the industry it is today. Over the past 20 years, whey has become so popular among gym-goers that it’s expected to become an 18.4 billion dollar industry by 2027! One has to ask themselves, is cheaper really better or are you getting what you pay for with whey?
Whey may be commonly accepted as a muscle building supplement, however there’s ample evidence [link to actual blog post? to support that it may not be as effective as it’s touted to be and it also contains additives and junk you may think twice about putting in your body.
You may want to “whey” these issues in your decision to use whey as your supplemental protein:
- Contaminated with Heavy Metals
- Contains Artificial Sweeteners
- Known to Spike Insulin (Hangry anyone?)
- Leads to Inability to Suppress Appetite
Is Whey Really All It’s Hyped Up To Be?:
Whey protein is known as one of the best supplements on the market for helping you build muscle and lose weight. But is it actually as powerful and effective as we think it is? Two areas of focus for the proclaimed benefits of whey protein supplementation in the diet are weight loss and muscle mass development. Let’s take a closer look at them and see if whey is really the best way to achieve these desired results.
Whey And Weight Loss
While it’s pretty unanimously agreed upon that consuming enough protein is essential for staying satiated, whey protein does not seem to be anything special.
One study gave 19 overweight participants either whey, casein, lactose or glucose and measured the amounts of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, that was secreted. While you might expect that the protein supplements would cause a greater hunger suppressing effect, there was no difference in appetite suppression between the groups.
Another study set out to examine how varying types of protein impacts weight loss in adults. Eighteen subjects followed one of three diets: a control diet, a mixed protein diet, or a whey protein diet. They found that there wasn’t a significant increase in total weight loss or fat loss in the group that ate a whey-rich diet.
A third article in Nutrition Journal examined the appetite suppressing effects and blood sugar stabilizing effects of several types of protein. The researchers found whey powder didn’t have a strong effect on suppressing appetite when taken pre-meal.
This evidence supports that whey protein isn’t the best supplementation alternative if you are seeking weight loss results. It didn’t stand out as any more effective in leading to weight loss than control diets or mixed protein/non-protein elements.
Whey And Muscle Mass
Despite millions of dollars of marketing leading you to believe whey is the best protein for muscle growth, the research is less convincing.
While it's well known that you need to consume adequate amounts of protein to stimulate muscle growth, whey protein does not appear to have any advantages over other forms of protein. This study found that whey and casein protein had no significant difference in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Another study found that whey has a greater initial effect on stimulating muscle protein synthesis, but casein increases muscle protein synthesis for a longer period of time.
So while whey might be useful for helping building muscle, it’s by no means superior to casein, or regular protein from food.
Negative Aspects of Whey Protein:
People typically use whey protein powder to improve body composition, but what if whey was actually causing more problems than it was fixing? We’ve already talked about how whey doesn’t live up to the hype for weight loss and muscle building, but let’s look at some of the ways it may actually cause more harm than good.
Whey Powder & Insulin Secretion
Insulin is an anabolic hormone, which means it builds new tissue — both muscle and fat. A post-workout spike in insulin signals for your body to start the muscle building process. However, when you spike your insulin when you’re sitting around the house, your body shuttles blood glucose into fat cells for storage.
Both protein and carbohydrates can spike your insulin levels.
When overweight adolescents were given whey powder for 12 weeks, researchers found that it caused increases in insulin levels. In the 12-week study, the teenagers consumed 35 grams worth of protein from skim milk, whey or casein. Whey and casein consumption increased insulin levels more than skim milk and water control groups.
Whey Powder & Artificial Sweeteners
Unless you buy pure whey powder, you’re likely going to be consuming a ton of artificial sweeteners and other filler ingredients in your whey protein powder mix. Sucralose and aspartame are among the most common artificial sweeteners.
Even though artificial sweeteners don’t contain any calories, they may have other health consequences such as increasing your risk of developing some cancers. Most scientists agree that artificial sweeteners are safe in limited quantities, but the point at which they cause negative health effects isn’t clear.
Artificial sweeteners have been repeatedly positively associated with cancer, may also increase your risk of weight gain, metabolic syndrome, Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Another study followed the body weight of men and women over a 7-8 year period and found that participants who regularly consumed artificial sweeteners were more likely to gain weight than people who didn’t consume these sweeteners.
You may think that you need to eat whey protein powder because it’s heavily marketed as a top exercise supplement. However, if you’re eating a clean diet filled with lean protein sources, you’re better off saving your money.
Not only does the research on whey protein powder fall short, but it’s also commonly loaded up with artificial sweeteners that can negatively affect your health.
Whey Better Protein:
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the “whey”... let’s talk about a protein alternative that is specifically formulated with clean, pure ingredients to nourish your body with the nutrients it needs to meet your health and wellness goals.
Collagen has numerous benefits including:
- Supports Healthy Joints
- Supports Hair Growth
- Supports Healthy Skin
- Supports Good Gut Health
- Supports Muscle Growth
If you like the convenience of being able to bring a whey protein shake to the gym, but you are looking for an alternative to whey, give collagen protein a try. This healthy and delicious whey protein alternative is the perfect option for muscle recovery, gut health, joint health, skin health, and hair health.
Citations and Sources
- 1 Grand View Research, “Whey Protein Products Global Markets“
- 2 The Journal of Nutrition, “Search for the Competitive Edge: A History of Dietary Fads and Supplements“
- 3 PloS ONE, “Fatty acid specific δ13C values reveal earliest Mediterranean cheese production 7,200 years ago“
- 4 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, “Energy intake, ghrelin, and cholecystokinin after different carbohydrate and protein preloads in overweight men“
- 5 International Journal of Obesity, “A comparison of short-term appetite and energy intakes in normal weight and obese boys following glucose and whey-protein drinks“
- 6 Nutrition Research, “Varying protein source and quantity do not significantly improve weight loss, fat loss, or satiety in reduced energy diets among midlife adults“
- 7 Nutrition Journal, “Effect of different protein sources on satiation and short-term satiety when consumed as a starter“
- 8 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, “Effects of whey protein and resistance exercise on body composition and muscle strength in women with HIV infection“
- 9 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Evaluation of high-protein supplementation in weight-stable HIV-positive subjects with a history of weight loss: a randomized, double-blind, multicenter trial“
- 10 The Journal of Nutrition, “Skim milk, whey, and casein increase body weight and whey and casein increase the plasma C-peptide concentration in overweight adolescents“
- 11 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “High intakes of milk, but not meat, increase s-insulin and insulin resistance in 8-year-old boys“
- 12 The Lancet, “Artificial Sweeteners and Human Bladder Cancer“
- 13 Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, “Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements“
- 14 Obesity, “Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain“
- 15 American Diabetes Association, “Sucralose Affects Glycemic and Hormonal Responses to an Oral Glucose Load“
- 16 Cancer.org, “Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone“
- 17 Journal of Nutrition, “Oral administration of (14)C labeled gelatin hydrolysate leads to an accumulation of radioactivity in cartilage of mice (C57/BL)“
- 18 Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology, “Gelatin tannate reduces the proinflammatory effects of lipopolysaccharide in human intestinal epithelial cells“
- 19 Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, “Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial“
- 20 Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatisms, “Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease“
- 21 Clinical Interventions in Aging, “Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen® reduces visible signs of aging“
- 22 Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, “The pros and cons of phytoestrogens”