Whey protein is a common supplement used by athletes, bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts, health-conscious dieters and of course cyclists, in order to boost their protein intake. Whey is a by-product of cheese production and as such it is inexpensive and widely available. Whey protein powders offer an inexpensive and convenient way to get more protein into your diet.
Why Use Whey?
The typical modern Western diet is usually high in carbohydrates and low in proteins and fats. This is because carbohydrate rich foods such as corn, wheat, rice, sugar and potatoes are far less expensive than meat and dairy products, making them a more affordable source of calories for the average person.
While those who lead a sedentary lifestyle can stay healthy on a relatively low protein diet, some people do need to supplement their protein intakes. Vegetarians, especially ones who are not well-versed in plant based protein sources, may find that taking whey based supplements (after confirming their suitability for vegetarians) can improve their wellbeing.
Cyclists, especially those that do a lot of strength training, may also need far more protein than the average western diet offers.
Advantages of Whey Protein
Whey protein is one of the most affordable proteins on the market. It is a fast-absorbing protein, which means that blood amino acid and protein synthesis levels peak within around half an hour of consuming it.
Whey protein can be mixed with water or milk, added to oatmeal, or used in other forms of cooking. For the average person, a serving of 20 or 30g of whey protein on top of a normal healthy diet should be enough to ensure that daily protein needs are met.
Whey has a high biological value (BV). This means that the amino acids in whey are easily absorbed by the body and that those amino acids are the ones that are used to build muscle.
It is generally easily digestible, quite palatable and a quick and easy source of protein for cyclists and other athletes.
Disadvantages of Whey Protein
Since whey is a derivative of cow’s milk, it is not suitable for consumption by vegans. Whey itself is fine for lacto-ovo vegetarians to consume, but not all processed protein powders are suitable for vegetarians. For this reason, it is a good idea for vegetarians to read the ingredients list of any protein powders carefully before buying them
For someone that wants to follow a high protein diet, whey protein is a good choice, however if it is used as a pre or post-workout drink and mixed with milk, then this could add several hundred calories to your daily intake. If you are trying to lose weight, then drinking lots of calories will make life difficult for you. This issue can be reduced by drinking whey with water, or mixing it into oatmeal instead of taking it with milk.
Popular Protein Powders
The selection of whey proteins on the market at the moment is huge and finding the right one for your needs can be difficult. Not all protein powders are the same, so when you are shopping for a protein powder it is a good idea to think about your training or diet goals. Track your normal diet for a while and work out your current macro-nutrient intake as well as your target intake.
Your macro-nutrient intake is the percentage of calories that you take in from protein, carbohydrates and fat. For example, if you are a bodybuilder, you may want to get 40% of your calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrates and 20% from fats. Once you know your goals, you can figure out how much extra protein you need per day and use that information to help you choose the best protein powder for your needs.
Popular protein powders on the market today include:
Impact Whey Protein Isolate
This protein powder is popular because it is a whey isolate. This means that it is almost pure protein. Whey is made up of protein, fat and a milk sugar known as lactose. Traditional whey concentrate powders contain a lot of lactose and fat, while isolates contain proportionally more protein, making them a great source for people that are watching their calories. This protein is best mixed with water and a serving contains 23g of protein and just 93 calories.
This particular protein powder is 90% protein and is low in carbohydrates and fat. It is suitable for vegetarians and can also be used as part of a kosher or halal diet.
Hurricane XS is a protein powder with added hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), making it perfect for serious athletes. HMB is naturally produced by the human body as a metabolite of the amino-acid Leucine. It is believed that HMB can aid in the retention of protein and as such prevent tissue breakdown.
Hurricane XS is ideal as a meal replacement or as a post-workout shake. It contains 29g of protein per serving and a serving (mixed with water) is just under 220 calories.
This particular protein shake contains 19g of protein per 26g serving and also has added enzymes and branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to help aid in the digestion of the protein and also to promote recovery. This is ideal as a daily shake and can be consumed between meals, at bed time, or whenever else you feel like taking it. There are several different flavours available.
A serving (made with water) contains 19g of protein and 98 calories. Many people prefer to take this protein supplement with milk.
Protein shakes are a great supplement and can be handy as meal replacements if you are pushed for time, or want to go to the gym in your lunch hour. However, they should not be used as your only source of nutrients on a long-term basis. As the name suggests, protein shakes should be a supplement to a generally healthy diet. You can use them as a pre or post-workout shake if you wish (although some people prefer energy boosting caffeinated drinks for their pre-workout). Don’t worry too much about nutrient timing. It is easy to get bogged down with details so much that you get demoralized and give up on your workouts full stop. In the long term, a healthy diet and consistent efforts in your workouts will give results.