Athletes and sports enthusiasts are no strangers to whey protein, but the health benefits of whey protein go way beyond body builders and gym rats. Protein is an essential macronutrient used by the body to build things like hair, skin, nails, organs, tissues, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and yes, muscles. Without adequate protein in the diet we are susceptible to disease and illness. Protein rich foods typically require a great deal of digestion and unfortunately many of us suffer with digestive insufficiencies due to poor diets high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and trans fats. This can lead to poor digestive function resulting in constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, allergies and incomplete digestion of food. If food is not properly digested then it cannot be absorbed and used properly by the body.
Protein based whole foods have a Biological Value (BV) associated with them. This rating indicates how well the body can absorb and use the protein in a particular food as well as how many different amino acids are in it. Something that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids our body needs + many of the non-essential amino acids would have a high BV. For example, eggs have a BV of 100. Eggs are the standard to which all other foods are compared to. Beef, for example, has a BV of 94 and chicken has a BV of 79.
To many people’s surprise the one food that weighs out over all of these is Whey Protein Isolate. It has a BV of 110+! Whey protein isolate, found in most supplement and health food stores, is a powder derived from the whey that is in milk. What makes whey protein isolate such a great protein rich food is that it contains all the essential and non-essential amino acids our bodies need to build and grow. In addition, because the amino acids derived from whey have been isolated in their purest form, they require essentially no digestion so they can be sent to work in the body almost immediately after consumption.
Of course, after a workout, when the body is in overdrive trying to repair muscle tissue, whey protein is the perfect recovery food, but others could benefit from whey protein too. During times of growth and development our protein needs are higher. Therefore, teens, pregnant or lactating women, anyone recovering from an injury, vegetarians who may not be consuming enough protein, and people who lead busy lives and don’t always eat enough of the right foods or even enough food could include whey protein in their diets. Whey is a simple and effective way of ensuring enough protein that the body will actually use.
Natalie Rivier, RHN, Dip. Advanced Sports Nutrition – Follow Natalie on social media @natalie_rivier
Branch Manager, Canadian School of Natural Nutrition