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What’s the Deal With Whey Protein?

Whey Protein
Scoop of whey protein with workout equipment. | Image by naito29/Shutterstock

The health and fitness world is abuzz about the alleged benefits of whey protein, but what exactly is it, and is it worth the hype?

Whey protein is one of several supplements currently being hailed as critical to achieving optimal health and developing stronger, leaner muscles.

Although whey protein is derived from the watery portion of cow’s milk that separates from curds while making cheese, as a supplement it typically appears as a powder.

But since it doesn’t taste very good, whey protein is often added to beverages or protein bars — some of which contain unhealthy additives like refined sugar.

As The Dallas Express reported, the supplement industry, marketing various forms of vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, and more, was worth about $35.6 billion as of 2022. By 2028, it is expected to grow to $128.64 billion, according to USA Today.

Yet a number of the products marketed as supplements today are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Moreover, the recommended daily dose for a number of these nutrients — such as vitamin C — can be achieved by eating a vegetable and fruit-rich diet.

Is whey protein really any different to have amassed such a strong following? Several influencers seem to think so, but the medical community isn’t so sure.

Carol Johnston, a professor of nutrition at Arizona State University, noted that consuming whey protein can help “to increase dietary protein intake” since the “amino acid profile of whey protein allows for maximal protein synthesis,” according to USA Today.

This is because whey protein is believed to contain all nine essential amino acids, as Uma Naidoo told USA Today. Naidoo is the director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine make it possible for the body to absorb nutrients, repair tissue, and perform general bodily functions.

Whey protein has a high rate of bioavailability, and some evidence supports that it can aid in growing muscles and strengthening bones, as do all proteins.

Yet claims that whey protein performs any better than its counterparts have not been proven, never mind those suggesting it can help in managing diabetes or losing weight.

In fact, some studies have shown that “ongoing long-term use without the help of a medical or nutrition professional can cause side effects on the kidney and liver,” Naidoo told USA Today.

With a growing obesity crisis going on not only in the U.S. but in the world and injectable drugs like Ozempic being touted as its panacea, it isn’t surprising that there is a desire to find that one “miracle” supplement.

Yet the best and safest approach to ensure optimal health, as well as protein intake, is through a well-rounded diet.

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