Supplement Reviews: Whey Protein!

Whey protein is a milk protein extract recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, high cysteine content, rapid digestion, and interesting peptides (lacto globulins, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, etc).

What Is It?

Whey protein is a milk protein extract recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, high cysteine content, rapid digestion, and interesting peptides (lacto globulins, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, etc).

What Does It Do?

Whey protein, like other protein sources, provides a rich amino acid supply to the body. Current data suggest that exercise can increase protein needs and that increased protein intakes can improve the response to exercise training.

Whey protein is rapidly digested and this property of whey makes it optimal for post-exercise consumption since rapid increases in blood amino acid concentrations can lead to acute increases in protein synthesis. Furthermore, since whey protein contains a good amount of cysteine, whey protein may contribute to improved antioxidant defense (via increases in glutathione) in the body.

Where Does It Come From?

Whey protein makes up approximately 20% of the protein in milk. The beneficial properties of whey protein are partly a result of the amino acid composition and partly a result of the active peptides (the unique amino acid chain configurations that make up whey). In order to prevent the denaturing (or destruction) of the interesting peptides, appropriate processing techniques are required.

The best processing includes ion exchange whey protein isolation (yielding approximately 90% protein with only 10% additional ingredients including lactose and fat) and cross flow micro filtration, yielding approximately 99% whey protein and high calcium content.

How Do I Use It?

Whey protein is a convenient way to supplement one’s whole food diet with additional protein and amino acids. Usually I suggest using anywhere between 20 and 40g per day of supplemental whey protein. After exercise, whey protein is especially useful as its rapid digestion and absorption provides the body with a rapid influx of amino acids for improving protein status.

Protein supplements, however, should never be used as one’s exclusive protein source.

Credibility Rating:

Rating Scale:

4/4 - This supplement/regimen has significant scientific backing and can produce significant benefits in most individuals.

3/4 - There exists a sound theoretical basis for its ergogenic effects; may work in certain individuals; further research is needed to elucidate their respective effects.

2/4 - Science is equivocal, animal data and human data may be conflicting; or mechanism of action may be unclear.

1/4 - Little or no science as well as poor theoretical foundation.

Scientific References:

  1. Alting, AC et al. Formation of disulfide bonds in acid-induced gels of preheated whey protein isolate. J Agric Food Chem, 48(10), 5001-7, 2000.
  2. Boirie, Y et al. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 94, 14930-14935, 1997.
  3. Bounous, G and Gold P. The biological activity of undenatured dietary whey proteins: role of glutathione. Clin Invest Med, 4(4), 296-309, 1991.
  4. Coste, M and Tome, D. Milk proteins with physiological activities: II. Opioid and immunostimulating peptides derived from milk protein. Lait, 71, 241-247, 1991.
  5. Dangin, M et al. The digestion rate of protein is an independent regulating factor of postprandial protein retention. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 280(2), E340-348, 2001.
  6. Demling, R and DeSanti, L. Increased protein intake during the recovery phase after severe burns increases body weight gain and muscle function. J Burn Care Rehabil, 16, 161-168, 1998.
  7. Demling, RH and DeSanti, L. Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Ann Nutr Metab. 44. 21-29, 2000.
  8. Desrosiers, T and Savoie L. Extent of damage to amino acid availability of whey protein heated with sugar. J Dairy Res, 58(4), 431-41, 1991.
  9. Enomoto, A et al. Milk whey protein fed as a constituent of the diet induced both oral tolerance and a systemic humoral response, while heat-denatured whey protein induced only oral tolerance. Clin Immunol Immunopathol, 66(2), 136-142, 1993.
  10. Hambraeus, L. Importance of milk proteins in human nutrition: Physiological aspects. In Milk Proteins ’84. Proceedings of the International Congress on Milk Proteins. Galesloot, TE and Tinbergen BJ (eds). Pudoc Wageningen, Luxemburg, 1985.
  11. Kinsella, JE and Whitehead, DM. Proteins in whey: chemical, physical, and functional properties. Adv Food Nutr Res, 33, 343-438, 1989.
  12. Law, AJ and Lever, J. Effect of pH on the thermal denaturation of whey proteins in milk. J Agric Food Chem, 48(3), 672-679, 2000.
  13. Mahe, S et al. Gastrojejunal kinetics and the digestion of [15N]beta-lactoglobulin and casein in humans: the influence of the nature and quantity of the protein. Am J Clin Nutr, 63(4), 546-552, 1996.
  14. Rossano, R, D’Elia, A, Riccio, P. One-step separation from lactose: recovery and purification of major cheese-whey proteins by hydroxyapatite--a flexible procedure suitable for small- and medium-scale preparations. Protein Expr Purif 2001 Feb;21(1):165-9.
  15. Ziemlanski, S et al. Balanced intraintestinal nutrition: digestion, absorption and biological value of selected preparations of milk proteins. Acta Physiol Pol, 29(6), 543-556, 1978.
About The Author

John M Berardi is one of the world's foremost experts in the field of human performance and nutrition. His company, Science Link, provides unique and highly effective training, nutrition, and supplementation programs for high level athletes as well as recreational exercisers. John is a prolific author and a sought after speaker and consultant. Visit for more information about John and his team. Also, check out his new DVD entitled No Nonsense Nutrition.

© 2002 - 2003 Science Link, Inc. All Rights Reserved.