How The Bodybuilding Supplement Whey Can Boost Immune Health!

Most bodybuilders take whey protein to boost muscle growth after they workout. Some also include whey protein based snacks, shakes and RTDs into their daily regimen. But, did you know that whey could also enhance immune health? Find out more below...

Article Summary:
  • Dairy products are great for sports nutrition enthusiasts.
  • Protein is responsible for jump starting chemical reactions in the body.
  • Dieting can take a toll on your immune system.

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How Whey Protein Can Boost Immune Health

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Most bodybuilders take whey protein to boost muscle growth after they workout. Some are also aware of whey's ability to increase satiety and therefore include whey protein based snacks, shakes and RTDs into their daily regimen. But, did you know that whey could also enhance immune health?

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What Is Whey Protein?
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Whey is the liquid byproduct of cheese production. After cheese is produced, the whey is drained off and processed for food and beverage products. But, whey isn't just one protein but instead a mix of protein fractions with beta-lactoglobulin (55-65% total whey proteins) the most prevalent followed by alpha-lactalbumin (15-25% total whey proteins) and glycomacropeptide.

Studies suggest that whey protein concentrate can modulate immune system functioning in a lab setting and, many animal studies point to the immune boosting effects of whey protein. Several bioactive fractions of whey contribute to its immune boosting potential including beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, glycomacropeptide and lactoferrin.

Studies Suggest That Whey Protein Concentrate Can Modulate Immune System Functioning
+ Click To Enlarge.
Studies Suggest That Whey Protein Concentrate Can
Modulate Immune System Functioning.

Dairy products are great for sports nutrition enthusiasts. They naturally contain the best sources of protein for muscle (whey and casein), vitamins and minerals (fortified milk is one of the best sources of vitamin D) and some contain probiotics (notably yogurt, Yakult and Bio-K).

But, if you can't deal with the hassle of keeping dairy products cold when you are on the run or if you want more protein and some immune-boosting compounds to boot, opt for whey.

RELATED POLL
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How Whey Protein Can Boost Immune Health
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Protein Builds Your Immune System
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The protein you eat does a lot more than just build muscle tissue. It is responsible for jump starting chemical reactions in the body, serves as a structural component of all cells and regulates the immune system.

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Whey Is A Good Vehicle For Immune Boosting
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Probiotics. Probiotics are our "friendly" bacteria - the kind that populate the gut and ward off bad bacteria. However, not all probiotics have the same function nor do they all actually make it to the gut without being destroyed first. But, whey protein, due to its pH, may be one of the best vehicles for bringing probiotics to the gut while they are still intact. In addition, some whey proteins contain probiotics (typically acidophilus, bifidophilus, bifidobacterium).

Protein Is Responsible For Jump Starting Chemical Reactions In The Body, Serves As A Structural Component Of All Cells And Regulates The Immune System
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Protein Is Responsible For Jump Starting Chemical Reactions In The Body, Serves As A Structural Component Of All Cells And Regulates The Immune System.

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Dieting Can Decrease Immune Functioning And Increase Protein Needs
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Dieting can take a toll on your immune system. And, the fewer calories you eat, the more protein you need. Both of these factors make whey ideal.

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Whey Contains Bioactive Compounds
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We know a little about some of the bioactive compounds in whey, but time will tell exactly how they may enhance immune action in different populations.

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Additional Tips To Help Boost Immune Health
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  • Get plenty of sleep. Leave bragging rights, for who gets less sleep, to your baggy-eyed, coffee-guzzling coworkers.
  • Eat quality protein throughout the day at every single main meal and snacks if possible.
  • Get enough vitamin D every day and get your vitamin D tested. It should be well above the bare cutoff for deficiency.
  • Eat zinc rich foods or take a little extra.
  • Eat probiotics rich foods including yogurt and kefir.
  • Consume vitamin C rich foods and beverages.
  • Consider NAC - N-acetyl cysteine.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth without clean hands. This won't boost your immune health but it may prevent the spread of germs.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently - especially after being in public (i.e. the gym, grocery store etc.) to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Never eat or drink after someone (kids included). That's a great way to spread germs.
Only Time Will Tell Exactly How The Bioactive Compouns In Whey May Enhance Immune Action
+ Click To Enlarge.
Only Time Will Tell Exactly How The Bioactive Compouns
In Whey May Enhance Immune Action.

Whey protein isn't a cure all. You still need to take care of yourself, steer clear of people who are sick and wash your hands frequently. But, it may provide an immune system boost that can help your body tackle the germs it faces daily, from close contact on the subway, to your boss sniffling then shaking your hand, to the person bagging your groceries yet sneezing up a storm.

Germs are everywhere and the best defense includes a good offense. So stack up on a quality whey supplement and take at least one serving per day. At the very least you'll be getting the amino acids you need for muscle tissue. And, you may be pepping up your immune system at the same time.

About the Author:

Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS is one of the country's top sports nutritionists. She helps Olympic, professional and recreational athletes implement a nutrition game plan that will maximize their athletic performance. Marie has appeared on NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS affiliates on the east coast, written hundreds of magazine articles, trade publication articles, book chapters, e-zines and marketing materials. Her website is: www.mariespano.com

References:

  1. Immunology and Cell Biology 1999; 77: 345-350.<
  2. Clinical and Investigative Medicine 1988; 11: 271-278.
  3. Journal of Nutrition 2008;139: 386-393.
  4. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2007;26: 713S-723S.
  5. Protein and Amino Acids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 1999.
  6. Dairy Science and Food Technology. www.dairyscienceinfo.com

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