in Healthy Eating

6 min read

Whey protein powders have multiple health benefits, exceeding the needs of people who use them as a post-workout supplement after their gym routine by far. Let’s see what some of them include.

Article guide:

I know many of you still probably think that whey protein powder negatively affects our bodily functioning for some reason or another. One of the most common myths about protein use is that it’s »heavy on the kidneys«. Which is nonsense really. [1, 2]

This myth has been somehow perpetuating itself through the collective mentality of people for some time now. The idea for it was seeded many decades ago when some scientists misinterpreted their data. And thus began the idea that drinking whey protein powders will have important side effects on our renal functioning and other bodily systems.

However, let’s take what I just said with a grain of salt. I’m talking about “safe”, common sense use of whey protein powders. You don’t really need to be taking 200 g of it each day. In one of the previously cited studies, athletes were taking 2.8 g of protein for every kilogram of their weight. That was an enormous amount, probably unneeded for all the nutrients to be fully used. The general consensus is that we need between 0.8 g and 1.8 g of protein per one kilogram* of our bodyweight. You can do the math to see how much that accounts for your own weight. [2]

*that’s 0.82 g of protein per one pound of our body weight.

And mind you, this applies even when you’re lifting heavy. That upper cap was used on bodybuilders who were working out for 2 hours per day, 6 days per week. Amounts above the mentioned haven’t been scientifically shown to have any further possible health benefits. I guess there are none for 98% of the population, excluding people with rare genetic disorders and similar.

But anyway, that was just the introduction. The main point of this post is to show you how awesome whey protein powders are. In my earlier post about them, I mainly focused on two aspects of their health benefits:

However, that was only a surface scratch. Truth of the matter is – whey protein powders are one hell of a nutritional addition for the average Joe.

 

Whey protein powders decrease the prevalence of different metabolic risk factors

If there is one stream of health benefits of whey protein powders that are being continuously proven, it’s their improvement of our metabolic functioning. Whey protein supplementation has the following effects:

  • Decreases in blood pressure.
  • Decreases in dyslipidemia, a state of abnormal amounts of blood lipids (fatty acids and cholesterol), one of the main risk factors for heart disease.
  • Decreases in mild hyperglycemia, a condition where excessive amounts of blood glucose stroll around our blood stream.
  • Increases in protein and lipid metabolism.

Moreover, supplementing with whey protein powders has been shown to improve our insulin response and cut our arterial stiffness. An impaired insulin response, also known as insulin resistance, can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. Arterial stiffness, however, is a consequence of old age and arteriosclerosis. With age, the elastic fibers in our arteries become less elastic, which increases our chances of different cardiovascular diseases. [3, 4, 7]

Whey protein powders are a supplement with protective effects against sarcobesity

As you may know, whey protein powders are very high in different BCAAs. Because of their rather unique nutritional composition they strongly enhance muscle protein synthesis, lean body mass, and the metabolic functioning of skeletal muscle. When taken together with a healthy and active lifestyle, they can synergistically improve our lives for the better.

One important thing to point out is the protective effect against sarcobesity. This condition is defined as a declining, inadequate, and poorly functional skeletal muscle mass together with increased amounts of fatty tissue. Moreover, it has a growing impact on life expectancy and important implications for health-related expenses in old age. [5, 6, 7]

Whey protein powders are beneficial in increasing and maintaining weight loss

You are probably familiar with the fact that increasing amounts of protein in our diet can help us support, even stimulate, our weight loss efforts. This happens because they affect our appetite regulation and our energy expenditure.

While the type of protein powder and its effects on satiety are still debatable, the current evidence tells us that casein is probably more satiating for longer time periods, and whey protein powders are more satiating for shorter time periods. [67]

Whey protein powders positively affect glucose metabolism, and hormonal balance

You’ve probably noticed by now that the health benefits of whey protein powders are not a thing to be taken lightly.

I’ve mentioned above that they positively affect satiety. Sure, that can be interpreted as “Duh, you’re eating something. Of course, you ‘ll be more full”. But that’s not the whole story. They have an important effect on several gut hormones which are related to decreases in food consumption. If I put it in the simplest terms – they make us less hungry.

Anorectic hormones are hormones which suppress our appetite.

When we consume whey protein powders, different anorectic hormones get increasingly released. These include leptin, GLP-1, and cholecystokinin. Leptin is a name you’ve probably heard of, the hormone which increases or decreases our feelings of hunger. GLP-1 is a hormone found in our digestive tract. There it serves a multitude of functions, two of which are:

  • The promotion of insulin sensitivity
  • It decreases food intake through increases in satiety

Moreover, ghrelin, neuropeptide Y, and some other hormones get decreased. Explaining what every and each of them do is a bit tedious. The main point is; the mentioned hormonal changes lead to less food being eaten. This can hugely benefit people who want to lose weight for one reason or another. [67, 10]

Whey protein powder supplementation possibly reduces your risk of colon and other cancers

Indeed, a reduced risk of colon and other cancers is yet another testament of the health benefits of whey protein powders. While the exact mechanism through which it exerts its effects isn’t completely clear yet, it is believed that through increases in glutathione synthesis in our livers, our immune system becomes strengthened. However, it’s important to emphasize that the majority of evidence stems out of animal models(!). One recent trial with breast cancer patients revealed that it increased their antioxidant capabilities. [11]

It is believed that the increases in glutathione synthesis also increases the antioxidant capabilities of our bodies, and with that the protective capabilities against mutations. Whether this is the real mechanism behind the protective effect against colon cancer is, however, still waiting to be completely uncovered. [12]

As we can see, these 5 reasons for whey protein consumption are quite hefty. While all meats, eggs, fish, and some lentils are good sources of protein as well,  whey offers us a unique and very potent blend of BCAAs, which are one of the key factors for all the mentioned health benefits.

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