The journey to getting ‘in shape’ can be frustrating, to say the least.
Some weeks you can really see the difference. Others, you can feel like you’ve plateaued.
But weight loss takes time — there’s really no overnight solution. There are, however, a number of supplements you can use to help you reach your body shape goals. One in particular, whey protein powder, is used by many active women to recover from workouts and maintain a controlled diet.
So if you’re thinking about introducing whey powder into your fitness regime, then why not! There’s lots of good reasons to do so. You just need to make sure you’re fully clued up on what whey protein is, how to use it safely and which whey protein is best for weight loss.
To help you work this out, we’ve pulled together this quick beginner’s guide. We’ll pull it back to the very basics of whey, so you can pick up your first powder and start shaking things up… with confidence!
Let’s start at the very beginning — what is protein?
If you’re going to use whey protein powder, you should probably know what it will do for your body!
But if protein has always been somewhat of a mystery to you, you’d be forgiven. There’s a lot of info out there, it’s difficult to know what you need to know!
So here are the basics.
Protein is made up of protein building blocks, called amino acids. There are 21 amino acids in total, and nine of them are essential, meaning we have to get them from our diet. Amino acids link up in different patterns and sequences to create proteins with different functions.
The five main functions of proteins are:
- Antibodies, which help protect the body from disease and illness.
- Enzymes, which are responsible for thousands of chemical reactions in the body.
- Messengers, like some types of hormones that coordinate important biological processes in the body.
- Transport and storage, which help molecules move through the body.
- Structural components, like those that make up muscles.
We usually think of protein as what we need to build and maintain muscles, so this last type of protein is the one we are most familiar with.
But it’s also important to know that other types of protein — like hormones and messengers — do play a role in weight loss and weight gain too.
What is whey protein powder?
Whey protein powder is made from isolated components of whey, which is one of the two main proteins found in milk.
When the fat is separated from the rest of the milk, like when you make cheese, there’s some liquid and curds left over. This liquid contains most of the whey protein, and curds contain most of the casein protein. Roughly speaking, about 20% of the protein in milk is whey and the rest is casein protein.
To make whey protein powder, the whey-based liquid is separated from casein, and it undergoes many processes until it becomes a powder. You may have also heard of this powder referred to as ‘whey protein concentrate’.
You can also get casein protein in powder form, but because casein takes longer to digest than whey, it’s not as great for a quick post-workout protein hit.
What is whey protein powder designed to do?
Whey protein can do lots of good in the body — that’s why whey protein powder is used by so many fitness fans!
A good quality whey protein powder should:
- Boost your overall protein intake: If you’re following a healthy, balanced diet, then you shouldn’t have any protein deficiencies. However, if you’re also working out a lot, then a helpful protein boost won’t hurt either.
- Help with muscle recovery: Protein has been proven to help athletes recover faster from exercise fatigue — so if you tend to get an energy slump or sore muscles after a workout, then whey protein could help.
- Provide the building blocks to build and regenerate muscles: On top of combating fatigue, whey protein powder has BCAA amino acids which play an important role in building muscle.
- Help increase the strength of muscles: Whey protein can support muscle strength too, and increase the effects of resistance training.
- Contribute to a weight loss regimen: Last but not least, it’s been shown that whey protein can contribute to fat loss and preserve muscle at the same time!
Whilst whey protein powders can do all of the above, there are also different types of whey protein powder to be aware of — and the benefits they pack can differ from powder to powder...
What are the different types of whey protein powder and which is best?
There are three main types of whey protein powders: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate (hydrolyzed whey).
Whey protein concentrate can be up to 80% protein. It contains some milk sugar (lactose) and a little milk fat, so this type of whey protein tends to taste the best!
Whey protein isolate has a higher protein content, at about 90%. As a result, it contains less fat and lactose and cuts out some of the other nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.
Hydrolyzed whey has undergone a process so that it is more quickly absorbed into the body. Because of this, it can also cause a greater spike of insulin (the hormone we need to convert carbs into glucose).
Which type of whey protein powder is best for you will depend on why you’re using whey in the first place — for weight loss, to build muscle, etc. — and what sort of taste you’re after.
For example, if getting super shredded is your primary goal, then hydrolyzed whey is probably best for you. This is the type of whey protein you find in most sports supplements.
But protein concentrate is a good shout if you’re looking for an all-rounder supplement, to help with weight loss and having a healthy, active lifestyle.
And even if you’re lactose intolerant there’s an option for you: stripped of lactose, protein isolate could be for you.
If you’re ever unsure about which type of whey protein powder is best for you, just ask your doctor or fitness coach.
How do whey protein powders help with weight loss?
Okay, now we’ve got a lot of the basics sorted, it’s time to get into the good stuff.
What is it about whey protein that helps you lose weight?
A number of studies have shown that whey protein can have direct and indirect influence on weight loss.
Directly, when combined with resistance exercise and a controlled diet, whey protein powder helps to increase muscle mass while decreasing fat mass and overall body weight. Basically: whey protein powder can help you get in shape!
What’s more, as whey protein causes your muscle mass to increase, your body will also burn off more energy throughout the day — even when you aren’t exercising! Burning more calories can, of course, lead to weight loss as well!
But we do have to be real with you here: whey protein powder is not a magic solution for weight loss. Whey protein — like any other supplement — can promote weight loss, but it doesn’t necessarily cause weight loss.
If you’re keeping active, eating well and using a supplement, then you should see the results you are after!
What are the things to watch out for when using whey protein powder for weight loss?
As with everything, the first step of safely using a protein powder is understanding what you’re taking and how you can expect your body to react.
And if you’re reading this guide, then you’re doing a great job of that already!
But before you go and mix up your first whey protein shake, there are a few other things you should know.
For one: protein is an energy source, so it also contributes to your calorie count. If you up your protein intake with a shake but don’t burn off the calories, then it’s more likely that you’ll gain weight rather than losing it.
Also, be aware of what you’re mixing your whey protein powder with to make a shake. Milk is an obvious choice for a shake, as it adds a rich creaminess but dairy can also be high-calorie!
That’s not to say you need to take your protein powder with water, every time, but bear in mind that high-sugar or fatty drinks are not exactly the best fit for a weight loss strategy. Plant-based milks are a great alternative, if you want the creamy texture but with lower fat.
Lastly — and we can’t stress this one enough — remember that whey protein powder is not necessarily a meal replacement.
If you’re working out regularly, then you do need to consume calories! Calories are just fuel for the body to move, so they are nothing to be feared! Instead, try to get the right calories from a healthy balanced diet and use a whey protein powder shake to supplement your protein when you need it. This probably won’t be every day, but maybe two or three times a week, after a session.
Okay, that’s it! Your introduction to whey protein powders is complete
Truth is: whey protein powders can help you get in the shape you want to be in, but you’ve gotta put the work in too.
Even so, weight loss shouldn’t be an epic struggle and using supplements like whey protein powders can be the extra helping hand you need. So, do your research, ask around, and trial a few different powders at first to see which one works for you.
And if you ever need any other advice about healthy living, working out or how to get enough protein, then hit up our blog. We’ll see you there!