Two new studies published in the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Nutrition suggest that whey protein enhances muscle synthesis after resistance training and that the dairy protein may help us store less body fat.
In the first study, researchers set out to find out if whey protein enhanced muscle protein synthesis a full 24 hours after resistance training.
The study included 15 college-aged men who performed either 1) 90% 1 Rep-Max (RM) efforts to failure, 2) 30% 1 RM effort to make the workload of the 90% 1 RM or 3) 30% 1 RM to failure. The researchers then had the subjects return to the lab 24 hours later and they were provided 15 grams whey protein, then the researchers monitored markers for muscle mass synthesis. All results were compared to a control feeding of 15 grams whey protein when the subjects were well rested.
The results showed that muscle synthesis was increased after consuming whey protein in both the 90% and 30% 1 RM to failure but not in the non-failure group. In fact, the 30% of 1 RM group had the biggest boost in markers for muscle synthesis, indicating that you don’t have to lift mega weights to get results, but you do need to lift to failure.
[sws_blockquote_transparent align=”left” source=”Nicholas Burd, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University” quotestyle=”sws_transparent02″] Whey protein is rapidly digested and produces a large ‘spike’ in essential amino acids in the blood. It also boosts blood leucine—a branch chain amino acid important for anabolic signaling—more than other types of protein. [/sws_blockquote_transparent]
In the second study, researchers set out to determine if whey protein provides protection against high-fat, high-calorie diets.
In this animal study, mice were put on a high-fat, weight-gaining diet for 11 weeks. Half of the mice were given whey protein isolate in their water and the other half served as the control. Even though the diets of the mice were matched for calories, the animals given whey protein isolate had higher basal metabolic rate, increased fat burning and were less likely to gain body fat while on the high-fat diet, compared to mice not receiving whey protein isolate. The whey protein animals had a 42% lower rate of weight gain and 32% less body fat gains and 7.5% more lean body fat compared to animals on the control diet. While whey protein cannot prevent weight gain when calories exceed daily requirements, it may make the body less efficient at storing excess calories as fat.
Whey Better Than The Rest
There are hundreds of studies with humans and animals that have shown muscle enhancing benefits of whey protein. But whey protein alone will not make you stronger or leaner, but it may enhance your strength training and calorie-controlled diet. In addition, eating skim and low-fat dairy foods may provide the same benefits as whey protein supplements.
When it comes to whey specifically, sports dietitian Tavis Piattoly MS, RD, who works at Elmwood Fitness and is the sports nutritionists for the New Orleans Saints (Who Dat?), recommends taking 15-20 grams whey protein before and especially after strength workouts. He adds that whey protein hydrolysate may have the greatest impact on protein synthesis but whey isolate or concentrate are also good. Many products have a blend of these isolated whey compounds.
When looking for a whey supplement, check the ingredient list to make sure whey protein hydrolysate, isolate or concentrate (or a combination) is one of the first ingredients. I have tried GNC’s AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60, but use one scoop (not the recommended three scoops) for 20 grams whey protein. Many “recovery” beverages are made with protein blends (soy, casein, albumin and whey) and provide much more carbohydrate than protein and are surprisingly high in calories. They’re good options for endurance athletes but may not be the best for those trying to manage calories to optimize leanness.
As a follow up to this post, I’ll be providing the top whey supplement picks from sports nutritionists working with the nation’s best professional athletes. Stay tuned.
How Much Protein is Enough?
|Sedentary||0.8-1.0g per kg (0.36-0.45g per lb)|
|Recreational exercisers||0.8-1.0g per kg (0.36-0.45g per lb)|
|Serious resistance athletes:
early in training
|1.5-1.7g per kg (0.68-0.77g per lb)|
|Serious resistance athletes:
established training program
|1.0-1.2g per kg (0.45-0.55g per lb)
|Serious Endurance Athlete||1.4-1.6g per kg (0.64-0.73g per lb)
|Teenage Athletes||1.5-2.0g per kg (0.68-0.91g per lb)
Source: Bell-Wilson and Upton, Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active Life, Wiley 2009