You have no idea how many people have asked this same question!
Whey protein is the most popular supplements for bodybuilders, and many men trying to bulk up will pound the stuff in the hopes of seeing results. But when after a few weeks or months they're not "totally jacked", they start questioning the effectiveness of the supplement.
Before you throw the supplement out because it doesn't seem to be doing anything, it's important that you understand what whey protein is—and what it isn't! Understanding how whey protein works and what it will do is the key to maximizing the benefits in your life.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a powdered protein derived from the whey naturally found in milk. Whey is the clear, watery liquid that is produced when milk is turned into cheese. Though it doesn't look like much, it's actually a highly concentrated source of whey protein.
(Note: Cheese is high in casein protein, while the whey contains mostly whey protein.)
Whey protein is a fast-acting protein that it incredibly easy for your body to break down and absorb. While casein, egg, and soy protein require more energy to digest, whey protein is highly bioavailable. This means that it's one of the most effective proteins to take for immediate boost of energy. It delivers a hefty dose of protein in a very short amount of time (30 to 60 minutes after taking).
Why Take Whey Protein
If your goal is to build muscle, you need more protein in your diet. Protein is needed for the production of new muscle cells and tissues, expanding the energy storage capacity and fiber count in your muscles. The larger your muscles and the more energy they can store, the stronger you become.
You get protein from a very broad range of foods: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese, soy beans, tuna, sardines, lentils, beans, quinoa, barley, brown rice, and the list goes on and on. The average human consumes enough protein to have a healthy, well-functioning body.
But if you're trying to gain muscle, you need to eat MORE protein than normal—in fact, your protein intake should increase by 25 to 75%, depending on your workouts and goals. This means that the amount of protein you get in your diet is insufficient. You'd have to eat a lot more food in order to get enough protein in your diet.
Whey protein provides you with a concentrated dose of amino acids. Instead of eating a 3-ounce steak (which has more calories and fats), you can consume a single shot of whey protein powder and get the same amount of concentrated protein.
Protein powder gives you more protein with less fat, less sugar, and fewer calories. The absence of other nutrients means that your body is focused on absorbing and utilizing protein, leading to more effective amino acid uptake. As a result, you see faster absorption of protein into your muscles.
What Whey Protein Will Do
Whey protein will offer you some visible benefits:
- Better muscle growth - By providing you with a concentrated dose of amino acids, whey protein helps to speed up the cellular growth rate of your muscle cells. It's fast-acting, easily absorbed protein that will encourage better muscular growth.
- Faster recovery - Exercise breaks down muscle fibers, which means your body needs protein in order to repair the damage. A concentrated dose of protein (and nothing else) ensures that your body can make faster repairs.
- Reduced inflammation - Faster repairs of damaged muscle tissue means less risk of inflammation, a problem that is more commonly known as "muscle soreness". Swelling in your muscles can lead to aches and pains for days.
- Faster metabolism - Not only is the protein used for building and repairing muscle, but it also serves to infuse the other muscles in the body with ATP energy. This leads to a faster energy output (muscles burn more calories), which speeds up your metabolism and increases your overall energy production.
- Better immunity - Protein plays a vital role in your immune system function, as does the glutamine and other antioxidants naturally found in whey protein.
There are many more benefits, but these are the main reasons people take protein powder.
What Whey Protein Won't Do
So we know what whey protein is intended to do, but what you need to know is that it's not the ultimate solution for muscle-building. You can't just pound whey protein and expect to see massive muscle growth. That's ESPECIALLY true if you're not doing a hardcore workout.
You see, your body responds to both the food you put into it and the energy you demand from it. Higher food consumption leads to an increase in stored body fat, but higher energy demands leads to more energy production.
Your body is highly adaptable, so it tries to respond to the demands you place on it. If you strain your muscles (via weightlifting, HIIT, and other types of exercise), it has to respond by increasing energy storage capacity. This is done by expanding muscle fiber size and (sometimes) increasing muscle fiber count. In simple terms, you get bigger muscles!
But that will ONLY happen if you demand more from your body. Lifting more weight than "normal"—which you do through regular weightlifting—is the key to increasing your muscular capacity. By pushing yourself beyond the limits of your strength, you force your body to adapt and increase energy storage. This leads to bigger muscles.
Add whey protein into the mix, and you provide your body with the amino acids needed to make those repairs and grow the muscle fibers. Whey protein gives your body the building blocks for your muscles, but it's only through exercise that you'll push your body to use those building blocks. Whey protein alone will be little more than a great source of nourishment. It's only when you pair it with exercise that you see serious results!