Not a day goes by without somebody asking me what I think about whey.
“What is it?”, “Should I be adding it to my diet?”, “What type should I buy?”, “When’s the best time to take it?”, “Do you have any good recipes that use it?”, and my favourite (a question usually posed by a woman :)), “I don’t want big muscles, so I don’t need to eat whey, right?”.
Whey is a protein derived from cow’s milk. Your body needs protein for a variety of tasks, including muscle growth and repair. Whey is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all 21 of the essential amino acids your body requires and is absorbed quickly (in about an hour), making it a great post-workout recovery snack.
Should you add it to your diet? If you’re like many North Americans, the bulk of your daily calories come from carbohydrates and fats. Unless you consciously plan to eat protein with each meal and snack, you’re probably not getting enough. Recommended daily intakes range from 0.35 to 0.65 g of lean protein per pound of body weight. That means a 140 lb woman should be consuming 50 to 95 g of protein every day! Most whey powders provide 20-30 g of lean protein, and by themselves only weigh in at around 100 calories. So adding a protein shake or a scoop to some of the meals you’re already enjoying is a great way to get a little extra protein in your diet.
Whey powder comes in a huge variety of flavours, including unflavoured, chocolate and cookies and cream. Yum! My favourite, mainly due to it’s versatility, is vanilla. It’s tasty enough to eat on it’s own yet doesn’t overwhelm any other flavours you might add to it and can easily be incorporated into lots of recipes other than shakes.
There are too many brands on the market for me to review (my personal favourite is Sisu), but the highest quality powders will be made from whey isolate proteins. Whey isolates have the added advantage of being well tolerated by even the lactose intolerant. Read the list of ingredients closely though; you want to avoid powders that contain sugar, in particular high fructose corn syrup.
Whey protein can be consumed any time of the day, but is most frequently used as a post-workout recovery snack, quickly delivering the protein needed to repair and build muscle fibres after a tough weight training session. Mix it with fruit to rebuild your muscles’ glycogen stores, making for a better strength workout or run tomorrow!
Still need convincing?
- Lower carbohydrate, higher protein diets favourably affect body mass and composition (reduced ratio of fat to lean muscle);
- Studies have shown that adding whey protein to an otherwise healthy diet can increase fat loss by up to 6%;
- Lean protein, when consumed with complex carbohydrates, reduces your body’s insulin response to elevated blood sugar levels, resulting in less fat storage and keeping you in a stable fat burning mode.
There are tons of great whey protein shake recipes out there. For ideas, check out Clean Eating Magazine and Oxygen. My favourite shakes usually combine cold water (or cold green tea or unsweetened almond milk), whey powder, flax seed (you need to eat fat to melt fat) and a small serving of frozen fruit. Mix in a blender (or your Magic Bullet) and enjoy! Avoid the temptation to add extras like yogurt, nut butters and honey; although they taste great, your under-200 calorie snack will blossom into a 400 calorie meal!
I add whey to my baking; pancakes, waffles, muffins and clean eating cookies. Home made protein bars (I posted a recipe here) are much healthier than the store bought varieties plus you can experiment with ingredients to build your own signature snack!
As wonderful as whey is, I don’t recommend using it more than once or twice a day. Continue to nourish your body primarily with whole foods, ensuring that your fibre intake is adequate and that you’re consuming a variety of vitamins and minerals each and every day.
Finally, in answer to the question about whey protein and ‘bulking up’?
Do you have a favourite whey protein recipe? Tell me about it; I’m always looking for new ideas!
And it’s Friday again! That means it’s time for the Friday Fitness Blog Hop. Click on the photo below to get hopping!