Whey Protein Information
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Information About Whey Protein - The Hard Facts
By Ivan Nikolov
copyright © 2008 Ivan Nikolov
Being closely involved in the sports nutrition industry
(as a manager at the Vitamin Shoppe store) I often get asked one question:
"What is a good whey protein?"
Unfortunately, although the question can be really simple, the answer isn't.
When I'm at the store I usually don't go into the deepest detail, but here in
this article I am going to do so. My hope after all will be that you, who reads
this, will have a much better understanding of what you are exposed to, as far
as advertisements and product choices on the market.
That said, I am going to start with what whey actually is. After that I will go
into greater detail on the different types of commercially available whey
It all starts here...
Whey is a byproduct of cheese making. It is the liquid part that is separated
from the curd. In its raw form, other than protein, whey contains fat,
cholesterol, lactose. Before it reaches our shaker bottles, the fat and lactose
(milk sugar) in whey have to be filtered out. More about this in a little
Raw whey is rich in protein substances, called native micro fractions. These
include alpha lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, glycomacropeptide, immunoglobulins,
serum albumin, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase.
When due to the type of processing used, some of these native micro fractions
are destroyed or lost, we say that the whey protein is denatured.
Why are these native micro peptides important?
Some of these proteins are sources of essential amino acids, as well as large
amounts of branched-chain amino acids - BCAA's (BCAA's are the only amino acids
that don't undergo conversion in the liver, and are immediately available to
your muscle cells).
Others have different functions in the body, such as immune system support and
modulation, anti-oxidative and cell protecting properties, antibacterial, anti
microbial functions, and more.
Let's look more closely at a few of them.
Alpha lactalbumin, also known as alpha-protein for example is the most abundant
protein in mother's milk.
Serum albumin is a precursor to glutathione - a major antioxidant and
Immunoglobulins, also called antibodies, have the function of finding and destroying
viruses and bacteria, which makes them primary immune system supporting
Now you can clearly see why it's important for whey protein to retain its
protein micro fractions during the manufacturing process.
What are the different types of whey proteins, available
on the market?
Whey proteins can be divided in three major categories:
* concentrates (WPC)
* isolates (WPI)
Further, isolates can be sub-divided into ion-exchange
isolates and low temperature micro filtered (ultra filtered) isolates.
Whey concentrate (WPC)
Whey concentrate is the lowest grade whey protein. Its
actual protein content can range between 35 and 85%. The most common whey
concentrate, used in sports nutrition formulations is WPC 80%.
Whey concentrate contains high lactose and fat levels. It
also has high cholesterol content. Most commonly WPC is derived using high
temperatures, which denature it (destroy its native micro fractions).
The high temperatures, used in the process, also oxidize
large part of the present cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the type of
cholesterol that can cause hardening of arteries and cardio-vascular problems.
Many of the sports nutrition protein blends are mainly
comprised of cheap, denatured whey protein concentrate of low biological value.
Hydrolyzed whey is a protein, which has been partially
pre-digested. The longer protein structures in it are broken down to shorter
ones. The main property of this type of whey is its low allergenicity.
There are two things you should know about hydrolyzed
First, when whey protein is treated enzymatically, its
native proteins are partially or fully lost. In other words hydrolyzed whey can
be denatured to a large degree, depending on the extend of pre-digestion.
Second, during pre-digestion, its long chain protein
structures are broken down and are brought to forms that are very close to the
actual amino acids the body can use for repair and tissue building.
There are a couple of amino acids that are naturally
present in very large quantities in whey. These are glutamic acid and aspartic
Glutamic acid, or glutamate is a neurotransmitter. It is
know as excitotoxin and it serves to enhance one of the five main tastes -
umami (savory). Glutamate in large quantities overstimulates certain parts of
the brain, which can lead to brain damage.
By the way, I'm sure you've heard of MSG - a common taste
enhancer and food additive. Well MSG stands for mono-sodium glutamate, a salt
of the amino acid glutamate. Now you know when you see MSG or glutamate what
the possible consequences could be.
You may think now "Since glutamic acid is the amino
acid, which is present in high quantities in whey, what makes hydrolyzed whey
worse than concentrate or isolate?"
Well, it's one thing when the body itself has to break
down the protein into amino acids - it metabolizes as much of the protein it
needs. But, it's a different thing when you ingest pre-digested protein and
this way you force the body to uptake all of the proteins in a form already
available for use.
Whey isolate (WPI) - ion-exchange, microfiltration
Ion-exchange whey isolate
This protein has a high protein content - 90% and more. It
has very low (or none at all) amounts of lactose, fat and cholesterol. It
sounds good on first reading, but it actually isn't. Let's see why.
The process of deriving ion-exchange whey includes
separating the protein from the rest of the substances in raw whey using
electrical charge. This is done using hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide.
The process involves great changes in the pH levels, which
destroy most of the important native to whey protein fractions like alpha
lactalbumin, glycomacropeptides, immunoglobulins, and lactoferrin.
Beta-lactoglobulin globulin, which is know to cause
allergies, can sustain the pH changes, and can become the most predominant
native protein structure in ion-exchange whey.
Microfiltered whey isolate
Microfiltered whey isolate is the most undenatured form of
whey. Its native protein structures are kept intact to a large degree. It has
90% and higher protein content. It is virtually lactose, fat and cholesterol
During the process of microfiltration the undesired
particles in whey (fat, lactose) are separated from the protein using ceramic
microfilters in a low temperature environment.
After filtration the whey protein is spray-dried again
using low temperatures.
Micro- (and ultra-) filtered whey isolate is the protein
with the highest biological value of all proteins. Its characteristics are:
* It stimulates the production of glutathione
* It strengthens the immune system
* It has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties
It promotes muscle growth
Currently the only patented method for low temperature
microfiltration is the Cross-Flow Microfiltration process, developed by
Whey protein concentrate (WPC):
* Is the cheapest whey protein
* Is denatured - the beneficial protein structures are
Contains higher amounts of cholesterol, oxidized to a large degree
Hydrolyzed whey protein:
* Has hypoallergenic properties
* Is partially predigested - the degrees of
* Its amino acids are more readily available, one of
them is known to have excitotoxic properties (glutamate)
May play a role in excitotoxin-induced brain damage
Ion-exchange whey protein isolate:
* Has low if any amounts of lactose, fats and
* Many of the native whey protein structures are
* It is denatured to a large degree
Beta-lactoglobulin globulin is present in higher quantities, which may lead to
Microfiltered whey protein isolate:
* Has low if any amounts of lactose, fats and
* Retains its native proteins intact
* Is twice as expensive as WPC and ion-exchange protein
* Promotes muscle repair and growth
* Strengthens the immune function
Has detoxifying and antioxidant properties
So, the big question is what you should look for when
buying whey protein. Here is what I suggest:
1. Check the cholesterol content on the nutrition facts
label. If it's more than 15mg per scoop that's a major sign that the main
protein in the blend is WPC. If the budget isn't very limited don't buy.
2. Check the fat content on the label. Anything other than
zero should tell you - WPC is the main ingredient. Don't buy.
3. Look at the ingredients list. If the first thing you
see is anything else but cross-flow micro- (ultra-) filtered whey isolate -
4. If you find the price relatively cheap for the quantity
in the bottle - don't buy. It's most likely WPC.
5. If the fat content is zero, the carbohydrate content is
zero, the cholesterol is less than 5mg, and the first ingredient on the
"Nutrition facts" list is CFM whey - you should consider buying!
6. If anywhere on the bottle you see CFM® or Provon® -
again you should consider buying.
Here are a few sources of high-grade, denatured WPI:
* ProteinFactory (ProteinFactory.com) - CFM Whey
* Musclemania SuperBody Nutrition - EZ Whey
* Swanson Health Products (SwansonVitamins.com) -
Premium Whey Protein Powder
Integrated Supplements (IntegratedSupplements.com) - 100% Natural CFM Whey
Note: I am not affiliated with the companies and
supplement lines, mentioned above. These are purely the companies I've found to
offer the most genuine CFM whey. You may want to do your search.
ABOUT THE AUTOR
Ivan Nikolov, an accomplished natural bodybuilder shares a
wealth of information on Natural
Bodybuilding and Sports
Nutrition on his website www.IvanNikolov.com.
Start using his comprehensive Free Nutrition
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