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Whey protein is one of our most popular products and is a well-known supplement in the health and fitness industry, heralded as having almost magical powers. This is our in-depth lowdown where we tell you everything we think you need to know about it. Protein supplements, in many different forms like whey protein isolate, can play a big part in success when planning an advanced workout schedule, as an essential part of a weight loss programme, or as part of a healthier lifestyle. The benefits are wide and varied, the most important ones we go into below. 

What is whey protein and how is it made?

Whey protein is a concentrated protein supplement, usually a by-product of cheese-making from cow’s milk. The rise of temperature during the pasteurisation process splits the milk into curds and liquid whey. Whey is essentially the watery part of the milk. The curds are then strained and form the basis of cheese. In its original liquid state, whey is a mixture made up mostly of water with some protein, fat, carbohydrates and lactose. Whey then undergoes a multi-step filtering and drying process to be turned into protein powder — the carbs and lactose and fats are filtered out as much as possible leaving it to be mostly or all protein. Whey naturally contains vitamins and minerals as well as all essential amino acids. This makes it a ‘complete protein’ and the ideal supplement to support muscle recovery.  

Who should take whey protein as a supplement?

Athletes and those following many different training and fitness regimes will often take whey protein to aid performance and recovery. For endurance training, this study on athletes found that combining protein with a source of carbs during and after exercise improved performance and recovery and reduced soreness, compared to a placebo. Getting enough protein used to be a case of literally loading up on chicken filets or other meats throughout the day, but now the industry has created many different ways to easily up intake usually through food bars, shakes, and powders.

What are the benefits of whey protein?

Whey protein is incredibly good for you with several body boosting powers. It has been found over many years that this protein supplement is great for training and workouts: it aids muscle growth and maintenance, it is thought to help improve fitness goals, and can also be incorporated into a weight or fat loss programme— as long as you get the proper advice. It has become popular as a supplement because protein is one of the main things needed to build and maintain muscles. Another study performed on athletes found that an insufficient amount of protein consumption causes a negative nitrogen balance, indicating protein catabolism and a slow recovery, which over time may lead to muscle wasting, injuries and illness (Phillips et al. 2011 & 2016), something you really don’t want after working hard for those muscles. 

Other recent studies discovered that whey protein could improve blood pressure (Sipola et al. 2002), have a positive impact on blood fats (Pals et al. 2010) and help reduce inflammation (Zhou et al. 2015). It has additionally been shown that muscles begin to naturally deteriorate after the age of 30 and it can be beneficial for older people to take a protein supplement regularly, combined with working out, resistance and strength training.

What is whey concentrate and why is it one the most popular protein forms? 

Whey concentrate is one of the most sold food supplements in the Netherlands, and across Europe, and is the most used form of whey. If you like a whey concentrate product, we sell Just Whey which comes in many tasty flavours or a neutral version. If you like something even higher quality then try Whey Perfection which contains up to 78% protein and is made up of 50% whey concentrate and 50% whey protein isolate. It still contains a few carbohydrates (including lactose) and fats which makes the taste a big plus. Prefer to drink a shake with only natural ingredients — also a 50/50 concentrate and isolate blend? Take a look at Whey Perfection Special Series. It is flavoured with real fruit, vanilla or Belgian chocolate and is sweetened with the natural sweetener stevia.

What is whey isolate?

Whey isolate is a purer form of protein than whey concentrate and so is often seen as being a better quality product. Because of the extensive filtering process, it is more expensive than concentrate. It usually consists of more than 90% protein. It is faster absorbed and it contains less carbohydrates (including lactose) and fats. It is a good whey supplement to use during weight loss or cutting / dry training. A commonly sold whey isolate product is Whey Isolate XP.

Which should I use, whey isolate or whey protein?

Whey isolate is actually a purer form of whey protein, so this is something you could take as part of your training regime. Whey concentrate is another form of whey protein; we go into this above.

Is whey protein safe to use?

Whey protein is incredibly safe to use, after all protein is essential in the body anyway for building and maintaining muscle, bone, strength and numerous bodily functions. Whey Protein has been subject to numerous clinical and scientific testing with no adverse side effects and is used by professional athletes worldwide from footballers to swimmers. However, if you are lactose intolerant or vegan – whey protein wouldn’t be suitable for you, as whey is a by-product of milk. Luckily there are many other forms out there, not made from milk or dairy products. Also, if you’re only mildly lactose intolerant you could try a whey isolate product as it contains less lactose, and see how you handle it.

Is it true that too much protein, like whey protein, is bad for you?

Whey protein is generally safe to use and does not cause any adverse effects. Extra will just be secreted out your body. The usual recommendation is to take up to +/- 2g per kg of bodyweight a day when training hard — some protein comes naturally from food sources anyway.

Can I use whey protein in shakes and other food supplements?

At the moment one of the most popular ways of taking whey protein is through pre-prepared protein shakes. Adding it yourself to a pre or post workout drink usually mixed in as a powder can also be effective. Workouts, proteins and shakes are often mentioned in the same breath and there are many different shakes available. It’s always good to check the list of ingredients for any shakes and drinks (or food products) you choose.

Will whey protein make me fat?

Protein itself won’t make you fat. However, it does contain natural calories and weight loss is all about the caloric value of food. We call this a calorie budget - if the number of calories eaten is more than the amount burned during the day and night then you can gain weight, independent of the source of your calories (e.g. protein/fat/carbs).

When is the best time to take whey protein for maximum effect? 

There is a lot of confusion over the best time to take whey protein in any form. Many take it pre or post workout, some take it at breakfast, and some prefer to take it before bed. It actually comes down to your fitness or weight loss goal. We go into this a bit more fully below.

Taking whey protein when working out 

If working out, many take it 15-60 minutes after their workout in the anabolic window. This is the time your body is working hard to regain some of the energy lost during the workout itself and it is thought that by providing carbs and protein it aids muscle fibre recovery. Anabolism is when small molecules grow into bigger, complex molecules. These molecules form into new cells and tissues, including muscle. It’s the opposite of catabolism, or when larger molecules break down. The International Society of Sports Nutrition has recently published that the anabolic window is a lot longer than first thought, and you can take supplements up to 2 hours after a workout. For most people, the time taken is less important than the training that goes with it, and just taking it at some point during their workout schedule. 

Taking whey protein for weight or fat loss - is this a thing?

According to some research, whey protein intake can be upped when a goal is fat loss. That’s because it can help curb appetite and can make people feel fuller longer. Protein can do this by reducing levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, all while increasing levels of appetite-reducing hormones like glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), peptide YY (PYY) and cholecystokinin (CCK).

What does taking whey protein before bed do? 

The elderly, as well as people looking to build muscle, increase strength and improve exercise performance and recovery, can benefit from taking protein before bed. It is a myth that taking it before bed causes people to put on weight, although taking it in a form mixed with many other things like sugar and carbs can. In a review of recent studies, scientists concluded that taking protein before bed is an effective strategy to promote muscle building and help adaption to exercise. This is because protein consumed before bed is effectively digested and absorbed, increasing the availability of protein to muscles for recovery throughout the night. Scientists from that study recommended consuming 40 grams of protein prior to bed to maximise muscle growth and adaptation through the night.

Is lactose taken out of whey products?

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. It falls under carbohydrates and is also called milk sugar. People with a lactose intolerance cannot tolerate lactose (well). Food and supplements low in lactose are recommended to prevent complaints such as stomach pain, cramps, nausea and flatulence. The processing of whey supplements can reduce or even eliminate the presence of lactose, so it just depends on the supplement and your level of sensitivity. If in doubt, you should always take a vegan supplement instead

Is whey hydrolysate the purest form of whey protein?

Hydrolysis refers to the process that cuts up protein molecules into smaller pieces, resulting in whey hydrolysate. This does not remove any fat or carbohydrates. However, whey isolate is often used in hydrolysis. Like mentioned above, whey isolate is the purest form of whey since it underwent an elaborate filtering process, removing fats and carbs (including lactose). Therefore, whey hydrolysate is a pure form of whey protein. We do stock some well-known whey hydrolysate products.


What happens if you drink protein shakes or take protein without working out?

Like with many supplements, taking them doesn’t override having to put in the training work. If you take whey protein supplements and don’t work out, you still aid muscle growth and repair, but not at the level as doing the right training regime to go with it. There can be a few things to watch out for when choosing your whey protein which we list below. Not all whey protein is made equal, so choose the product that goes with your goals, then get training.

  1. Sugar content – some powders up the sugar to aid the taste. Most well-known brands won’t do this. Also watch out for hidden sugar called - glucose, dextrose, fructose, etc.
  2. Purity – Make sure the whey protein used is a pure natural blend.
  3. Carbohydrates – Unless taking it as a breakfast alternative before a workout, a high carbohydrate content is probably not what you’re looking for.
  4. Other ingredients – there are often hidden unwanted ingredients in lesser known or cheaper brands.
  5.  Allergens – If you have an allergy it should be clearly stated on the packet, you can always check with our customer service team and double check the ingredients list.
  6.  Leucine levels – If gaining muscle mass is your plan then double check the leucine levels, it’ll really help.
  7.  Make sure the protein you buy fits your health or fitness goal, there are many different forms detailed in this article.

If you’re still questioning whether to take it, we’d say that if you do sports, train, or workout regularly, then yes, it makes sense to consume whey protein. It will help you develop and maintain lean muscle mass. No matter what age you are, what sport you play, or what your physique aim is, whey protein powder can help you achieve your fitness goals and help you to achieve whatever shape or level you’re aiming for.