Whey protein: Health benefits and side effects

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What is whey protein?

Whey is a by-product of cheesemaking. Cheese is made from milk, and milk is made from casein and whey protein. So, during the process of cheesemaking, whey gets separated from milk and becomes the watery portion. To best describe it, have you ever opened a yogurt and had that weird cloudy water at the top of your yogurt? Well, that is whey protein.

Once whey protein is separated from milk, it goes through a variety of processes to become the powder form that you can consume as protein shakes. It doesn’t really taste very well on it’s own therefore, some flavoring is normally added.

There are 3 types of whey

  1. Whey protein concentrate is less refined since it is formed by centrifuging milk to separate the fat content from protein. Once this is done, an acid is added to separate casein from the protein. Once the whey is separated it becomes concentrated and that’s how you get your whey protein concentrate. 
  2. Whey protein isolate  is even more concentrated, it is created from whey protein concentrate being filtered to remove a great amount of variables like lactose, extra fat and carbohydrates. Whey Protein Isolate tends to be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates and fats compared to whey protein concentrate. This product may be easier for some people to digest due to the lack of lactose.
  3. Whey protein hydrolyzate is formed through enzymatic hydrolysis, this is a process which breaks down protein into smaller amino acid chains known as peptides which enables people to digest the protein easier.

All these whey protein types are just more filtered for easier digestion but the original whey protein has the best profile of all variables thanks to its amino acid profile. 

Which protein is the best?

Whey protein is found to be superior to every other protein sources due to its high bioavailability, high digestibility and amino acid profile, and most importantly high leucine content. Leucine is a branched chain amino acid that’s responsible for triggering protein synthesis in muscle (MPS). This is the most important factor in protein sources as it spares muscle, and encourages muscle building and recovery.

Other protein sources like animal sources, rice, soy, pea protein contain an average of 8% of leucine compared to whey containing 11% to 13%. (Norton and Baker, 2019). One of our personal favourites for lean muscle is by PhD simply because it has a high % of Leucine and the perfect amount of creatine. The perfect blend! You can purchase it here on Amazon. However,, if your goal is to build muscle, check this Hard Gainer protein shake by MyProtein.

Whey protein benefits.

Limits muscle loss during caloric deficit.

Whey protein has a strong content of leucine which will protect the muscle from break down if you decide to diet once you have made your muscle gains. There was a study done by Frestedt et al (2008) that looked into the effects of whey supplement on people consuming in a caloric deficit. If you are unfamiliar what a caloric deficit is, a caloric deficit refers to consuming less calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight. However, going back to the study, it reported a 6.1% reduction in fat mass yet the muscles remained the same.

Increases protein and amino acid intake

Protein and amino acids are the building blocks for our body. As we mentioned before, whey protein has the biggest content of Leucine out of all other protein sources. There are studies that show Leucine to be the dominating amino acid in promoting muscle growth.  A 2006 study found that Leucine activates mTOR protein which stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS). This means that Leucine signals for your body to build and recover muscles.

Improves athletic performance

There was a study done by Andersen (2005) which looked into the effects of whey protein on muscle growth and strength. The study found that people who consumed whey protein were able to exert more power in squat jumps and also, muscle growth was greater than the group who didn’t consume whey protein.

Another study done by West et al (2017) found that consuming whey can increase your metabolism, muscle growth as well as muscle recovery. The participants were also able to perform harder training sessions.  So, although they were working harder, they were able to minimise muscle breakdown, increase hypertrophy (muscle growth) and muscle recovery.

Reduces appetite and increases thermogenesis

A study by Paddon-Jones (2008) found that consuming a high protein diet helps keeping you fuller for longer. Therefore, you should be able to eat less calories in a day thus, creating a bigger caloric deficit.

Thermogenesis means the creation of heat within the body, so you can burn more calories. A study done by Veldhorst et al (2009) found that consuming a high protein diet created thermogenesis after meals and increased the calorie burning by 42%. Other studies also show significant effects of protein on thermogenesis so the early studies show promising results.

May reduce the risk of allergic diseases

A meta-analysis (study of studies) done by Szajewska and Horvath (2017) found that children who consumed whey were at a lower risk of developing an allergic disease as well as eczema.

Another study by Cabana (2017) found that infants who consumed a hydrolysed milk formula were at a lower risk of developing allergic disease and eczema. Therefore, it is fair to say that the results are very promising but more studies are required to make a conclusion on this benefit.

Side effects of whey protein

It is safe as long as you follow the instructions on the packaging. Excess amounts of protein may  cause the following:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Reduced appetite

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Interactions with medicine

We would not advise taking whey protein if you take Levodopa or any antibiotics because it can reduce your body’s ability to absorb these. Please consult a doctor or GP before taking whey protein if you are unsure.


Consuming approximately 20-30g will increase muscle protein synthesis in most people. It is not recommended more than 40g as your body is limited to consuming 40g of protein per couple of hours. 

Our recommendation

With all the information provided in this article, we wanted to point you in the right direction and help you choose your protein shake. It is important to choose one that is tailored to your goal, if you are looking to lose weight and get lean, we would suggest a lean whey protein but if your goal is to gain muscle, we would suggest weight gainer protein shake.

PhD Diet Whey
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MyProtein Hard Gainer Extreme
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In conclusion, whey protein is the best source of protein for muscle building thanks to the content of Leucine amino acid and other nutrients. Whey seems to provide the perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats and amino acids that fully support and encourage muscle building. In addition to whey being your best friend in your fitness journey, it also provides other health benefits like preventing the development of certain allergic diseases and eczema.

Overall, we certainly recommend whey protein. However,if you have enjoyed today’s post then make sure to sign up to our newsletter below to download 20 FREE nutrition and exercise tips as well as 6 fat loss recipes. Sign up below!


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Andersen, L., Tufekovic, G., Zebis, M., Crameri, R., Verlaan, G., Kjaer, M., Suetta, c., Magnusson, P. and Aagaard, P. (2005). The effect of resistance training combined with timed ingestion of protein on muscle fiber size and muscle strength.

Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15690307 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

Cabana, M. (2017). The Role of Hydrolysed Formula in Allergy Prevention. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28521324 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

Frestedt, J., Zenk, J., Kuskowski, M., Ward, L. and Bastian, E. (2008). A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2289832/ [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

Kimball, S. and Jefferson, L. (2006). Signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms through which branched-chain amino acids mediate translational control of protein synthesis.

Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16365087 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

Norton, L. and Baker, P. (2019). Fat loss forever. 1st ed

Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R., Wolfe, R., Astrup, A. and Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18469287 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

Szajewska, H. and Horvath, A. (2017). A partially hydrolysed 100% whey formula and the risk of eczema and any allergy: an updated meta-analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28781718 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

West, D., Abou Sawan, S., Mazzulla, M., Williamson, E. and Moore, D. (2017). Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28696380 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

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