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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Whey Protein

What is whey protein? Why do we need it?

Whey protein is a dairy-based source of amino acids. During the process of making milk into cheese, whey protein is separated from the milk, then incorporated back into a variety of food products.

Whether as an ingredient in foods or as a standalone supplement, whey protein provides several branched-chain amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are needed for the maintenance of muscle tissue.

How much whey protein should I take?

Because whey protein is not classified as an essential nutrient, no recommended daily allowances or requirements have been established. The amino acids found in whey protein are also available from other sources; therefore, a deficiency of the amino acids found in whey protein is unlikely to occur.

What are some good sources of whey protein? What forms are available?

Whey protein is found as an ingredient in many foods, including ice cream, bread, canned soups and infant formulas. Many health food markets and specialty stores also sell whey protein supplements, either in capsule or powdered form.

What can happen if I don't get enough whey protein? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

Since the amino acids contained in whey protein are also found in other food sources, a deficiency is not likely to occur. As with any form of protein, excessive long-term use may be associated with kidney dysfunction and possibly osteoporosis.

People who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products should avoid whey protein. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with whey protein.

References

  • Kelly GS. Sports nutrition: a review of selected nutritional supplements for bodybuilders and strength athletes. Alt Med Rev 1997;2:184-201.
  • Consumer poll. Bodybuilding’s top supplements. ProSource, 1997, section 4-B, 19-25.
  • Bounnous G, Gold P. The biological activity of undenatured dietary whey proteins: role of glutathione. Clin Invest Med 1991:14 (4):296-309.
  • Horten BS. Commercial utilization of minor milk components in the health and food industries. J Dairy Set 1995:78(11) 2584-9.
  • Hatterman W. Whey protein for athletes. Disch Muchwirtsch 1986; 37(33): 1010-1012.

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