For those looking to strengthen existing muscle or build some new bulk, we might have found the “whey” to go. Whey, the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained (appetizing, right?), contains a plethora of proteins, minerals, and other good stuff to help the body grow. Whey protein is extracted from this milk-alicious mix and then processed and normally sold in powder form. Think of it less as a milk byproduct and more as a versatile supplement (that just so happens to be a milk byproduct).

Getting Blown A-Whey — What It Is

Sold as a popular nutritional supplement and widely used by athletes of all shapes and sizes, whey protein has been shown to help increase muscle size and strength when used in conjunction with resistance trainingWhey protein and creatine as nutritional supplements.. Sundell, J., Hulmi, J., Rossi, J. TYKS, Raision sairaala, sisãtautien klinikka, PL 43, 21201 Raisio. Duodecem. 2011; 127(7):700-5. At the root of these benefits is whey’s ability to enhance exercise recovery, providing the nutrients to rebuild muscles while decreasing sorenessEffect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein.Hulmi, JJ., Lockwood, CM., Stout, JR. Department of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2010 Jun 17; 7:51. And with a heavy complement of amino acids (including fatigue-fighting branched chain amino acids), whey’s protein boost promotes both healthy immune function and the market for shaker bottlesEmerging health properties of whey proteins and their clinical implications. Krissansen, GW. Department of Molecular Medicine & Pathology, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2007 Dec; 26(6):713S-23S. Not looking to bulk up? Whey protein can also aid in weight loss by signaling the digestive system to reduce feelings of hunger. But before buying a whole truckload, it’s important to note whey is not suitable as a complete meal replacement, as most forms don’t contain a full range of vital nutrients beyond protein.

Going All the Whey — What It Means to You

Although whey protein may sound like a perfect path to becoming a lean, mean fitness machine, use with a touch of moderation. Excessive protein intake can contribute to osteoporosis, kidney problems, and weight gain when unused protein is stored as fat. Though such complications are generally pretty rare, it’s helpful to view whey protein as a helpful supplement in the battle to rebuild muscles, not a substitute for balanced nutrition.

While whey protein is used as an additive throughout the food industry, most powders sold to fitness enthusiasts are actually whey protein isolate, a purer form of milk protein with most of the fat, sugar, and lactose removed. The powders come in a variety of (sometimes delicious, sometimes cardboard-emulating) flavors, and remember to always read the back label: some brands mix the protein with other (possibly unwanted) compounds to boost its muscle-building effects, and many companies are unfortunately (and perhaps intentionally) misleading about the content of their supplements. Depending on the need, shopping simple might be the best bet. For those looking to use this muscle-friendly phenom, there are some delicious ways to incorporate whey protein into a diet. Try some in a shake after a workout or in waffles (nom nom nom) for breakfast!