Protein is an essential daily nutrient. It plays many important roles, such as repairing the body’s cells, building and repairing muscles, helping build and maintain bones and helping control many metabolic processes.
Whey protein, a high-quality protein naturally found in milk, has been shown to provide many benefits, including enhancing muscles in active adults. Today, many foods and beverages on store shelves contain whey protein. These products are a convenient and delicious way to enjoy the positive effects of whey protein for active and aging adults.
Maximize your workout
Whey protein helps you get the most out of your workout by speeding muscle recovery after exercise and helping build and maintain lean muscle.1
Proteins are not created equal
- Research indicates that consuming whey protein following resistance exercise can result in an increase in muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults.
- As little as 10 grams of whey protein was shown to stimulate muscle synthesis following exercise in a study with resistance-trained young men.2 Learn more here.
- A combination of protein intake and resistance exercise is more effective at increasing lean muscle than either of the two alone or than the combination of resistance training and drinking a carb-only beverage. Learn more here.
- Whey protein helps to nourish and rejuvenate muscles after a workout.1
- Muscle breaks down when you exercise. Consuming whey protein after exercise can help speed the rebuilding of muscle by increasing muscle synthesis.4
Whey protein is a high-quality dairy protein that, when consumed as part of your diet, has all of the amino acids necessary to build and maintain lean muscle.
Where to get whey protein
- Whey protein increases muscle protein synthesis and is one of the best sources of naturally occurring branched-chain amino acids, including leucine, which is important for skeletal muscle. Leucine cannot be manufactured by the body; it must be obtained through foods. Leucine plays significant roles in the maintenance and repair of muscles and in preventing the breakdown of muscle protein during exercise.
- One scoop of whey protein isolate contains more leucine than an egg, a scoop of soy protein isolate, and 4 oz. of steak or chicken.5
Whey protein is easy to find in beverages and foods that are widely available, including: Mix1® Protein Shakes, Wheaties FUEL® Energy Bars/Bites, Starbucks® Vivanno®, Bolthouse Farms Perfectly Protein® and Accelerade™. See a list of new products containing whey protein at www.WheyForYou.com.
For active adults, athletes and aging
For weight management
- Whey protein can be incorporated into the diet to improve body composition, strength and power without large gains in body mass. Research suggests that whey protein helps improve results from resistance exercise training by increasing protein synthesis and leading to greater gains in lean muscle.6
- Ingestion of 20 grams of whey protein increases protein synthesis when consumed before or after resistance exercise.7
- Many adults experience an age-related loss of muscle mass, function and strength, a condition referred to as sarcopenia. Whey protein and resistance exercise can play an important role in combating sarcopenia.
Whey protein, as part of a higher-protein diet, helps maintain muscle and increase satiety (a feeling of fullness), making it an important part of weight management programs.
- High-protein diets, including foods with whey protein, can help people who are trying to eat less.
- Diets higher in protein have been shown to increase satiety.8
- Calorie for calorie, whey protein can help you feel fuller than carbohydrates or fat.8
- High-protein diets, including foods with whey protein, can increase the loss of body weight and fat.
- Following a 16-week diet-and-exercise program, subjects consuming a high-protein diet lost more total body weight and a greater percentage of body fat, and tended to lose less lean muscle mass.9
- A 23-week study on overweight and obese adults showed a greater loss of weight and fat and greater decrease in waist circumference in participants ingesting a whey protein supplemented beverage vs. a soy or carbohydrate-only beverage.10
For more information about incorporating whey protein into your diet, visit www.WheyForYou.com.
™Accelerade is a trademark of Pacific Health Laboratories.
®Mix1 is a registered trademark of Tri-Us, LLC.
®Perfectly Protein is a registered trademark of Bolthouse Farms.
®™Starbucks and Vivanno are trademarks of Starbucks Coffee Company.
®Wheaties FUEL is a registered trademark of General Mills IP Holdings II, LLC.
1Whey Protein & Muscle Benefits Messaging, March 24, 2009.
2Tang JE. Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men. Appl J Physiol, Nutr and Metab. 2007;32(6):1132-1138.
3Whey Protein & Muscle Benefits Messaging, March 24, 2009.
4Romano-Ely BC, Todd MK, Saunders MJ, St. Laurent T. Effect of an Isocaloric Carbohydrate-Protein-Antioxidant Drink on Cycling Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(9):1608-1616.
5USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20 and GNC WPI 28.
6The Health Benefits of Whey Protein, June 2008, National Dairy Council (presentation by M. Pikosky).
7Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Aarsland AA, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exericse. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007; 292(1):E71-E76.
8Protein, Satiety & Health, March 22, 2009.
9Layman DK., Evans E, Baum JI, Seyler J, Erickson DJ, Boileau RA. Dietary Protein and Exercise Have Additive Effects on Body Composition during Weight Loss in Adult Women. J Nutr. 2005;135(18):1903-1910.
10Baer DJ, Stote KS, Paul DR, Harris GK, Rumpler WV, Clevidence BA. Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2011;141(8):1489-1494.
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The Proof Is in the Science
Whey Protein Research Trainers Need to Know
A vast amount of published research shows that whey protein, when used as part of a higher-protein, reduced-calorie diet, may improve the quality of an individual's weight loss by helping them lose more fat, improve body composition, decrease desire for unhealthy snacks and/or maintain more lean muscle.
Check out the links below for a sample of the science behind these statements:
A study shows that as little as 10 grams of whey protein combined with 21 grams of carbohydrates can stimulate a rise in muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise in trained young men.
Tang JE, Manolakos JJ, Kujbida GW, Lysecki PJ, Moore DR, Phillips SM.
Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007;32:1132-8.
When exercising, muscles can get damaged and sore. Research shows that consuming a whey protein carbohydrate beverage with or without antioxidants during and/or after exercise may reduce muscle damage and soreness as well as improve muscle function or performance the next day.
Roman-Ely BC, Todd MK, Saunders MJ, Laurent TS. Effect of an isocaloric carbohydrate-protein-antioxidant drink on cycling performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(9):1608-1616.
Researchers conclude that muscle damage incurred during training was lessened with post-exercise carbohydrate-protein-antioxidant ingestion, which could lead to performance improvements in high-mileage runners.
Luden ND, Saunders MJ, Todd MK. Postexercise Carbohydrate-Protein-Antioxidant Ingestion Decreases Plasma Creatine Kinase and Muscle Soreness. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007;17(1):109-123.
A 23-week study on 73 overweight and obese adults showed a greater loss of weight and fat and decrease in waist circumference in participants ingesting a whey protein supplemented beverage vs. a soy or carbohydrate-only beverage.
Baer DJ, Stote KS, Paul DR, Harris GK, Rumpler WV, Clevidence BA. Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2011;141(8):1489-1494.
A 12-week study of 46 women ages 28 to 80 years old showed that consuming a higher-protein diet and accomplishing weight loss before becoming obese helps women preserve lean body mass. Use of a higher-protein diet also improves perceptions of satiety during energy restriction.
Leidy HJ, Cornell NS, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. Higher protein intake preserves lean mass and satiety with weight loss in pre-obese and obese women. Obesity. 2007;15(2):421-9.
A study of 148 adults older than 44 years old showed that a 20 percent increase in daily protein intake reduced body weight regain following weight loss.
Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Nieuwenhuizen A, Tomé D, Soenen S, Westerterp KR. Dietary Protein, Weight Loss, and Weight Maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:21-41.
A 4-month study of women ages 40 to 56 years old demonstrated that a diet with higher protein and reduced carbohydrates combined with exercise additively improved body composition during weight loss.
Layman DK, Evans E, Baum JI, Seyler J, Erickson DJ, Boileau RA.
Dietary Protein and Exercise Have Additive Effects on Body Composition During Weight Loss in Adult Women. J Nutr. 2005;135(8):1903-1910.
Check out additional resources below for more information on how whey protein can benefit your active clients:
Q: What is whey protein?
A: Whey protein is a high-quality protein found naturally in dairy foods. Whey protein is added to many foods to boost their protein content. It also is available as a powder.
Q: How does whey protein work with my exercise program to provide muscle benefits?
A: The effects of consuming protein and participating in resistance exercise on muscle protein synthesis and ultimately muscle hypertrophy and increased muscle mass are synergistic 1-5 (See references below.) Muscle protein undergoes constant change and remodeling as a result of synthesis of new proteins and breakdown of existing proteins.
- Muscle hypertrophy occurs when protein synthesis is greater than breakdown (i.e., positive net protein balance); muscle wasting occurs when protein synthesis is less than breakdown (i.e., negative net protein balance). These processes are influenced by external factors such as protein intake and physical activity.
- After protein is consumed, the rate of muscle protein synthesis increases and is faster than the rate of protein breakdown, resulting in a positive net protein balance. In the absence of protein intake (i.e., fasting state), protein synthesis decreases and protein breakdown increases, resulting in a negative protein balance or net catabolic state. This negative protein balance continues until adequate dietary protein is available to stimulate protein synthesis.
- Resistance exercise (e.g., weight lifting) increases muscle protein synthesis, but because protein breakdown is greater than protein synthesis, skeletal muscle remains in negative protein balance, albeit less negative, until dietary protein or amino acids are consumed.
How does whey protein compare to other sources of protein to help clients meet their personal fitness goals?
1. Phillips SM, Hartman JW, Wilkinson SB. Dietary protein to support anabolism with resistance exercise in young men. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005;24(2):134S-139S.
2. Wolfe, RR. Skeletal muscle protein metabolism and resistance exercise. J Nutr. 2006;136(2):525S-528S.
3. Biolo G, Tipton KD, Klein S, Wolfe RR. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol. 1997;273(1 Pt 1):E122-E129.
4. Tipton KD, Wolfe RR. Protein and amino acids for athletes. J Sports Sci. 2004;22(1):65-79.
5. Tipton KD, Ferrando AA, Phillips SM, Doyle DJr, Wolfe RR. Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999;276(4 Pt 1):E628-E634.
A: According to recent research conducted on overweight study participants, whey protein supplementation resulted in more weight and fat loss and a greater decrease in waist circumference, when compared with soy supplementation or carbohydrates only. See more information on that research and a link to that study here.
Q: Who benefits from whey protein?
A: Many people can benefit from adding whey protein to their diet:
Q: Where do I find whey protein?
- Healthy, active adults: Adults who partake in regular resistance exercise may find that whey protein helps to improve body composition by helping increase the rate at which the body makes lean muscle.
- Those trying to manage their weight: Diets high in protein have been shown to help people feel fuller longer, which may reduce the desire to snack or overeat, leading to decreased caloric intake. Higher-protein, reduced-calorie diets also have been shown to improve the quality of weight loss by increasing the loss of body fat and/or reducing the loss of lean muscle.
- An aging population: Starting at about the age of 40, muscle mass begins to decline, but including whey protein at each meal can be an easy and healthy way to minimize this loss.
A: Whey protein can be found in ready-to-drink beverages, powders, drink mixes, bars, yogurt and other foods. Products with whey protein as a major source of protein will list “whey protein isolate,” “whey protein concentrate” or “hydrolyzed whey protein” near the beginning of the ingredients list. Whey protein powder is very convenient and can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, soup or other common foods. See WheyForYou.com for a list of products containing whey protein.
Q: Should I be concerned about getting too much protein?
A: The Institute of Medicine recommends that 10 percent to 35 percent of the total calories we consume each day should come from protein. Although most people meet minimum protein requirements at the low end of this recommended range, many more would benefit from a moderately higher protein intake. Active individuals and older adults in particular should be encouraged to follow the MyPyramid recommendations (20 percent to 25 percent of calories from protein), and older adults are recommended to include a moderate amount of high-quality protein with each meal. (Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(1):86-90.)
Q: How much protein do I need?
- Research shows that not only do adults need to, at the very least, meet the RDA for protein, it is suggested that they space out their protein intake throughout the day for maximum benefit.
- Consuming 25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein at each meal is important to maximize muscle protein synthesis in older adults, which may help prevent or slow muscle loss associated with aging. (Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(1):86-90.)
- Consuming 20 grams of whey protein following resistance exercise can result in an increase in muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. (Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Wolf SE, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(12):2073-2081.)
A: Currently, the minimum Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein in adults to prevent deficiency is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (~55 g/d for a 150-pound individual) (Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes. Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2002.)
- However, those who regularly engage in endurance exercise or strength training may benefit from up to twice this amount (Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109(3):509-527.)
- It is important to note that some researchers are recommending a revaluation of the RDA for older adults, as recent evidence suggests that slightly higher protein intakes may help maintain muscle as well as bone mass in this population group. (Gaffney-Stomberg, Inisogna KL, Rodriguez NR, Kerstetter JR. Increasing dietary protein requirements in elderly people for optimal muscle and bone health. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009;57(6):1073-1079.)
- Note that the established AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) for protein is 10 percent to 35 percent of energy for adults. (Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes. Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2005.)
- Research has shown that between 15 percent and 38 percent of adult men and between 27 percent and 41 percent of adult women have dietary protein intakes below the current RDA of 0.8 gm/kg/day. (Paddon-Jones D, Short KR, Campbell WW, Volpi E, Wolfe RR. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1562S-1566S.)
- Individual recommended daily protein intake can be determined with body weight. Visit the National Dairy Council website for help assessing individual protein intake needs: http://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/education_materials/whey_protein/
Dietitians, trainers and other nutrition-focused professionals can access additional information on the National Dairy Council website:
How much protein does an adult need?
Protein needs vary depending upon age, weight, gender, activity level and overall health.
Does timing of my protein intake matter?
- The Institute of Medicine recommends a range from 10 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories.1 For example, if you eat 2,000 calories every day, this would be between 50 grams to 175 grams of protein per day.
- The minimum amount of protein that you need to prevent protein deficiency is called the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and is based on body weight. Someone who weighs 150 pounds should eat at least 55 grams of protein per day to prevent protein deficiency.
- Sample menus for a 2,000-calorie diet developed using MyPyramid guidelines showed an average daily amount of protein of 100 grams (20 percent of calories).
Research shows that timing and spacing of protein intake does matter and some experts suggest spacing protein intake throughout the day can optimize how the body uses protein. Many adults tend to load up on their protein intake late in the day with dinner, but this research shows protein intake is best utilized by the body when evenly spaced out with each meal.
When should I have whey protein — before or after a workout?
- In older adults, 25 to 30 grams of protein appears sufficient to maximally stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis (Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(1):86-90).
- Emerging research suggests that spacing protein intakes higher than the RDA may help preserve muscles in older adults to maintain their active lifestyle. (Paddon-Jones D, Short KR, Campbell WW, Volpi E, Wolfe RR. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1562S-1566S.)
Ideally, protein should be consumed just before or within an hour after exercise or intense competition.
How can I get additional protein in my diet to fuel my active lifestyle?
A series of recipes incorporating whey protein can be found at www.WheyForYou.com. Products already containing whey protein can be found on grocery and convenience store shelves throughout the country. Snack and nutrition bars, smoothies, oatmeal, flavored protein water and more can provide a quick way for you to get your protein on the go.
How can I figure out my Body Mass Index (BMI)?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an easy-to-use BMI calculator on its website at: www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html.
Where can I find additional tips on maintaining a healthy weight?
The Centers for Disease Control has a great deal of valuable information on healthy weight. This can be found here: www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/prevention/index.html.
Where can I find nutrient content information on the foods I eat?
The Nutrient Data Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service at the USDA, provides a valuable calculator on its website to determine nutrient content of specific foods. Check it out here: www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.
Consumers can access additional information on the National Dairy Council website here:
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