Whey More Than You Thoughtby Brian St. Pierre
Meatheads know it works. Scientists know it works. And that's why whey protein is the veteran celebrity of the sports nutrition world.
While other supplements come and go, whey is rock-solid in its place as a nutritional powerhouse that can help you build muscle, burn fat, and generally be more awesome. But the benefits of whey go far beyond its ability to stimulate protein synthesis—in fact, it could be one of the best things you could ever put in your body.
Since whey contains somewhere around 60 native enzymes, vitamin-binding proteins, metal-binding proteins and other beneficial biological components, it's been found to have antioxidant, anti-tumor, antihypertensive, and antibacterial properties and has been used successfully in clinical studies in the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
Bioactive Fractions — Cool Name, Even Cooler Results
Whey also has many immune-boosting properties including cysteine, branched-chain amino acids, as well as several bioactive fractions: beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin,
glycomacropeptides, immunoglobulins, and lactoferrin. Each component has unique immune-boosting benefits and other health-promoting properties.
Interestingly, BIOTEST actually discovered what they believe is the best extraction approach for pulling out the highest concentrations of these bioactive fractions and shared that information with the research team of one of their protein suppliers. Together, they began developing the new approach to manufacturing whey protein.
The end result is a whey extract that contains the richest concentration of the most beneficial, bioactive fractions. And this exact formula is in the new GROW!™ Bioactive Whey protein
Let's take a look at these nutritional powerhouses in depth and shed more light on why whey protein is just so damn good for you.
Cysteine is a relatively rare amino acid found in great abundance in whey protein. Cysteine is used by the body to make glutathione, arguably the body's most important antioxidant. Due to its thiol group, cysteine is actually responsible for the biological activity of glutathione, and due to its rarity in the food supply is the limiting factor in glutathione production. (That means it's tough to get enough of it without supplementing.)
Glutathione has many immune boosting functions:
• Neutralizes free radicals and peroxides
• Maintains blood levels of antioxidants vitamins C and E
• Helps the liver and white blood cells in the detoxification of foreign compounds and carcinogens
• Is essential for the immune system to be maximized
• Plays a key role in a plethora of metabolic and biological processes like DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, prostaglandin synthesis and more.
Unfortunately, oral glutathione is not well absorbed, so the best method to ensure adequate glutathione production is to ensure adequate cysteine intake. Since whey is one of the richest known sources of cysteine, it fits the bill rather nicely.
It's also important to note that the cysteine content of whey is thought to be the major factor in the majority of the health benefits it confers.
BCAAs, which you know, offer a lot of immune boosting benefits. While glutamine has gotten a lot of press for its effects on the immune system, BCAAs seem to be even more effective as they spare and protect the body's glutamine stores better than dietary glutamine itself.
The body utilizes glutamine stores as energy for the immune system. Intense exercise has been shown to deplete glutamine levels by up to 50 percent, which can significantly suppress the immune system. Fortunately dietary BCAA intake can protect and maintain the body's stores of glutamine, which reduces the risk of illness after intense training.
The immune system uses BCAAs mainly for protein synthesis, which is incredibly important since mounting an immune response requires the creation of new cells, immunoglobulins, cytokines and more.
If BCAAs are not sufficient, then synthesis of these immune system materials is decreased and the immune system is suppressed.
Luckily, whey protein is the richest known source of BCAAs, as they make up roughly 25 percent of the protein in whey, just adding to whey's growing list of awesomeness.
This is the most abundant protein in whey, making up about 50 percent of its mass. It contains a significant portion of the aforementioned branched-chain amino acids. Beta-lactoglobulin also binds to fat-soluble vitamins, possibly increasing their availability and absorption.
There is also some research that has shown beta-lactoglobulin to be an ACE inhibitor, potentially decreasing blood pressure. All good things.
While this is the second largest protein in cow's whey, making up about 25 percent, alpha-lactalbumin is actually the main protein component of human breast milk. It may possess anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity, as well as being able to chelate heavy metals. It's high in tryptophan, which can improve sleep regulation and mood when stressed.
Like beta-lactoglobulin, it contains a significant amount of branched-chain amino acids, as well glutathione-boosting cysteine. Alpha-lactalbumin also seems to independently modulate the immune system, improving its response.
Glycomacropeptides make up a small portion of whey protein, and are a byproduct of cheese manufacturing. Though a small portion of whey, it is an excellent source of sialic acid, which may improve digestive health and can be used by friendly bacteria, such as bifidobacteria, to aid in growth. Sialic acid also has anti-infective capabilities, especially in the small intestine, and is important for proper GI health and function.
Glycomacropeptides have been shown to stimulate the release of cholecystokin (CCK), which increases satiety and decreases energy intake. Unfortunately glycomacropeptides may be lost when whey is ion-exchanged, so make sure to choose a high quality product.
Immunoglobulins make up another 10-15 percent of cow's whey and provide powerful protection against pathogens. They can bind to and protect the body from bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
They are the primary protein found in human colostrums and they also modulate the immune system, improving your defenses.
While lactoferrin only makes up about 1-2 percent of the whey protein, it's the most studied component and may provide the greatest benefits to overall health. Lactoferrin is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, anti-cancer, and anti-allergenic. Quite the impressive list, huh?
Lactoferrin is an innate component of our immune system, and like glycomacropeptides helps the growth of good bacteria like bifidobacterium. It also may possess anti-inflammatory benefits.
Whey Good For You
To reap the greatest health benefits from whey, your best bet is to choose an undenatured product, such as GROW!™ Bioactive Whey protein. Since normal whey production uses high heat and acid-based or ion-exchange methods for extraction and purification, the fragile biological fractions that confer so many benefits are literally destroyed.
Undenatured products, however, use gentler methods to ensure greater concentrations of these health-promoting components, thus providing you with the greatest product to build muscle and optimize health.
If you can't tell by now, whey has many powerful components that contribute to its health and immune-boosting properties, and take it far beyond just a simple muscle-building protein. (Although it's pretty darn good at that too!)
Millions of meatheads and scientists agree: whey is just too good to pass up.
Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He received his degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, and he is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the same institution. He was the Nutrition Consultant and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA for 3 years.
With his passion for seeing his clients succeed, Brian is able to use his knowledge, experience, and energy to create highly effective training and nutrition programs for clients of any age and background. For more information you can check out his website.
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