With the age of fitness all over us, protein-rich products are more popular than ever. But how are waste products of cheese used to produce them? And are they as healthy as many believe them to be?
You have (most likely) seen a bottle or two of protein powder in your local gym. Protein powder as a diet supplement has become rather popular, but you might know very little about it. How is it made and how can you use it in your own training? In the following, you will learn more about protein powder and its production, as well as the nutritional value of using it.
The definition of protein powder
Simply put, protein powder is a dehydrated form of protein that can be mixed with a liquid (water, milk, etc.) for drinking. It’s not only bodybuilders who use it – most athletes use it in some form today. It can aid buildup of muscle mass by an increase in caloric intake and provide the building blocks for muscle tissue.
The difference between whey and casein
Whey proteins and caseinates are the most common forms and both derive from cow milk. Milk protein contains 70-80% casein and 20-30% whey protein, but whey protein is generally the most used type in high-protein supplements.
The protein content in whey protein concentrate can vary from 0-25% to as much as 89%, whereas it can reach 95% protein in whey protein isolate. The products are analyzed to determine the content, before market release, by a so-called protein characterization. This analysis ensures that the product is safe for intake and lives up to its promises on its label.
How protein powder is produced
During cheese-making, the milk is first pasteurized (or mildly heat treated) to minimize the risk of pathogens in the final cheese. Afterwards, it is cooled and bacteria cultures, needed for fermentation, are added. The coagulating curd is then formed by adding an enzyme termed rennet.
Along with formation of firm curd that is used to produce cheese, liquid whey is drained from the mixtureat this point. From here on, the whey undergoes ultrafiltration and microfiltration to remove all content besides protein, thus becoming whey protein concentrate or isolate. Both types of whey can then be spray-dried to remove remaining water and form whey protein power.
How you can use it to boost your training
But since whey is already in milk, why shouldn’t you just drink milk instead of (more) expensive whey protein products? It so happens that whey proteins are faster digested than proteins in milk. Therefore, they are particularly suited to boost a workout, either before or after, to replace snacks between meals (and thus chocolate bars) or even substitute a genuine meal occasionally.
It is however worth mentioning that whey protein is probably not going to boost your muscle growth, if you already have a balanced diet with plenty of fish, meat, eggs and/or dairy products.