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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Whey Protein for Sports & Fitness
Some athletes say that whey protein serves as another protein choice in their diets.
Protein is necessary for rebuilding tissue—this is especially important for bodybuilders. All types of protein provide the body with amino acids. From an athletic point of view, whey is just another type of protein. Choosing whey protein over other types of protein simply adds variety to the protein choices available.
Whey is a common ingredient in many meal replacements, which are designed to provide a large amount of nutrients in a minimal amount of calories.
Animal studies suggest that whey protein can increase gains in lean body mass resulting from exercise.1 A controlled trial found that six weeks of strength training while taking 1.2 grams of whey protein per 2.2 of pounds body weight per day resulted in greater gains in lean body mass, but improved only one out of four strength tests.2 Another controlled study found that people taking 20 grams per day of whey protein for three months performed better on a test of short-term intense cycling exercise than people taking a similar amount of milk protein (casein).3 However, a double-blind trial found that men taking 1.5 grams per 2.2 lbs of body weight per day of predigested whey protein for 12 weeks along with a strength-training exercise program gained only half as much lean body mass and had significantly smaller increases in strength compared with men using a similar amount of predigested casein along with strength training.4 A controlled study of HIV-infected women found that adding whey protein to strength-training exercise was no more effective than exercise alone for increasing strength or improving body composition.5
People who are allergic to dairy products could react to whey protein and should, therefore, avoid it.6 As with protein in general, long-term, excessive intake may be associated with deteriorating kidney function and possibly osteoporosis. However, neither kidney nor bone problems have been directly associated with consumption of whey protein, and the other dietary sources of protein typically contribute more protein to the diet than does whey protein. The possibility that certain proteins in milk may contribute to the development of diabetes in children is controversial. But since whey proteins include some of the same milk proteins, people who are avoiding milk because of concerns about the risk of diabetes should not consume whey protein either.
During the process of making milk into cheese, whey protein is separated from the milk. This whey protein is then incorporated into ice cream, bread, canned soup, infant formulas, and other food products. Supplements containing whey protein are also available.
Last Review: 05-15-2015
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