As we age, our bodies’ production of essential amino acids tapers off. We need these proteins for optimal energy production, immune function, and muscle building and maintenance. We are especially depleted of essential amino acids during times of physical stress, such as intense exercise, injury, or illness. Whey protein is a high quality protein that can help restore these amino acids, increase the body’s production of the “Master Antioxidant,” and support muscle synthesis and restoration. Adding a scoop of whey protein powder to your smoothie is an easy way to reap the benefits of whey.
The Glutathione Connection
Whey is a by-product of cheese making. It’s a complete protein made up of all 9 essential amino acids. Because it is low in lactose, it’s a possible dairy option for people who are lactose intolerant. One major benefit of adding whey protein to your diet is that it boosts the body’s production of glutathione, or the Master Antioxidant.
Glutathione levels decrease dramatically as we age, and a lack of glutathione can lead to:
- Premature aging
- Heart disease
- Macular degeneration
- Chronic fatigue
- and many other diseases
It’s called the Master Antioxidant because it enhances the antioxidant activity of other nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin E, and CoQ10. Studies have shown that glutathione also helps clear toxins from cells and shields against environmental pollutants such as radiation and chemicals. Unfortunately, supplementation with glutathione is tricky because it’s not easily absorbed by the body…and many glutathione supplements can actually inhibit the body’s own production of glutathione!
Whey protein is a natural way to increase your body’s glutathione levels because it’s packed with the critical amino acids needed for glutathione production (cysteine, glycine and glutamate). It’s also made up of glutamylcysteine, which is a cysteine residue that easily transforms into glutathione. Vital co-factors (immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and alpha Lactalbumin) work synergistically to help increase glutathione activity.
Whey Protein Essentials
Yes, our bodies need protein, but probably not as much as you think. The average American gets 3 to 5 times more protein than experts recommend…but it’s mainly low quality protein that can promote weight gain, high blood pressure, and even cancer cell development!
In contrast, whey protein is high quality protein that can help…
- Lower blood pressure if you are obese or have hypertension
- Normalize blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes
- Reduce inflammation if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBD)
- Promote weight loss by satisfying hunger, maintaining muscle mass, and stimulating metabolism
Whey protein is particularly effective at helping the body build and maintain muscle, especially after resistance training. Research has shown that there’s an optimal window for protein intake after a workout, around 1 hour. The muscles take in whey protein in as little as 10 minutes!
Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise published a study that suggests that the amino acids in whey protein, particularly leucine, activate cellular mechanisms that trigger muscle synthesis, enhance thyroid function, and keep testosterone levels from lowering after exercise. Research also shows that whey protein can keep the body’s metabolism revved up as much as 24 hours post workout if consumed before strength training.
Experts vary as to what is better: whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate. Whey protein isolate contains more grams of protein, but whey protein concentrate contains more co-factors to increase glutathione production. We’ll leave it to your discretion, but recommend choosing a whey protein powder that is certified organic, naturally sweetened, minimally processed, derived from grass-fed cows, and free of chemicals, hormones, and sugars.