Whey, the liquid portion of the milk that separates from the curds during the cheese making process, contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Whey protein is highly bioavailable, a complete protein, quickly absorbed into the body and an excellent source of essential and branch-chain amino acids. Whey protein concentrate is formed when the liquid portion passes through a filter and substance left behind is dried.
Whey protein concentrate contains protein, but also milk fat and lactose (milk sugar). The percentage of protein depends on how concentrated it is. In addition, whey concentrates contain various phospholipids, various bioactive lipids (conjugated linoleic acid) and significant levels of immunoglobulins and lactoferrin. The combination of cysteine, lactoferrin and immunoglobulins helps the body manufacture glutathione, one of the most powerful antioxidants. Because it contains lactose, whey protein concentrate should not be ingested by people with a lactose intolerance.
For athletes, whey protein may provide the following benefits:
- Augment muscle protein synthesis and help preserve muscles
- Aid in muscle building
- Support fat burning
- Enhance the immune system
- Improve insulin sensitivity
- Decrease appetite