What is Whey Protein and Do I Need to Take It?

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From children to adults to seniors, everyone considers milk a wholesome food. For decades, all ages have consumed milk because of its numerous benefits. Until the 1940s, almost all cattle in the country ate grass. Everything changed as the demand for dairy products and beef increased. 

To improve beef and dairy production efficiency, most producers feed cows a grain-based diet. They were also treated with hormones to fatten them quickly, a strategy by the producers, which was neither ideal for the cow nor for the consumers who took whey supplements.


Let’s first understand what whey is!

You may have heard several fitness enthusiasts talk about the benefits of whey. Several brands are available in the market with attractive packaging that may induce you to buy and use. But unless you understand the content, you will not reap the benefits.

Cow’s milk contains two primary proteins, namely whey and casein. There are five types of casein, and it constitutes about 80% of the milk, while whey constitutes around 20%.

When you separate the solids from the liquids in milk, the liquid part is the whey. It is spray dried into a powder and filtered. The result is a whey protein isolate or whey concentrate.


What is whey protein?

There are nine essential amino acids vital for healthy living. These amino acids are sourced from eggs, meat, high-protein vegetables, and cheese.

These sources contain different amino acid profiles and hence consuming each of them becomes necessary. Unlike non-essential amino acids that your body can generate, you cannot build essential amino acids independently. You must consume them in your diet or as a supplement to build or maintain muscle, repair tissues, make hormones and neurotransmitters etc.

Whey protein is derived when casein is separated from the milk. Whey also occurs as a by-product in cheese making. Did you know that whey protein contains all nine amino acids, the building blocks of life? It is considered a complete protein low in lactose content and includes the branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine that are not found in plant-based protein.

Whey is also rich in other proteins that include lactoferrin, beta-lactoglobulin, and alpha-lactalbumin. These proteins are antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal and can help improve immune function and reduce inflammation.


What is grass-fed whey protein?

grass fed cows

To meet the rising demand for dairy products and beef, producers adopted conventional farming practices where cows are kept in small spaces with zero access to fresh air or grazing. 

The system was designed to produce the highest amounts of milk and beef in the shortest span possible. The cow’s diet includes hay, grains, corn stalks, cottonseed meal, preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics.

Consequently, proteins such as whey and casein obtained from milk also come from hormone-induced cows’ milk under conventional farming practices.

Considering the ill effects, several manufacturers started to offer milk from grass-fed cows because of its numerous health benefits. Whey protein derived from grass-fed cows came to be known as grass-fed whey.


Types of grass-fed whey protein

There are three types of grass-fed whey protein as given below.

  • The raw grass-fed whey protein is the hardest to digest and is derived from unprocessed raw products.
  • The regular or concentrate grass-fed whey protein contains some amount of carbohydrates and fats. It is 100% grass-fed whey, not so hard to digest, and is derived by mild processing.
  • The isolate grass-fed whey protein requires lots of processing to produce. It is very easily digestible but involves a lot of processing. It is pure grass-fed whey isolated from concentrate or raw grass-fed whey.

The three types of grass-fed whey are far more superior compared to whey protein derived from conventional farming.


What are the benefits of grass-fed whey protein?

whey protein shake

Popularly known as a muscle-building supplement, whey protein is vital to increase muscle strength, power, muscle protein synthesis or growth, and tissue recovery. It is a popular supplement in the fitness and weightlifting communities. But wait! It is not just for bulking up. It offers several other benefits, including the following.

  • Grass-fed whey protein provides a higher amount of vitamin E, CLA, beta carotene, and iron.
  • Whey improves heart health by preventing heart diseases as it contains higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA and MUFA).
  • Prevents various diseases such as PCOD as it is not made from milk from hormone-induced cows.
  • It is made from non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms). It is rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormones) and rBST (Recombinant Bovine Somatotropins) free.
  • The enzymes and taste are intact as the milk is cold-pressed or pasteurized at low temperatures. So the whey produced also contains enzymes and tastes better.
  • Compared to regular whey, the amount of nutrition such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and antioxidants is more grass-fed whey.
  • As it is cold-pressed, the loss of nutrients is less than conventional whey.

Grass-fed whey protein is used in the same way as conventional whey protein, but you can reap more benefits from grass-fed variants. Have some grass-fed whey protein post-workout to reap the supplement’s benefits.

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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