Protein Powders Explained

Contrary to popular belief, Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is not going to make you ‘bulk up’ and athleticism is not a prerequisite for its consumption.  Having said this, not all protein powders are created equal. Firstly, let’s understand what it is….

The curd in dairy is used for making cheese, while the liquid component, known as whey, is separated from the curd and is put through a micro-filter to remove the lactose and casein – two things many of us don’t digest well – and you’re left with the valuable amino acids and calcium. Whey Protein is possesses the highest biological value of all known Foods (the biological value of well-manufactured Whey Protein is 110-159 on a scale of 1-100). It has many immune-boosting properties, it can slow the process of sarcopenia (muscle loss as we age – see the chart below), lower triglycerides (fats in our blood), boost glutathione levels (powerful antioxidant), boost calcium intake, help to control our weight and keep us feeling fuller for longer.

Far from trying to turn you into a muscle-bound Schwarzenegger, most of us are struggling to maintain ‘normal’ muscle density. They say a picture tells a thousand words, so I’ll let the images below do the talking! This is a very real and common issue. It is not inevitable, but it will happen if we don’t feed our bodies what they need and we neglect regular exercise…


This muscle wasting is thought to underline a number of serious age-related health issues. While it is ‘common’, it is not ‘normal’. Slowing or reversing this process is dependent on exercise and nutrition-based strategies designed to build a reservoir of muscle mass as early as possible. Even very elderly individuals are still able to respond to both resistance training and the anabolic signals provided by protein ingestion, provided the right balance of amino acids (such as those found in WPI) are present.

Here is a list of some of the potential health benefits of WPI:

  • Whey Protein (20 – 30 grams per day) may counteract the ability of Hydrazines and some other carcinogens to initiate Cancer and may cause the regression of tumors in some Cancer patients:
    • Whey Protein may enhance the effectiveness of Radiation Therapy in Cancer patients and may reduce the toxic effects of Radiation Therapy to normal cells (by depleting the Glutathione content of Cancer cells and increasing the Glutathione content of normal cells).
    • Whey Protein (30 grams per day) may inhibit the growth of Breast Cancer cells and may cause the regression of some existing Breast Cancer tumours and may reduce the risk of Colon Cancer.
  • Whey Protein may increase the body’s resistance to some types of Detrimental Bacteria including Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella and Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Whey Protein may lower Blood Pressure in Hypertension patients (due to the Alpha-Lactalbumin and Beta-Lactoglobulin content of Whey Protein inhibiting Angiotenson Converting Enzyme (ACE)).
  • Whey Protein is speculated to help prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) (due to its ability to increase the Glutathione content of the Retina).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent Cataracts (by supplying the Lens with additional Cysteine, the precursor of Glutathione, itself the precursor for Glutathione Peroxidase).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent various types of Bacterial & Viral Diseases:
    • Whey Protein is a valuable treatment for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – it significantly improves the function of the Immune System in AIDS patients.
    • Whey Protein may enhance the ability of Antibodies to counteract the Antigens that cause Bacterial & Viral Diseases.
  • Whey Protein may enhance the function of the Immune System:
    • Whey Protein may counteract the suppression of the Immune System encountered by people who engage in excessive Exercise.
    •  Whey Protein may enhance the function of Neutrophils.
  • Whey Protein possesses Antioxidant properties (due to the Lactoferrin and Lactoperoxidase content of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein inhibits the ability of Iron to generate Free Radicals (due to the Lactoferrin and Lactoperoxidase content of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein may improve Athletic Performance.
  • Whey Protein may lower total Cholesterol levels.
  • Whey Protein may counteract the suppression of the Immune System encountered by people who engage in excessive Exercise.
  • Whey Protein may be useful for the treatment of Hemochromatosis (due to its ability to reduce the excessive generation of Free Radicals caused by the increased Iron levels of Hemochromatosis patients).
  • Whey Protein (30 – 60 grams per day) may increase levels of Glutathione in the Liver in Hepatitis C patients (Hepatitis C patients have severe depletion of Liver Glutathione levels).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent/treat Insulin Resistance and stablise blood sugar levels
  • Whey Protein may reduce weight in persons afflicted with Obesity by stimulating the production/release of Cholecystokinin (CCK), the Hormone responsible for satiety (i.e. reduced Appetite).
  • Whey Protein may increase Stamina.  In a 2010 study, WPI decreased blood tryglycerides by up to 27%. In another 2011 study, overweight women given 60g of WPI per day for 4 weeks decreased their fasting triglycerides by 15%.
  • Whey Protein may facilitate Muscle Growth by increasing the body’s retention of Nitrogen – Nitrogen retention from Whey Protein is believed to be sixteen times that of free Amino Acids and twice that of whole food.
  • Whey Protein may increase Muscle Strength.
  • Whey Protein may retard the Muscular Atrophy (Sarcopenia) that occurs as a consequence of the Aging Process.
  • Whey Protein may activate Osteoblasts (and may thereby facilitate the formation of Bones).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent and treat Osteoporosis (by activating Osteoblasts).
  • Whey Protein may help to alleviate Pain (the Tetrapeptides content of Whey Protein have Opioid-like activity).
  • Whey Protein may counteract some of the negative effects associated with excessive Stress (specifically the Tryptophan content of the Alpha-Lactalbumin component of Whey Protein may increase the Brain’s Serotonin levels – excessive Stress often causes Serotonin depletion and this depletion of Serotonin is one of the causes of the cognitive impairment experienced during Stress).
  • Whey Protein may inhibit bronchoconstriction in (exercise-induced) Asthma patients.
  • Whey Protein may alleviate (atopic) Eczema.
  • Whey Protein may reduce the severity of Psoriasis (possibly due to the Transforming Growth Factor-beta2 content of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein may accelerate the healing of Wounds.
  • Whey Protein may stimulate the endogenous production of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1).
  • Whey Protein may facilitate the production of Serotonin (due to the Tryptophan content of the Alpha-Lactalbumin component of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein (when correctly processed) may cause sustained increases in the body’s Glutathione levels (due to the high content of Cysteine (a precursor of Glutathione) in Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein may lower elevated Cortisol levels.
  • Whey Protein may inhibit increases in Ghrelin (hunger hormone).
  • Whey Protein contains approximately 24% Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs, i.e. Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine) – this is the highest concentration of BCAAs of any single Protein.

Making sure you’re getting the real deal…

“Proprietary Blends” of Whey Proteins

The term “proprietary blend” is not listed on these brands of Whey Protein as an indication of any special benefits attributable to them.  The term usually disguises the requirement to reveal the percentage of each of the various Proteins in the product.  Some “proprietary blends” contain as little as 10% of “desirable” Proteins.  They usually contain many non-Protein additives and the Whey Protein constituent is “denatured”.

Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)

Whey Protein Concentrate contains 25% – 89% Protein (most commonly it contains 80% Protein) which is less than the percentage of Protein present in Whey Protein Isolate.  The remaining non-Protein constituents are mainly Carbohydrates (predominantly Lactose) and Lipids.

Whey Protein Concentrate contains several micronutrients not present in Whey Protein Isolate including: IGF-1, TGFb-1 and TGFb-2. Whey Protein Concentrate contains higher levels of the following nutrients compared with Whey Protein Isolate: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), Immunoglobulins and Lactoferrin.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

Whey Protein Isolates contain 90% – 96% Protein.

Ion Exchange Whey Protein Isolate

The manufacturing process for Ion Exchange Whey Protein involves charging the Whey Protein solution with static electricity which charges the ions in the Whey Protein.  The Protein can then be separated from the Lactose and Water. It contains almost zero fats and little, if any, of the micronutrients present in Whey Protein Concentrate.

Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate (as used in Donna Aston’s PURE Protein Supreme)

The manufacturing process for Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate involves the physical separation of the Proteins in Whey from Whey’s other constituents by the use of a microscopic filter. Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate is likely to be superior to Ion Exchange Whey Protein Isolate on the basis that key micronutrients (subfractions) are not lost during the manufacturing process. Our PURE Protein Supreme is, as the name suggests, pure – without additives. It is fructose and gluten-free and contains only a trace of lactose, making it suitable for those with various food intolerances.

Donna Aston - Author

Nutritionist Certified Fitness Trainer Author of five best-selling health & fitness books Emotional Intelligence Certified Practitioner (Genos) Managing Director: Aston & Co. Pty. Ltd. Fitness advisor: Prevention Australia Magazine & SEN radio CIRQ acrobatic master trainer

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