Is it because celebrity trainers like Jillian Michaels, trainer from “The Biggest Loser”, are selling their own branded protein powders claiming they offer the key to effortless weight loss? (Jillian Michaels’ own brand is sold at Wal-Mart, for example).
While whey protein is a great supplement for dieters (frankly, it’s a great supplement for just about anyone) for a couple of very good reasons…
It enhances satiety. Or in other words, it helps you stay full for longer, reducing your food intake. If you eat less, you consume less calories, and if you consume less calories, you’re well on your way to weight loss.
Clinical studies show whey protein supplements “increase fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects.” More fat loss? More lean tissue? What’s not to like?
Increasing the protein portion of your daily caloric intake is smart weight loss strategy. As this study concludes…
“… higher protein diets have quite consistently been shown to result in greater weight loss, greater fat loss, and preservation of lean mass as compared with ‘lower’ protein diets.”
When you consume a carbohydrate rich diet, you end up with elevated insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels contribute to fat storage, and are often a precursor to metabolic syndrome. Protein does not affect insulin levels in the same manner and therefore may be consumed in greater amounts—a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded…
“Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets favorably affect body mass and composition independent of energy intake, which in part supports the proposed metabolic advantage of these diets.”
Additional Whey Protein Benefits
In addition, whey protein supplementation increases the production of glutathione, the body’s “master antioxidant”. Deficiencies of glutathione have been associated with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, various cancers, suppressed immune response, asthma, HIV, chronic fatigue and more. (if you’re interested, I recently wrote an article about whey protein and its possible role in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, largely due to this characteristic).
Of course, athletes have known about whey protein for ages; it’s a high quality complete protein, rich in amino acids and a fantastic source of the branched chain amino acids critical for muscle growth.
Other benefits of whey protein? It’s extremely bioavailable, mixes up quickly and easily without clumps and tastes good (flavors are subject to personal taste, of course). It much nicer than casein or soy proteins which don’t mix up easily and taste “chalky.”
If you’re a dieter considering supplementing with a whey protein powder shake for weight loss, let’s consider some commonly asked questions…
1. What brand of whey protein should I take? Is there a “best” whey protein? Despite what you may hear from the retailers of such products, there really isn’t a “best” product or brand.
(There are differences between whey protein isolates, concentrates, and ion-exchanged isolates however—read the complete whey protein review if you want more information on what they are).
What you don’t want to do is pay an inflated price because some celebrity is endorsing it, or it contains a few milligrams of supporting ingredients touted to offer additional benefits. And there’s no point in buying it in tiny canister – you can find 2 – 5+ lbs. containers online (check out our recommended retailers in the sidebar!)
2. I don’t want to “bulk up.” Am I OK to use a protein supplement? Yes. Whey protein is simply a food source. It will not make you “bulk up” any more than eating chicken breasts, tuna, or egg whites will, despite the fact it is commonly used by body builders.
3. Do I need a low carb protein? A good-quality protein supplement is already low carb. A product like Allmax’s Isoflex (which I use) contains less than a gram of carbohydrate per serving. If the product you are investigating contains more than a handful of carbs, it very likely not a true protein supplement. It may be a “meal replacement” (these contain a blend of protein, carbs, and fats) or it contains filler ingredients to alter the taste/texture of the product. Either way, skip this product.
4. I don’t want to eat too much protein, as I’ve heard consuming too much is dangerous. Is that true? No, it’s not. In fact, it’s been debunked so many times it’s not even funny. Unless you have a kidney disease of some sort, elevating your protein content is not dangerous. This study stated it best…
“…we find no significant evidence for a detrimental effect of high protein intakes on kidney function in healthy persons after centuries of a high protein Western diet.”
5. When should I consume my shakes? Is there a best time? You may consume a whey protein powder shake any time. However, they are specifically ideal as an “on the go” breakfast and for post-workout nutrition. Consuming breakfast has a positive effect on appetite and energy intake over the course of the day, so you do not want to miss it!
6. How do I prepare my shakes? Mix one or two scoops of your favorite protein powder with ice cubes, low fat milk and some frozen fruit in a blender (the Magic Bullet works well for this; it comes with cups that you can use to make your shake in, pop the top on, and take it to work). If you don’t have time for this, throw a scoop of whey protein into a shaker cup with 8-12 ounces of low fat milk, give it a shake and you’re ready to go!
To sum it all up, there is good reason why adding a whey protein powder shake into your daily regimen is a smart strategy for weight loss.
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