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Everything you need to know about Whey Protein
Everything you need to know about Whey Protein

Everything you need to know about Whey Protein

  • Reading time: 10 min.

As an athlete, you probably know that protein is very important for helping your body recover after a hard workout. When you're at the gym, you might hear terms like “protein high”, while at the supermarket you might come across all kinds of products labelled as “high-protein”. Protein shakes are also hugely popular these days among beginner and highly experienced strength athletes. Whey Protein is an extremely popular (online) purchase, but what exactly is Whey Protein? At XXL Nutrition, we're here to tell you all about Whey Protein and the importance of protein in general!

What is Whey Protein?

Millions of athletes worldwide drink their trusted protein shake every day. This is for good reason, because whey protein is one of the best sources of protein out there! Whey not only contains an extremely high amount of protein, but the protein it does contain has one of the highest biological values you can find. Combine this with a low amount of carbohydrates and fats and you have yourself a recipe for success.

You're probably wondering what exactly is Whey Protein. Whey, also known as whey protein, is a by-product created during the production of cheese. During this process, a liquid called whey is produced, which is then filtered, heated and dried to create protein powder, perfect for mixing with water or milk to drink any time of day to quickly get more protein, as these are so important for muscle recovery!

How is whey protein powder made?

As we've just seen, Whey Protein is a by-product during the making of cheese. But how is cow's milk turned into a protein powder with good nutritional value and a delicious taste? Below we will give you a quick rundown of how whey protein powder is made.

How is my whey made?

  • Cows are milked
  • Their milk gets pasteurised
  • The milk is taken to the cheese factory
  • The whey is dried and filtered
  • Flavour is added
  • Quality control
  • Packing and shipping

As you probably know, whey is a dairy product that comes from cow's milk. Cows are milked and they produce raw, unpasteurized milk that is not suitable for consumption.

Raw cow's milk can contain bacteria that can be harmful to the human body, which is why milk needs to be pasteurised first. Pasteurisation consists of heating raw milk to a temperature between 72 and 138 °C for a short period of time, then cooling the milk back down 4 °C. This process ensures that any harmful bacteria are destroyed, while the nutrients contained in the milk remain unharmed.

The pasteurised milk is taken in large quantities to the next stage of the process: the cheese factory! Here the milk is treated with enzymes that curdle the milk, separating it into curds and whey. Milk itself by itself consists of about 20% whey protein, while the other 80% consists of casein. When milk is curdled a liquid is left behind, which is the whey that will be eventually turned into your protein powder.

The separated whey is then moved to another area of the factory, where it is dried and filtered through natural processes. First, the whey is treated with both hot and warm air. This extracts the liquid and leaves us with whey powder. This powder is then filtered using cold cross-flow micro-filtration, which keeps the proportion of protein as high as possible, while leaving most of the carbohydrates and fat.

The filtered protein powder is flavoured as part of Step 5. To do this, the flavourless powder is put into a large blender and sweeteners and flavourings are added to it at high speed. This ensures that the ingredients are properly mixed and that the taste of your shake is always consistent!

Whey is all about quality; after all, what you want is the highest protein content possible with as little fat and carbohydrates. At the same time, however, it is also important for every bite to taste good. This is why our products go through a strict control process, both in terms of quality and taste.

The whey is ready, its quality has been approved, which means there's only one more step left: packing it into our iconic XXL Nutrition jars! This is an automated process that uses extremely accurate weighing, so you know you will always get exactly the amount you ordered.

Whey concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate

You've just read about how Whey Protein is made. During this process, whey protein is filtered in order to obtain the highest protein percentage possible. As a result, Whey Protein is rich in protein and contains relatively few fats and sugars, meaning that as an athlete you will mainly eat protein and your total calorie content will be low.

But did you know that there are different degrees of filtering that whey protein can go through? A distinction can be made between Whey Concentrate, Whey Isolate and Whey Hydrolysate.

Whey Concentrate is the most widely sold form and can have a protein percentage of up to 80%. the rest consisting of fat, carbohydrates and fibre. Many athletes choose whey concentrate because it is cheaper than isolate or hydrolisate. It also tastes better as it contains slightly more sugar and fat.

Whey Isolate is an extra purified type of whey that contains more protein than concentrate (about 85%). Due to this extra purification, it contains less lactose, fibre and fat, but it does affect the product's taste slightly.

Finally we have Whey Hydrolysate. Hydrolysate is an isolate protein that has undergone an additional level of filtration, which makes it even purer. Furthermore, hydrolysate can be pre-digested into so-called di- and tripeptides. This ensures extremely fast absorption before and after your workout, as well as making it more suitable for people who are lactose intolerant. However, this extra purification process makes hydrolysate whey more expensive and makes it taste worse than whey concentrate.

Why use Whey protein powder?

Whey Protein is rich in protein while containing almost no fat or sugar. This ensures that a whey protein shake provides plenty of protein while also being low in calories. This is the main reason for using Whey Protein as it is an ideal way to get all the proteins you need quickly.

Your body uses the amino acids from protein for all kinds of processes in the body. For athletes and bodybuilders, protein has the important job of repairing muscles. Because whey protein is quickly absorbed into the body, your muscles immediately get the amino acids they need to boost their recovery after an intense workout.

Another benefit of Whey Protein powder is that it makes you feel full. Because you are satiated longer and your blood sugar remains at a more stable level, you have less need for food (i.e. sugars). As a result, a whey protein shake makes it easier for you to stick to a healthy eating schedule. This is perfect for when you're dry training, of course!

Whey Protein is a good choice if we look at it from a finance point of view, and a protein shake is in fact more economical than a high-protein meal. Protein-rich foods such as chicken, beef or salmon can be quite expensive. A scoop of protein powder can give you just as much protein for a much lower price.

With Whey Protein you get an easy way to consume high-quality protein while also saving both time and money!

What are proteins good for?

You can't even step foot in a gym without someone mentioning the importance of protein. But what exactly are proteins so good for? Protein contains amino acids, compounds that can be considered the building blocks of proteins. Our bodies use these amino acids to regulate a variety of important physiological processes. We've explained these in detail in this blog about the building blocks of proteins.

What is important to know for now is that protein plays an important role in the recovery and building of muscle mass. During exercise, tiny tears are made to your muscle fibres. To repair these, your body needs amino acids from proteins. Without these amino acids, your body is unable to recover properly, making it harder to build strength and muscle mass.

How much Whey do you need per day?

Think of Whey Protein as a supplement to your normal daily diet. But how much whey do you need per day? There is no singular answer to this question; This is because it depends on your personal physical situation and the amount of protein you get from your diet.

Strength athletes and bodybuilders need about 1.6 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, so it's important that you first calculate for yourself how much protein you need on a daily basis. For example, if you weigh 85 kilograms, then you need to get about 136 - 170 grams of protein per day. You then need to work out how much protein you already get from your normal diet. You may already have a food or calorie diary that can tell you this. If not, you can check the nutritional values of all the foods and track the total amount of protein that you consume.

Once you know how much protein you get from your normal diet, you can easily see how much Whey Protein is needed per day to meet your protein needs. The label of our protein shakes tells you exactly how much protein you are getting per shake, meaning this value can be easily added to your calorie diary as part of your protein intake! We discuss this in more detail In our blog on how much protein you need per day.

What foods are high in protein?

Wondering which foods contain a lot of protein? Protein is found in both animal and plant products. Below we've compiled a list of high-protein foods and supplements:

  • Meat, chicken and fish
  • Dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, Skyr and yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Cereals
  • Tofu
  • Protein powder
  • Protein bars and snacks
  • Protein-rich foods

Is Whey Protein vegan?

More and more people are choosing to follow a vegan diet. This means that they no longer use or consume animal products, thereby excluding protein-rich foods such as chicken, steak, eggs and dairy products. When it comes to protein powder however, this gets a little more confusing, as it's hard to tell if it's an animal-based product or not. What about whey protein? Is Whey Protein suitable for vegans?

As we have explained in this blog, whey is a by-product of the cheese-making process. This means whey protein is a dairy product, made from cow's milk, and this makes it not vegan! Keep this in mind when you want to get enough protein as a vegan athlete, as whey protein powder will no longer be an option.

Does this mean that it is difficult to get enough protein as a vegan? Not necessarily, as there are plenty of plant-based protein sources available out there and nowadays the range and availability of plant-based protein powder has also grown considerably.

Plant-based protein powder

Are you vegan or vegetarian and still want an easy way to get extra protein? Then you can choose a plant-based protein powder. This protein powder contains only plant-based protein, which makes it suitable for people following a vegan diet.

Plant-based protein shakes often contain protein from rice, hemp, pea or soy. Good vegan protein shakes offer a mix of different plant-based protein sources. This ensures they provide all essential amino acids and that they have a high biological value, meaning that the amino acid profile matches well with what the human body needs.

Whey Protein in a high-protein diet

Because protein plays an important role in weight loss, many people use protein shakes to try to loss some weight. Whey Protein is therefore a popular supplement to a high-protein diet. The high-protein diet, also known as the protein diet, is a diet where the main focus is on eating enough protein. This involves significantly reducing the amount of carbohydrates and saturated fats you eat.

A protein shake is a perfect supplement for this, as protein shakes contain a lot of protein and almost no sugars or fats. Are you curious about what the high-protein diet can do for you and whether it is suitable for both losing weight and building muscle? Then check out our blog on the high-protein diet.

Should I drink a protein shake before or after working out?

Do you want to use Whey Protein as a supplement to a healthy diet? Then you probably want to know when the best time to take your protein shake is. At the gym you might have heard that you should take a protein shake straight after your workout, as apparently this will cause your to body to immediately start repairing your muscles.

But is this really the case or is this another case of “bro-science”? We've consulted different scientific studies to find out the importance of how you time your protein shake. The results may surprise you, so keep reading to find out whether you should take your protein shake before or after working out!

Does eating Whey Protein have any disadvantages?

When you first start using supplements, you may be a little cautious, or, if you're a slightly younger strength athlete, your parents might get a little concerned about a cupboard full of jars and powders. But is consuming Whey Protein bad for you?

Feel free to read our blog about the disadvantages of Whey Protein, and get your parents to take a look at it as well. Whey Protein is in fact completely safe for your body. At the end of the day, it's just a protein that has been processed into a powder. However, whey protein does contain lactose, which can cause problems for people who are lactose intolerant. If you are lactose intolerant, thankfully you can now also choose a lactose-free protein shake or a vegan protein powder as an easy way to get some extra protein.

Is whey really necessary?

Whey Protein can certainly be a valuable addition to your diet. If you do (heavy) strength training several times a week, your body will need more protein, but does this mean that you really need whey to meet these extra needs?

No, protein shakes are not necessary to meet your daily protein needs, nor are they miracle drugs that magically give you added muscle growth (unfortunately). The key thing is that you get enough protein throughout the day, which can be achieved with normal food and without consuming whey protein or shakes.

So what makes Whey Protein shakes so popular? It's mainly because whey protein makes it easier to meet your daily protein needs, and because protein powder is cheaper compared to protein sources such as beef and salmon. Whey protein should therefore be seen as a good supplement to healthy high-protein meals, but never as a substitute for them.

Buy Best Whey Protein

Are you looking for the best Whey Protein? At XXL Nutrition, you will always find the highest quality protein shakes. All of our protein shakes are made from the finest ingredients and are formulated with care to create delicious protein shakes that are perfectly soluble in water or milk. Check out our complete range of protein shakes here and find the perfect protein shake for you!

Marvin Grouw
This blog is written by:
Marvin Grouw
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