For teenagers who are interested in a healthier lifestyle, and perhaps even athletics, there is no better time to start. Beginning a regular exercise regime at a young age will have numerous benefits later in life. However, there is a deep rabbit hole of supplements, vitamins, and powders that claim to increase your physical gains, stamina, and performance.
Perhaps the most well-known is good old whey protein, often taken in a milkshake. But of course, this is not the only way! You can sprinkle whey protein on top of your food, or even put protein powder in coffee.
But how do you know which whey protein brand is actually good for you? And are there any things about whey protein to be aware of? In this article, we will be covering those points and more, for you to be better informed.
The benefits of whey protein
When starting out a workout diet that includes whey protein, many people wonder how much protein they need to take. Some may believe that more protein equals more gains, but this is not true. The recommended intake is around 25 - 50 grams per day, after your workout. It's important to follow the serving instructions on the packaging.
If you are already on a high-protein diet, whey protein may be entirely necessary. There are many ways to get protein naturally, such as lean chicken and fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, and other natural foods. You should find a protein calculator online to see how much protein you are already getting from what you eat on a daily basis.
For more in-depth scientific information on whey protein, you can check out XTEND's guide.
As for the actual benefits of whey protein, it has been proven to:
Help with building muscle mass, when combined with a workout regimen.
Aid in losing weight, when used as a dietary supplement.
Help the bones to become stronger.
Improve memory and mental capacity.
Reduce stress and provide relief from anxiety.
Control blood sugar level, and help with type 2 diabetes.
Lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease later in life.
Help you sleep and increases your metabolism whilst doing so. Although you can't overlook the importance of a good mattress (see here.)
What whey protein ingredients to avoid?
As we mentioned earlier, not all whey protein brands are the same. Some may include harmful ingredients, or "filler" ingredients that offer no real benefit, so you should always carefully check the packaging. If you see any of these ingredients, consider another brand.
Gluten: If you have a sensitivity to gluten, obviously you should avoid any whey protein that contains it. Pure whey protein is naturally gluten-free, but additional ingredients containing gluten may be added as a filler. Do not be fooled by packaging that says "100% Pure Protein", check the ingredients for glutamine.
Artificial sweeteners: There are numerous drawbacks to artificial sweeteners which include headaches, gastric bloating, unwanted weight gain, and acid reflux. Common names for artificial sweeteners are splenda, aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, and NutraSweet.
Skim milk powders: Milk solids or skim milk powders may be added to cheap quality whey protein, as a bulking agent. The problem is that skim milk powders can be high in lactose sugars, which carry a range of negative affects to your digestion.
Soy proteins: Some soy protein may be derived from GMO sources which have a high rate of pesticide usage. It is not that GMOs are bad, but the chemical compounds from high pesticide use may cause hormonal disturbances in some people. Thus, it is better to err on the side of caution.
Casein and WPC: Also known as caseinate and whey protein concentrate. These are both high in lactose and poorly absorbed by your digestive system, which can lead to gassiness, bloating, and abnormal bowel movements.
Dextrins and maltodextrins: Another ingredient added as a filler, these can raise your glycemic load and cause unwanted fat gains. Yes, fat turns into muscle, but you want healthy fats for proper muscle gain, and if you are looking to lose weight, you don't want anything that unnecessarily contributes to fat storage.
Hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils: Once again, these are filler products that are added to make whey protein "taste better". But these fats and oils often contain trans fats, which are considered to be more harmful than saturated fats. Trans fats can raise negative cholesterol while lowering your good cholesterol.
Thickening agents and gums: Ingredients like xanthin gum are derived from soy or corn sources, and may cause gas, bloating, and constipation.