The term superfood is sweeping across the health and fitness industry. The problem is that it’s not always used as it should be. Just because a brand slaps the word super on their label doesn’t mean that the product is a real superfood.
Whey protein is a tried and true supplement within the bodybuilding world as much as the medical community. It’s been used for a number of years in a variety of ways such as attaining specific fitness goals and reducing inflammation in older patients. Despite its popularity, is this powdery supplement all that it’s cracked up to be? More importantly, does it deserve the title of a superfood?
Honestly, what is a superfood?
A true superfood is explicitly defined by what is commonly agreed upon in the nutrition world as an above average nutrient profile. A superfood is not necessarily rich in a specific macronutrient; rather, it offers surprising health benefits due to elevated levels of specific vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc.
Examples of popular superfoods
Here is a list of some of the most popular superfoods that have been used since ancient times.
- Honey – Cultivated and utilized by many ancient cultures, honey is considered the king of superfoods. It’s packed with essential amino acids as well as vitamins and minerals. It can also be used for a wide range of medicinal reasons such as acting as an anti-inflammatory, fighting infections, and helping wounds to heal.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – ACV has been getting a lot of attention recently but, like honey, it’s been considered a medicinal elixir for ages. It features a high vitamin and mineral profile including B6, C, and E as well as calcium, sodium, and magnesium. Studies show that ACV can be used as a natural anti-bacterial, may aid in detoxification, and possibly even reduce cholesterol.
- Goji Berries – A super fruit from the Himalayas, goji berries leave blueberries in the dust. Featuring amino acids, vitamins and minerals, this berry is often served dried. It has very high levels of vitamin C, which helps to boost immunity, vitamin E, which supports heart health, and antioxidants, which helps to battle diseases such as cancer.
- Garlic – This is usually the superfood that surprises the most people. Believe it or not, garlic is a very powerful superfood that can be used to protect you from cardiovascular disease, boost your immune system, and eliminate harmful heavy metals from your body. It gets this ability from the antioxidants and mineral profile it hosts. It’s very high sulfur, making it an excellent cold fighter.
As you can see, each of the examples listed have exceptionally high nutrient profiles, allowing them to positively impact your health. What’s more, they are able to do so in a way that most other foods cannot. So does whey protein belong in this category?
What is whey protein?
During cheese production, there is a milky substance that is created as a byproduct of the process. You have seen this substance on the top of a yogurt when you first open it. It is called whey. When it is mixed with other globular proteins and placed through a drying process, it becomes the whey protein powder that you see marketed in your local health food store. So what’s the big deal about whey?
Whey = superior protein source?
When you break down the milk that a human baby gets while breastfeeding from its mother, you’ll discover that it contains whey and casein. The difference is the ratio. As you can see from this study published by the American Pregnancy Association, the milk from a human woman is 60% whey and 40% casein. Compare that to a cow’s milk, which is 20% whey and 80% casein. The reason whey is prevalent in human milk is because of digestion. Humans are able to digest and assimilate whey protein much more effectively than casein.
Looking for a high-performance blender to make whey protein shakes? Check out our best blender reviews.
The nutritional benefits
Digestion is not the only reason whey protein is one of the most popular fitness supplements. It also hosts a very important nutrient profile of amino acids and specific vitamins. While you may find selective amino acids in a variety of foods, whey protein provides you with the full scope of amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, playing a crucial role in the repair, maintenance, and protection of muscle.
Best of all, due to whey protein’s digestibility, it’s the only food that has scored a 101 out of 100 on the bioavailability scale! This means your body will be extremely efficient at breaking down and utilizing the nutrition within. Even if you don’t work out, whey protein can still be beneficial!
- Metabolism – The ingestion of whey protein has been shown in several studies to play a positive role on your metabolic rate, specifically your body’s insulin response. This study published in the journal of the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care demonstrated that subjects supplementing with whey protein had a blood glucose and insulin lowering effect.
- Protein Synthesis – Whey protein also enhances protein synthesis. When you’re building muscle, protein synthesis is key. Whey protein has been shown in this study from the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism to increase protein synthesis when taken before or after a workout.
- Lean Muscle Mass – Speaking of muscle mass, aside from helping you build it, whey protein can also assist in repairing, maintaining, and protecting lean muscle tissue. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that demonstrated the beneficial effects of whey protein during the weight loss process of obese adults.
- Longevity – If all that wasn’t enough, whey protein is also considered a powerful anti-aging supplement. Research has shown that supplementation of whey protein mimics the same benefits as caloric restriction. A study published in the Journal of Aging showed a significant life extension of mice who were given whey protein.
With its flawless absorption rate, impressive nutrients, and ease of convenience, whey protein has established itself as a true superfood. Whether you take it to supplement your fitness goals or to increase your overall state of health, whey protein is a wise investment offering years of potential benefits.