Whey Protein for Weight Loss
What is whey protein?
Whey protein is extracted from whey, a bi-product produced during cheese-making. Milk is separated to produce curds, which are used to make cheese. However, the liquid part left after the process (whey) can be used for a variety of purposes. One of these is to make whey protein, often used as a dietary supplement for those wishing to gain muscle mass, or lose weight. Whey protein is made up of a mixture of spherical proteins isolated from the liquid whey, and it is these proteins that are thought to be so beneficial to weight loss.
One diet pill that contains whey protein is Whey Better, manufactured by Bio-Synergy in the UK. Whey protein is the sole active ingredient in Whey Better and therefore has the same claimed weight loss benefits as are mentioned in the below sections of this article. The two main aspects of the product are as an appetite suppressant and a metabolism booster due to the inclusion of whey protein in the powder mixture.
How does whey protein work?
Whey protein has a small number of claimed weight loss benefits that are outlined below. The ingredient is thought to have positive effects upon weight loss and is easily available to purchase in many highstreet stores by itself and as an active ingredient in dietary supplements. Whey protein is a popular inclusion in a large number of dietary supplements due to these claimed weight loss benefits and could be a good way to reduce body fat alongside a regular exercise regime.
One suspected health benefit of whey protein is its ability to spur protein synthesis, or the combining of proteins in the body. There is scientific evidence that the branched-chain amino acids in whey protein spur the process of protein synthesis. This process, when increased, is thought to speed muscle recovery time and also support the body when undergoing physical exercise. Some research also suggests that a bi-product of protein synthesis could be fat oxidisation, helping to burn fat. These benefits could particularly help individuals looking to lose weight through increased movement or that want to increase their muscle strength.
One less thoroughly researched weight loss aspect of whey protein is as an appetite suppressant. However, there have been claims that the ingredient could help satiate appetite and therefore result in weight loss through a calorie-reduced diet. There are no scientific reports that explain exactly how whey protein causes satiating effects, yet it is often thought that the ingredient can increase the levels of cholecystokinin in the body, the chemical responsible for appetite regulation. When this chemical is increased in the body, it reduces the need to snack between meals and intake excessive calories that can lead to weight gain.
Another potential weight loss benefit of whey protein is the ability to burn fat by increasing the body’s metabolic system. Whey protein is thought to contain an amino acid called glutamine. Glutamine has been scientifically linked to an increased rate of metabolism, which is known to efficiently burn fat and potentially lead to weight loss. Glutamine may also increase energy levels, which could prove useful to those wishing to lose weight through physical activity.
Are there any clinical studies?
Fortunately, there are some authoritative clinical studies that act as evidence of the weight loss potential of whey protein. This section outlines a handful of trials that have a particular focus on the weight loss benefits of the ingredient, although their results vary in terms of success rates.
The Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism published the method and results of a scientific trial in 2013. This particular study concentrated on the potential satiating effects of whey protein over a period of one week. The results of the study suggest that whey protein does have the ability to reduce the desire to eat, and reaches its optimised effects 90 minutes after ingestion. However, there were only five healthy subjects used to test the ingredient and so the study does not provide a definitive result that proves the reputability of the ingredient. Also, as the study was only undertaken for a minimal length of time, whey protein could not have such strong effects after continued use.
Another study from 2008, this time tested upon obese subjects, could potentially be more beneficial to proving the weight loss effects of whey protein. An extensive group of 158 subjects, all classed as obese, were supplemented with whey protein and had their caloric intake reduced by 500 each day of the supplementation period. The study, in its entirety, took place over a 12-week period and a variety of health factors were measured over the course of the trial. Each subject ingested 2 doses of whey protein or a placebo alternative each day, one before breakfast and one before dinner. The ingredient was given to the subjects in the form of a shake that was added with water and drank. By the end of the 12-week period, 47 subjects had withdrawn their participation, although the number of remaining subjects provides a supportive base for a conclusive result. The findings from the study show that there was a significant body weight decrease in the individuals that had taken the whey protein supplements compared to the placebo group. The researchers also concluded that the whey protein had spared participants from losing a significant amount of lean muscle mass, which suggests that the ingredient could speed up muscle recovery time. This goes on to suggest that whey protein could be beneficial to those wanting to build muscle when supplementing alongside physical exercise. Overall, this extensive study goes some way in supporting the benefits of whey protein as a weight loss ingredient and provides a positive basis on which to proceed with further studies.
What are the side effects?
Despite whey protein being naturally extracted from milk, it is possible for individuals to experience some adverse symptoms after ingesting the supplement.
Whey protein is considered likely safe for both adults and children when taken by mouth. However, products containing whey protein should be used according to guidelines. Large doses of the ingredient are thought to cause some adverse effects such as increased bowel movements, digestive discomfort, nausea and tiredness. Loss of appetite is also commonly experienced when taking whey protein, although this is a weight loss effect associated with the ingredient and should not be classed as a negative side effect in these circumstances.
Individuals with lactose intolerance, or who have a specific allergy to milk, should avoid using whey protein as the ingredient is extracted from milk. One further precaution is that pregnant women should consult a doctor before using a product containing whey protein, or avoid the ingredient altogether. This is because there is currently a lack of information about the effects of the ingredient on pregnant women and so could cause some undiscovered side effects.
As a natural extract, whey protein is thought to be relatively safe for people of any age to consume. However, as one in fifty people in Europe suffer from lactose intolerance (according to the NHS), it could affect many individuals. There is a good scientific foundation to support the efficacy of whey protein for weight loss, although not all studies have significantly positive results or only test the ingredient on a limited number of subjects. Whey protein is extremely popular as a dietary supplement and is available in its isolated form, as well as being included in other products available on the high street in the UK.
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