How to Achieve your Fitness Goals with Whey Protein
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is one of the two protein types in milk, along with casein. Whey makes up roughly 20% of the protein, but is highly sought after because it is a rapid absorbing, highly bioavailable, complete protein with all the essential amino acids. Because of its low concentration in whole milk, which contains many other sources of calories, it needs to be filtered to a more pure form. When filtered to roughly 80% purity and made into a dissolvable powder, the end result is known as whey protein concentrate. When filtered to around 90%, this is whey protein isolate.
Given its high concentration of protein, whey protein isolate is also low in fats and carbohydrates. This makes it a powerful tool in boosting your dietary protein intake without a proportional increase in other macronutrients and calories. As proteins are the macronutrient most essential for muscle development and immune function, whey protein isolate is an important asset for anyone seriously pursuing health and fitness goals from massive muscle growth to sustainable fat burning.
How Does Whey Protein Help Achieve Fitness Goals?
Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is absorbed rapidly and is highly biological available. In its most pure available form, whey protein isolate, it is 90% pure protein. All these factors make it an excellent quality protein to promote muscle development, perfect for boosting daily protein intake anytime during the day and especially post workout, when you need to fast uptake protein, and to avoid excess calories while maintaining a high protein diet.
How Much Whey Protein do you Need for your Goals?
How much whey protein, and other macronutrients you need, is determined by the goal you are aiming to achieve from gaining bulk mass to maximising fat free muscle mass to burning fat while maintaining muscle.
Gaining Bulk Muscle
If your goal is to develop muscle as rapidly as healthily possible, meaning you accept some fat gain to prioritise muscle growth, your diet is absolutely essential. In order to gain weight (muscle and fat), you need to have a caloric surplus. This means you consume more calories than you burn through your lifestyle. Studies have shown that a weekly balance may be more important than a daily balance, but consistency is still key. When you consume calories and their source matters hugely. To promote muscle mass development, protein must be a large portion of your daily caloric intake and you need to ensure a constant supply of protein uptake throughout the day and especially after exercise.
Consuming a caloric surplus on a daily basis requires planning and preparation, especially when targeting at least 25% of your caloric intake from protein to ensure most of your weight gain comes from muscle growth. While most of your nutrients should always come from whole foods, this is made much easier by supplementation with high calorie whey protein powder. Good mass gaining whey protein contains complex carbohydrates and good fats along with a high portion of protein and a healthy dose of micronutrients. Mass gaining whey protein powders can supply similar calories to a full meal in a much more portable package, making it much easier to carry three or more meals on-the-go. They can also take less time to eat, require no time to prep, provide well balanced nutrition with no planning, and cost much less per serve than additional meals.
Gaining Lean Muscle
Lean muscle development is a game of balance. In order to put on overall mass, even fat-free mass, you need to consume more calories than you burn. But whatever excess calories are not used to build muscle mass is stored as body fat. For this reason, lean muscle growth is a delicate dietary balancing act.
For best lean muscle development results, combined with regular muscle-stressing exercise, most people will need to consume their 2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. So a 100kg person will need to consume 200 grams of protein daily. The rest of your daily caloric intake will be made up of a mix of fats and carbohydrates and should total roughly 10% above your total daily energy (calorie) expenditure. This balance of protein to other nutrients is hard to manage in a pure whole foods diet, making it almost necessary, and certainly much easier, to supplement your diet with a whey protein powder that is low in carbs and fats, such as a high quality whey protein isolate.
But everyone is different and it can be difficult to calculate caloric intake and expenditure with a relatively low margin of error. Being under the target caloric balance by 5% means your growth will be around half the optimal rate while being over by 5% means you will put on more fat than expected. So it is important to monitor your progress. Body scans and composition analysis are extremely helpful but not always available, while scales are unreliable because they do not differentiate fat and muscle mass. On the other hand, our perception of our own bodies can vary with subtle changes in confidence and insecurity. One way to combat this is to take progress pictures so you can compare photos instead of relying on your memory. It is also important to not make changes too suddenly. It is normal for body weight and water retention to fluctuate daily and even quick muscle development is difficult to track daily, so wait a week or two before making changes to your diet unless you are concerned about your health.
Losing Fat and Maintaining Muscle
If your goal is to lose body fat while maintaining muscle mass, you need to maintain a modest caloric deficit while ensuring your muscles have the protein they need to repair from exercise and daily use. With a slight deficit of around 10%, provided plenty of protein is included in your diet, it is possible to burn fat at a modest pace while perfectly maintaining or even seeing modest gains in muscle mass. With a greater deficit, weight loss happens more quickly but will restrict muscle development and possibly cause some loss of muscle.
For the best controlled fat loss results, combined with a consistent exercise routine, most people will need to consume their 2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight (so an 100kg person will need to consume 200 grams of protein daily) while maintaining a caloric deficit of roughly 10%, or greater depending on your goals for weight loss speed and muscle maintenance, of daily energy expenditure.
It is challenging to maintain sufficient protein intake for muscle maintenance while keeping your total caloric intake low enough for fat loss because most sources of dietary protein come with portions of carbohydrates and fats out of sync with the necessary ratios to achieve this delicate balance. This goal is made massively easier with a lean (low carb and fat) whey protein powder to supplement your whole food diet, taken at least once a day as a meal replacement or post-workout or both. To assist even further, whey protein with a fat burning formula included makes hitting your fat burning goals easier to achieve while maintaining maximum muscle mass.
What Else do you Need Besides Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a cornerstone of a diet geared toward specific fitness goals, but it is not enough on its own. A healthy diet consists of whole foods with a good mix of carbohydrates and fats in the portions required to achieve your goals. Micronutrients are also essential to wellbeing. Of course, diet is only half the equation. Striving for fitness goals also requires exercise. The best exercise routine will depend on many personal factors, but regular exercise is always important to achieving muscle development of fat loss goals. Another key part of a successful fitness journey is smart goal setting. Goals must be specific (know what you want), measurable (how will you know when it is achieved?), achievable (keep it realistic), relevant (your fitness goal needs to be something you want), and time-bound (know when you want to hit your goal by).
What Non-Whey Protein Powders Should You Know?
While whey protein powder is a staple protein supplement, there are specialised proteins important for other reasons. This includes non-dairy proteins such as pea protein and other plant proteins that are great for people who avoid dairy products. But these proteins don’t have the same amino acid profile as whey protein, which is a key reason whey protein is so prized. Some highly specialised supplements blend loose amino acids in the same ratio as whey protein so you get all the benefits of whey protein powder without any lactose.
Another important non-whey protein is casein, which is also from milk. It is a slow digesting protein, while most proteins are digested relatively quickly (30 grams of whey protein typically takes 3 hours to be fully absorbed). Even when sleeping immediately after consuming a serve of whey protein powder, a six hour sleep means you won’t have a source of protein being digested for half that time, and if you don’t consume more protein immediately upon waking up that time is extended further. Taking 20 grams of casein on an empty stomach has been found in studies to take at least six hours to absorb, providing the protein you need for optimal recovery and muscle development while you sleep and between meals even with extended gaps.
An additional supplement important to maximising your goal achieving efficiency is pre-workout. These supplements are designed to increase the energy you have access to during workouts so you can keep your muscles developing at an optimal level and also burn more calories to limit fat growth or burn fat depending on the rest of your diet.
Whey Protein can be Enjoyed in More than just Shakes
Shakes, with water or milk, are a great way to get your whey protein. 30 grams of protein can be lightweight to carry and just add water later. It’s also rapid absorbing and doesn’t come with extra calories. High quality whey protein powder shakes are also delicious. But shakes are not the only way to boost your whey protein intake. Whey protein can also be baked into all sorts of goodies, added to smoothies, and whipped into desserts (although casein protein may have the edge here).
Cooking with heat can denature protein, which simply means the amino acids structure of the protein changes. This can change the absorption rate of the protein, but the overall dietary protein content is the same. This also happens to all protein you heat, including in meat, beans, and eggs. So, while some sources caution against heating whey protein, it is not actually a problem. It does mean you won’t get the same absorption rate whey protein is famous for, making it not ideal for post-workout snacks. But it does have the advantage, in whey protein isolate form, of being easy to mix without creating a dry flowery texture, as long as you adjust the wet ingredients in a baking mix. Baking with whey protein benefits from a few tips and tricks and some good guides, but it is ultimately very rewarding to have baked goods that are not just low in sugar but also high in protein!
Even more about Whey…
If this guide has not satisfied your thirst for knowledge about whey protein powder, check the Goals by Steve blog for fresh information updated and added to constantly. You can also find exercise tips, diet tips, and motivation on Instagram at @steve_steel_goals and @goals_by_steve.