In this article I will discuss how whey protein is made and why athletes should be wary of it. In addition, I will out the ingredients – and quite often processed additions – that are included to create a nice tasting whey protein isolate. Lastly, I will conclude with alternative solutions that still enable the right amount of protein without having to risk kidney issues.
But firstly, let’s consider the levels of duress we put our bodies under when cycling or any other intense physical activity.
Protein becomes paramount to our recovery plan. With most research suggesting that a solid dose of protein should be consumed within an hour of exercise completion, a protein shake becomes an easy and efficient way to fill this need.
But with marketing hype blurring our vision about whey protein being the silver lining to our recovery needs, we’d like you to consider an alternative stance on whey protein before you buy your next tub of protein powder.
Ask yourself these three questions:
1. Do you know that whey protein is a liquid byproduct of cheese production?
2. Do you know that before someone figured out they could turn whey into a marketing powerhouse, whey protein from cheese production was discarded?
3. Do you know that dairy products are highly nutritional when cows are free range, grazing on grassy pastures? Yet, unfortunately, most cows are not free range and are fed processed grains in small, enclosed areas, significantly reducing the nutritional benefits of milk. So with this in mind, do you know which cows are producing your whey?
Another important consideration with regard to dairy products is that milk is a highly processed product. Dairy milk is pasteurised at high temperatures and homogenised (fat distribution and removal).
This processed milk is then taken through a manufacturing process to produce cheese. A byproduct of cheese production is a liquid called whey.
Then, somehow, this liquid is dried and turned into a powder.
But before we see it, in the form of an off-the-shelf product, artificial flavours, oils and sugars are typically added to create the chocolate or vanilla flavour that suits our taste buds.
I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like potent garbage and not something an athlete should be pumping into their body every day. It’s no wonder many liver and general digestion problems are linked to whey.
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The Alternatives to whey PROTEIN
There are many alternatives to whey protein, such as soy, rice, egg white and even carob. I personally have a preference for pea protein. It is typically extracted from yellow split peas, meaning it’s a vegetable product that is highly valued for its digestibility and low potential for allergic response.
It also contains approximately 80% to 90% protein. The naysayers are going to tell you that pea protein is not a complete protein, weak in certain amino acids. Whilst there is some strength to that argument, let’s look at what those two amino acids are and where you can find them elsewhere:
– Cysteine: A non essential amino acid but may be considered essential in rare cases for infants, the elderly, and individuals with certain metabolic diseases. It is essentially one of many building blocks to a strong immune system.
– Methionine: Is an essential amino acid that helps the liver fight toxins and helps eliminate fat from the body. In other words a pretty important one.
You therefore have three options:
1. Both of these amino acids are found in nuts seeds, eggs, vegetables, fish and red meats. So if these are present in your diet, then there’s no need to worry.
2. Rice Protein has efficient levels of cysteine and methionine so many people mix rice and pea protein together. Rice protein is actually weak in other essential amino acids that pea protein is strong in, like lysine, so rice protein is also not complete but works well with pea protein.
3. Try a protein supplement like Think Vitality Nutrition. Its base is pea protein, but its peripheral ingredients include seeds and nuts, increasing the volume of amino acids lacking in pure pea protein. It also provides many other nutrients that boost cardiovascular health and energy levels with the ultimate result being a highly digestible complete protein supplement.
In summary, protein coming from natural sources that don’t need to go through an exhaustive manufacturing process is more likely going to be better digested by the body. Whey protein is a complete protein, yes, but it is a highly processed product that may come from questionable sources. At the end of the day, the most compelling fact will be HOW YOU FEEL. If you feel like your body digests pea or other protein types better than whey, then your body is probably more efficient in the way it digests and distributes that particular protein. Give it a try and see how you feel.