The Better "WHEY" for adding Muscle

Mar 10, 2014
The Better "WHEY" for adding Muscle

Want a WHEY to add muscle?

Whey protein trumps amino acids

In my opinion, there is no debating the fact that whey protein is a superior protein when it comes to building muscle.

And that’s not just my opinion, it’s based on numerous studies confirming whey’s ability to trump other proteins for boosting muscle protein synthesis and increasing real, lean muscle mass over time. That’s because whey is the fastest-digesting protein that you can consume and it’s one of the richest sources of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Not to mention, whey contains specific peptides and subfractions that are very beneficial. These include beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin peptides, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase, to name a few, which are critical for muscle growth and provide antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. Of course, I recommend adding at least casein protein to whey to extend the protein synthesis that whey initiates and further promote lean muscle mass gains, but whey is definitely the MVP of that team.



Some experts have argued that individual amino acids, such as the essential amino acids (EAAs) are even better than whey protein.

This is due to the fact that whey protein is just made up of these amino acids and since the individual amino acids don’t have to be digested they can get absorbed quicker and get to the muscles sooner. Makes sense from a speed standpoint. And many athletes have taken up this advice.




However, a recent study shows that intact whey protein performs better than consuming the individual amino acids that make up whey protein.

Japanese researchers had rats swim for 2 hours to depress muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle breakdown. After the exercise one group of rats was supplemented with carbs and whey protein hydrolysate, which is partially digested whey. Another group consumed carbs and an amino acid mixture that contained the same amino acids in the same amounts as in the whey protein. And a third group consumed just the carbohydrate with no whey or aminos.




They reported in a 2013 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition that while both whey and the amino acid mix increased muscle protein synthesis far better than the carbs alone, whey protein boosted muscle protein synthesis significantly higher than the amino acid mixture despite the blood amino acid levels being identical between the two groups.

The scientists traced this back to whey’s superiority in phosphorylating (basically activating) several important complexes that then initiate muscle protein synthesis. These include mTOR, which you may have heard before, as well as ribosomal protein S6 kinase and eukaryotic initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1 (eIF-4E BP1).  




Jim’s take-home points:

So if you’ve heard that you’d be better off skipping whey protein and just downing amino acids around workouts instead, think again. Whey clearly contains important components that go beyond just its amino acid makeup. These are the bioactive peptides and subfractions that we are just beginning to understand and still uncovering new ones. Sure, this study was done in rats, and not humans. But from a real scientist who actually studied both rats and humans in the lab, I can assure you that this response would be very similar in humans in this case.


So make sure to get some whey pre and post, and/or during workouts along with at least some casein, maybe even some egg protein powder, and maybe even some soy protein powder for maximal muscle growth. Shoot for about 20-40 grams preworkout and another 20-40 grams postworkout of protein powder. Or make one big protein shake containing 40-80 grams of a mixed protein and start sipping on it about 15-30 minutes before your workout and continue sipping on it throughout the workout until the last rep of the last set is over.  






Kanda, A., et al. Post-exercise whey protein hydrolysate supplementation induces a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis than its constituent amino acid content. British Journal of Nutrition, in press, 2013.

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