When cheese is made from cow's milk, a byproduct of that process is a liquid which is left behind after the milk coagulates into a solid block of cheese. That liquid which is a collection of globular proteins and minerals is what we call whey.
After being separated from the cheese, the whey is purified and filtered to reduce the fat, and then dried to remove the water. (The part that isn't whey is casein protein.) This process produces a low-fat powder containing high quality protein and every essential amino acid required by the body. Whey protein is popular among body builders and athletes because it helps build lean muscle.
Fortunately, there is a ready supply of whey: Cow's milk is 20 percent whey and there are 65,000 dairy farms in the U.S. alone producing milk each day.
Whey contains several component proteins, including:
- bovine serum albumin
- Whey is a dairy-based source of amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
- Whey protein helps increase muscle mass.
- Protein-building whey contains all the essential amino acids.
- Whey protein supports protein synthesis and helps decrease protein breakdown.
- Milk proteins have been shown to have a high digestibility rating.
- Whey protein is considered a fast protein because it hits the bloodstream quickly.
- Microfiltration and ultrafiltration reduces the total cholesterol, saturated fat, lactose and carbohydrate content.
- Whey proteins contain naturally-occurring lactoferrin.
- Whey contains BCAA (branched chain amino acids) made up of leucine, isoleucine and valine which are important for the maintenance of muscle tissue.
- Athletes have been shown to require increased protein intakes to maintain muscle mass.
- Whey protein supports the immune system.
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