Whey Protein and Sports
by Ivana Petrovic BS-NDTR
Every day we spend time working out our bodies, keeping exercise and nutrition together in a team effort. For example, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program encourages 60 minutes of physical activity per day and eating a balanced diet. Since you are reading this blog, you may be thinking “How can milk play a role?”
Whey is a milk protein which is often used by athletes to repair muscles after physical activity. When we think of athletes and nutrition, a lot of attention is focused on protein, which raises the question: “Which proteins are best?”
Milk proteins are often used by athletes. Research shows milk is a source of high quality protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein. The human body cannot produce nutrients deemed “essential,” so when considering quality of proteins, the content of essential amino acids is a huge factor.
Whey contains the amino acid leucine, which is important to muscle building. Bioavailability is another concept in terms of quality. Nutrients that are absorbed from a food and used most efficiently by the body are considered more bioavailable versus those that are not well-absorbed or which cannot be used once absorbed. Since leucine is an integral part of muscle repair and gain, leucine’s bioavailability becomes important to athletes. Studies have looked at the bioavailability of leucine from other proteins such as casein (another milk protein) or egg protein in comparison to whey and found whey to be superior.
With the market full of protein supplements, another question arises: “Which is a better source of whey, food or supplements?” Research shows the most ideal form of consuming whey is through food – and since whey is a milk protein – that means drinking milk! This is also why chocolate milk is the official beverage of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
To learn a little more about the proteins in milk, check out this article by Karen Giles-Smith, MS, RD in Today’s Dietitian.