What is Whey Isolate Protein and Why Is It Important?
If you come here often, you know that Shakeology is a core “go to” meal for both Monica and I. There are SO many reasons, but at the core are the extremely high quality ingredients. The most important of these ingredients is whey isolate protein.
Before we dive into what whey isolate protein is and why it’s important, here’s a quick overview of Shakeology ingredients.
Shakeology is more than a protein shake—it’s a meal replacement with top quality ingredients and superfoods from all over the world.
Here’s a general summary of its ingredients:
● Protein and essential amino acids to help build long, lean muscles and reduce food cravings
● Prebiotics and digestive enzymes to improve digestion, regularity, and nutrient absorption
● Antioxidants and phytonutrients to help counteract free radical damage that can lead to degenerative diseases
● Vitamins and minerals your body needs to function for optimal health
This post is one in a series I’ve done that looks at each individual key ingredient of this powerful nutritional supplement. I basically wanted to dissect Shakeology and look at the role each ingredient play in your nutrition.
So let’s look at the first, and most important, Shakeology ingredient — whey isolate protein.
As a reference, chocolate Shakeology contains 17g of protein. That’s A LOT.
What is Whey Isolate Protein?
Whey isolate protein is an important macronutrient and, as I mentioned, the type of protein that is in Shakeology.
Whey is a dairy-based form of protein that comes from cheese production. In fact, for many years it was considered a waste product and discarded, but we’ve now come to use it as one of the most common forms of protein powder.
There are three kinds of whey protein powders:
Whey concentrate is the most commonly used—and least expensive—form of whey. Concentrate is good because it is less processed, but not so good because it contains less protein. It contains some fat and lactose, so people with dairy allergies probably want to steer clear of whey concentrate.
Whey isolate protein contains much less lactose due to the processing it undergoes. Isolate is also 90-94% pure protein, giving it additional benefits over whey concentrate.
The final form of whey protein is hydrolysate. This is a predigested form of whey that is relatively free of potential allergens. It is also extremely expensive. Given the minor benefits of hydrolysate, the cost rarely justifies its use.
Benefits of a High Protein Diet
A high protein diet represents a massive change from the modern American diet, which is FILLED with starchy carbs, high fat foods, sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Here are the top three benefits of a high protein diet
- Protein boosts your metabolism. It takes twice as much energy to break down proteins as it does carbohydrates. Your body can charge through carbs pretty easily, but it has to work to break down proteins. This means after you eat a high-protein meal, your body must burn calories to break it down. Some studies have shown people with high-protein diets burned up to twice as many calories in the hours after their meals, than those on high-carb diets.
- Protein flips your “satiety” switch. Huh? That’s a fancy way of saying it makes you feel full. Would you keep eating if you felt full? Probably not. High fructose corn syrup has the exact opposite effect, which is why they make a 64 oz Big Gulp. That’s between 800 and 1,000 calories, but you don’t feel full after you drink one. “Satiety” is important stuff. You shouldn’t want to eat a bag of chips and a hot dog after consuming 800 calories of anything.
- Protein is the building block of muscle. This is oversimplified, but true. Lean protein helps promote muscle growth. Muscle burns fat. Huh? Adding muscle mass requires your body to expend energy to sustain that muscle. Adding one pound of muscle requires your body to burn up to 50 calories a day to maintain it. That’s one pound, folks. Try adding 10 and you can see why people that add about 10 pounds of muscle look the way they do. Their bodies are simply working more efficiently.
Trans fats, and most saturated fats, tend to be stored in the fat cells very easily and we are trying to change that. Now, very little in life is black and white, so I’ll let you know that some fats are healthy for you. (You can learn ALL about fat in our Ultimate Guide on How to Burn Fat!)
The reasoning behind reducing starchy carbs is a little more complex.
When the body takes in a lot of starchy carbs, it treats them like sugars and the body responds by producing insulin to process those sugars in your blood. This causes the body to store more fat because it just does not have any where to store those carbs. In addition, this insulin response actually tells your body to store fat as a precautionary measure. Keep that up long enough and you are headed for diabetes.
Here’s a video illustrating this principle:
When you eat a lean chicken breast, you make your body work for it and it pays you back by building muscle. It also makes you feel full when you’ve consumed an appropriate amount of calories.
When you eat a burger meal, the fat gets stored as excess fat, the fries and bun create an insulin response, and the high fructose corn syrup in that yummy soda keeps you from feeling really hungry even though you’ve gobbled down a huge meal from a caloric perspective. That’s just not a good mix. The soda also increases the acidity of your blood, which you can read more about here—How Diet Soda Makes You Fat.
There are even more benefits of protein, but I want to keep this simple for now.
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There you have it. The lowdown on whey isolate. Beachbody could have cut corners and used concentrate, but instead chose to use whey isolate as its form of protein.
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