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6 Evidence-Based Benefits of Whey Protein

By Holly / July 28, 2016

Health Benefits of Whey Protein

In the supplement market, there are a lot of health claims, some true and some not so true. Often, many of us will buy whey protein with the general belief that it will support our fitness goals, but are unsure exactly how. In this article, we will shed light on 6 benefits of whey protein that are actually based on studies and research.

Recovery, Toning and Development of Muscle

This is one of the most common advertised benefits of whey protein. While many of us known that it promotes recovery, toning and development of muscle, few understand how. Whey protein comprises 80% to 90% of protein per gram. Amino acids make up the protein and are absorbed from digesting food and liquid that contain protein. Whey is not only rich in both non-essential and essential amino acids, but also in Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). BCAAs have a fundamental role in synthesising muscle (1). In fact, 35% of the body’s muscle mass comprises of BCAAs (2). The body utilizes these BCAAs with other amino acids found in whey, to provide the nutrients required to recover, tone and develop muscle. Studies have demonstrated whey protein’s effectiveness in promoting muscle growth when supplemented either before or after a workout (3). Scientists have also concluded that whey protein is more effective than soy protein in developing muscle (4, 5).

Faster Absorbing and Low in Lactose

There are 2 common types of whey protein; Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) and Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC). Both are absorbed quickly by the body and outperform other types of protein such as casein (6). The concentrate version of whey (WPC) contains small amounts of lactose and might not be suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. On the other hand, the isolate version (WPI) only contains trace amounts and is suitable for people sensitive to lactose (7).

Reduce Stress, Depression and Anxiety

Stress effects everyone and while there are natural ways to deal with stress, supplementing whey protein could be the next best alternative to prescription medicine. Whey protein is high in both tryptophan and cysteine (8, 9). These 2 amino acids play an important part in producing serotonin. Scientists have linked low serotonin levels to an increased risk of depression (10). Increasing serotonin can assist in reducing both anxiety and depression (11), promoting a greater control over stress and mood (12). In one study, the group given whey protein experienced 48% higher levels of tryptophan, accompanied by lower levels of cortisol (a marker of stress). This group subsequently had a reduction in the feeling of depression, anxiety, and stress (13).

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Reduce Hunger

Protein is good at reducing hunger and increases satiety (14). Recently, scientists have discovered that the protein can influence the degree to which it satisfies hunger and assist with weight loss. In particular, whey was found to be more filling then both casein and soy (15). Furthermore, in a study where participants each consumed either a glucose, fructose or whey protein drink, the participants that consumed the whey saw a significant reduction in the hungry hormone ghrelin and an increase in satiety (16).


In research, whey protein has demonstrated a protective effect against toxin-induced cancers (17, 18). Studies have shown that the earlier that whey protein is consumed, the better protection it can provide (19). These effects are attributed to the amino acid glutathione. This amino acid is produced by the body from cysteine. Whey is rich in the amino acid cysteine, and its increase in supply helps the body produce more glutathione. The amino acid glutathione produces an antioxidant effect that helps protect the cells against other oxidants (20). In research, it has also been shown to reduce Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and general inflammation (21).

Supports a Healthy Heart

High blood pressure is often called the silent killer, as it has no symptoms. It can lead to heart disease and even death (22). Whey protein can help reduce blood pressure in obese individuals, lowering their risk of stroke and heart disease (23). The beta-lactoglobulin found in whey further deters the angiotensin-converting enzyme (24). In studies, this had demonstrated a reduction in blood pressure and hypertensive activity (25).



  1. http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/9/1/48
  2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286303000305
  3. http://www.jissn.com/content/10/1/53
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21677076
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24015719
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11158939
  7. http://www.theproteinworks.com/thelockerroom/article/tpw-ninja/whey-protein-lactose-intolerance
  8. http://blog.insidetracker.com/whey-proteins-impact-on-mood-and-stress
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12036812
  10. http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/serotonin
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15533313
  13. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/6/1536.long
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847729
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24801369
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17593904
  17. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/10/5/555.full.pdf
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12893429
  19. http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/benefits-of-whey-protein/
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1569131/
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19638084
  22. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/210886.php
  23. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/15328207
  24. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8384382_Structural_Analysis_of_a_New_Anti-Hypertensive_Peptide_b-Lactosin_B_Isolated_from_a_Commercial_Whey_Product
  25. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/WhyBloodPressureMatters/Why-Blood-Pressure-Matters_UCM_002051_Article.jsp

About the author


Thank you for reading my article! I am Holly Nunan, a mother of three daughters aged four, six and eight. I'm an Exercise Physiologist with a passion for exercise, fitness, raising healthy children and natural and alternative remedies. I have a simple mission to help each reader that comes to our website to take away one new piece of healthy information that they can immediately apply to their life. If I've helped you find that today, it's mission accomplished!