HomeHealth articleswhey protein powderWhat Are the Uses and Benefits of Whey Protein?

You must have commonly heard the term 'whey protein' because of its increasing use as a supplement. Read the article below to know its details.

Written by

Dr. Zeba Jabeen

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Published At August 18, 2022
Reviewed AtSeptember 2, 2022

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is found in milk, besides casein. It is extracted while making cheese when the curd is separated from the liquid. The translucent liquid thus obtained is called “whey”, and it is dried to produce “whey protein”. Whey protein is nutrient-rich, comprising all the nine essential amino acids and some vitamins and minerals. It contains the minimum quantity of lactose.

Whey protein is of three types; namely concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. All these varieties have distinct compositions of nutrients. It is included in the diet to combat nutritional deficiencies, improve immune functioning, enhance athletic performance, and build muscle mass and strength. It may also be helpful in certain medical conditions.

What Are the Various Forms of Whey Protein?

Whey protein comes in three different forms: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate. Concentrate form is the most commonly found. It has low fat and lactose content and is high in protein concentration, approximately 70 %. Isolates are more protein-rich, contain up to 90 % protein, and have even lesser amounts of fat and lactose. Hydrolysates are distinct from the other two forms as they get absorbed quickly compared to them. In addition, they undergo an additional processing step which is called 'pre-digestion.'

What Is Whey Protein Good for?

Whey protein is mainly used as a supplement to increase muscle mass. But, it provides a plethora of other health benefits too, which are listed below:

  • Is highly Protein-rich: Whey protein is a rich source of all essential amino acids and certain vitamins and minerals. That is why it is used as a dietary supplement by athletes, bodybuilders, sportspersons, etc. It also has better digestible properties than other proteins and so its absorption is quicker than theirs. It may also be helpful in faster muscle recovery after an intense workout.

  • Boosts Muscle Mass: The muscle mass decreases with an increase in age, and fat deposition hastens, which poses a risk for many chronic illnesses. Muscle mass decline can be controlled or prevented to a certain extent by incorporating weight training exercises and a balanced diet into the lifestyle. Consumption of whey protein as an adjunct to workout delays muscle mass loss in adults and provides strength to the body. It may also be helpful in gaining or maintaining body weight in older adults, malnourished, or AIDS patients.

  • Reduces Blood Pressure: Whey protein is counted among those dairy proteins that help in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. But, to bring out the effect, it requires a minimum intake of 3.25 g/day.

  • Balances Blood Sugar: It is found to be effective in maintaining normal blood sugar levels by increasing insulin levels as well as its sensitivity in folks. In diabetic people, it acts as a supplemental treatment to diabetic drugs. It is efficacious when taken with or before a high-carbohydrate feed.

  • Decreases Inflammation: A high intake of whey protein, approximately 20 g/day or more, aids in reducing inflammation in the body, which in the long-term can become a predisposing factor for several diseases and health conditions. It may also be beneficial in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Enhances Antioxidant Production: One of the important antioxidants, glutathione, is produced by the body whose synthesis requires many amino acids like cysteine. Whey protein is rich in cysteine and, therefore, may help in improving glutathione production in the body.

  • Lowers Lipid Levels: Consumption of whey protein in high amounts for a prolonged period may show a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in the body.

  • Aids in Weight Loss: Increased protein intake provides higher satiety and suppresses appetite and calorie intake. It also enhances the body's metabolism leading to more calorie burning and assisting in body weight loss. Additionally, it preserves lean muscle mass.

  • Improves Wound Healing: Whey protein has proven to enhance wound healing in people affected by burns and in those with chronic wounds.

  • Prevents Allergies: Particularly, the hydrolysate form (formula milk) of whey protein decreases the chances of having allergic reactions in infants, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), as it contains smaller sizes of protein which boosts the immune response. It can also improve the immune response in children and may prevent the occurrence of asthma.

  • Has Anti-cancer Effects: The concentrated type of whey protein may be helpful in the treatment of cancer. Yet, more evidence is needed to support this.

What Are the Contraindications of Whey Protein?

Whey protein is not a favorable choice in lactose-intolerant individuals, and liver or kidney disease patients. In mild to moderate quantities, its consumption does not produce adverse effects in healthy people, but in high amounts, it causes the following digestive symptoms:

  • Nausea.

  • Headache.

  • Abdominal Cramps.

  • Pain.

  • Decreased appetite.

  • Fatigue.

  • Flatulence.

  • Bloating.

  • Diarrhea.

It increases the incidence of acne. It also interacts with certain kinds of drugs and hampers their efficacy. Such drugs as listed below:

  • Albendazole (Albenza): Whey protein supplement might delay or hinder the effects of parasite-killing drugs like Albendazole, so it should be avoided taking along with it.

  • Alendronate (Fosamax): Whey protein supplementation to the alendronate drugs that are used in the treatment of osteoporosis may adversely decrease the drug absorption.

  • Parkinsonism Drugs: Drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, like Levodopa also get less absorbed when taken along with a whey protein supplement.

  • Some Antibiotics: Intake of whey protein may reduce the absorption of certain antibiotics like Tetracycline and Quinolone.

How to Use Whey Protein?

Whey protein comes in powder form to be used as a supplement. It can be easily added to liquid food items like milk, water, smoothies, etc.; or to soft foods such as yogurt. It is commonly used as 25 to 50 grams per day. However, certain products have labels with the recommended dosage, and according to the purpose, the dosage may be increased at the dietician’s suggestion.


Whey protein is a great supplement to increase protein consumption in the daily diet. Usually, the protein requirement is easily fulfilled by incorporating protein-rich foods into the diet, and its unnecessary use should be avoided. Before adopting this supplement in the daily diet, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or physician should be consulted for its preferred dosage, brand, and composition.

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Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop


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