Top Protein Supplements - Why Whey Ranks Among Them

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Whey protein is more than just a protein, and does a whole lot more than just enhance protein synthesis. In fact, whey protein is one of the best supplements for muscle gain and recuperation, according to research. And not only is whey one of the top protein supplements to build muscle, it also results in enhanced bodyweight.

In one study published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers had men perform a bout of eccentric leg exercise, which is known to induce muscle damage. The researchers reported that the men consuming whey protein isolate supplementation saw improved muscle strength in the days following the muscle damage. The whey protein group also had less markers of muscle damage, which may be due to the potent antioxidant abilities of whey protein. Muscle recuperation is also enhanced by the higher leucine and branched-chain amino acid content of whey, making whey protein one of the best bodybuilding supplements there is.

Whey Protein is More Anabolic Than Essential Amino Acids

Another study found, much to the researchers’ surprise, that whey protein resulted in greater anabolic effects than EAA when compared dose-per-dose. The researchers concluded that whey protein whole consumption is greater than the sum of its parts (EAA) or effects beyond that of just the amino acid content.

So what ingredient in whey protein could be enhancing anabolic actions? Here is what is interesting: the two dosages each had the exact same dosage of leucine, so there was something else in whey protein causing the greater anabolic effect. The researchers hypothesized that the increase in the plasma concentration of the amino acid cysteine from whey protein may have enhanced muscle protein synthesis.

Greater Muscle Hypertrophy with Whey Protein

In yet another study, researchers found that a whey protein shake is the one of the best supplements to increase the size of muscle cells. Researchers randomly assigned subjects to consume a whey protein shake before and immediately after exercise, while another group got a drink that looked and tasted exactly the same as the whey protein shake but was just a placebo. Neither the subjects nor the researchers knew who was getting the whey protein and who was getting the placebo drink.

There was no difference between the daily protein, carbohydrate, fat and total calorie consumption between the two groups; the only difference was a whey protein shake added before and after exercise. So how much of an effect can two little whey protein shakes make? The men performed resistance exercise for 21 weeks; at the end of the study, the subjects who consumed as little as 15 grams of whey protein before and after exercise had greater increases in muscle hypertrophy than the control group.

Whey Protein’s Mass-Building Friends: Creatine and CLA

Researchers from Canada examined the effect of supplement stacking on size and strength in healthy young participants. Subjects were assigned to one of three groups:

  • Creatine, CLA, Whey Protein
  • Creatine and Protein
  • Protein Only

All participants followed the same high-volume, heavy-load, periodized, free-weight strength-training program for five weeks. At the end of five weeks, the bench-press and leg-press strength and lean-tissue mass increased more in the group consuming all three supplements (CLA, creatine and protein) than in the other groups combined (i.e., consuming creatine and protein or only protein).

In summary, these results indicate that in well-trained young adults who do high-volume strength training, the addition of CLA to creatine and protein results in enhanced strength and lean tissue mass. Creatine combined with protein was more effective than protein alone for increasing lean tissue mass.


Christos S. Katsanos, David L. Chinkes, Douglas Paddon-Jones, Xiao-jun Zhang, Asle Aarsland, Robert R. Wolfe. Whey protein ingestion in elderly persons results in greater muscle protein accrual than ingestion of its constituent essential amino acid content. Volume 28, 2008. Pages 651-65.

Cooke MB, Rybalka E, Stathis CG, Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Whey protein isolate attenuates strength decline after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2010 Sep 22;7:30.

Haraguchi FK, Silva ME, Neves LX, Dos Santos RC, Pedrosa ML. Whey protein precludes lipid and protein oxidation and improves body weight gain in resistance-exercised rats. Eur J Nutr, 2010 Nov 3.

Hulmi JJ, Kovanen V, Selänne H, Kraemer WJ, Häkkinen K, Mero AA. Acute and long-term effects of resistance exercise with or without protein ingestion on muscle hypertrophy and gene expression. Amino Acids, 2008 Jul 27.

Hulmi JJ, Tannerstedt J, Selanne H, Kainulainen H, Kovanen V, Mero AA. Resistance exercise with whey protein ingestion affects mTOR signaling pathway and myostatin in men. J Appl Physiol, 2009 Mar 19.