What is whey protein?

Whey protein is a dietary supplement that may have benefits for people who engage in strenuous exercise and others.

Whey protein

Protein is one of three key nutrients that your body needs daily. Protein is considered a macronutrient, along with carbohydrates and fats. Whey protein, one of the primary proteins found in dairy products, accounts for many of the health benefits that dairy products offer.

A byproduct of the cheese-making process, whey protein provides substantial amounts of the essential amino acids that are needed to carry out the functions that proteins perform in the body. Whey protein typically is provided as a powder. It can be added to liquids or soft foods (such as oatmeal or applesauce) or blended with ingredients such as ice and fresh fruit to make a smoothie or shake.

What are the dietary sources of protein?

Protein is found in both animal sources and plant sources. The quality of a protein is based on the amounts and types of amino acids it provides. Typically, animal proteins from meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs have more of the amino acids the body needs than do plant proteins, such as amino acids from soybeans, peas, rice and vegetables.

Should I consider taking a whey protein dietary supplement?

Whey protein dietary supplements are often used when individuals want to consume protein over and above what they are getting in their diets. Additional protein can be helpful for:

  • Individuals who engage in strenuous exercise
  • Individuals recovering from surgery
  • Individuals healing from an injury or burns
  • Growing children and adolescents
  • Individuals on a weight management program or a calorie-restricted diet
  • Older adults, whose need for protein increases at the same time they might be eating less due to reduced appetite, difficulty chewing or swallowing, or poor digestion

How can whey protein affect my health?

Sufficient protein can help you in several ways:

  • Promotes overall nutritional health*
  • Helps maintain muscle mass*
  • Supports healthy immune function*
  • Promotes muscle recovery after strenuous exercise*
Dec. 09, 2016 See more In-depth