While there are no shortcuts to shedding the pounds, whey protein can be a massive help in your weight-loss journey. Whey protein shakes and supplements, in particular, are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to add some extra protein to your diet. And while whey protein drinks and powders are often traditionally associated with bulking up muscle, they can be great for slimming down your figure too, helping you to carve a stronger and leaner physique. Here’s how.
What is whey protein?
Whey is essentially the watery liquid portion of raw cow’s milk. It’s what’s leftover once the milk has been curdled and strained in the cheese-making process, or the liquid you sometimes see floating on top of a newly opened carton of yoghurt. And because whey protein contains all nine essential amino acids — those important organic compounds that the body can’t produce itself — it’s considered a complete protein. When whey is separated from the rest of the milk, it undergoes various processes to become what we call whey protein powder — a delicious supplement that can help you reach your target weight.
How do you use whey protein isolate for weight loss?
There are many health reasons to include whey protein isolate in your diet, from improving bone health to building muscle mass. And if you’re trying to slim down, here are four ways you can use protein isolate for weight loss:
1. Add it to your breakfast to curb mid-morning cravings
Drinking whey protein isolate shakes for breakfast or adding isolate powder to your morning smoothie or oatmeal will help you to stay full and satiated for longer. That’s because whey protein actually increases levels of several satiety hormones in the body while reducing the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. The upshot? You’re less likely to reach for a snack in between meals or over-indulge at lunchtime.
2. Mix your whey protein isolate powder with water and drink it as a post-workout shake
A post-workout protein shake will help you continue burning calories long after you’ve stopped sweating. When you drink a whey protein shake, the body actually burns calories simply by digesting and metabolising the protein. In fact, some studies estimate that about 20-30% of protein calories are burned up during digestion.
3. Use a whey protein isolate shake or smoothie as a snack or meal replacement to boost your metabolism
Because whey protein is rich in the amino acid leucine, it can supercharge your resting metabolic rate — the rate at which you burn calories when resting. That means a greater calorie burn when you’re sleeping or doing nothing at all.
4. Drink a whey protein isolate shake after exercise to help repair, retain, and build lean muscle.
The essential amino acids in whey protein play a key role in the creation and maintenance of muscle fibres, and lean muscle tissue burns more calories — even when you’re at rest — than body fat.
Which whey protein isolate should I use for weight loss?
Pay careful attention to the ingredients list when you’re choosing a whey protein isolate powder for weight loss. Avoid powders that contain artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives, as well as fillers and sweeteners that can bump the calorie count up. Instead, look for a clean protein powder such as Peak Nutritionals Whey Protein Isolates.
Does whey protein reduce belly fat?
While there’s no quick fix to make abdominal fat disappear overnight, adding whey protein to your diet and exercise plan can help you get the job done. Like all fat, belly fat can only be banished when you burn more calories than you consume. By cranking up your metabolism and keeping you feeling fuller for longer, whey protein can help you achieve this calorie deficit faster. And because whey protein also helps you build muscle, you’ll reap the rewards of targeted abdominal exercises such as sit-ups and crunches more quickly too.
What are the different kinds of whey protein?
- Whey protein concentrate is made by extracting protein from raw milk using heat and acid or enzymes. It’s typically higher in carbs and nutrients and lower in fat than other whey forms. And because of this higher lactose and fat content, many people prefer the taste of whey protein concentrate.
- Whey isolate has been processed to remove most of the fat and sugar content, so it’s usually quicker to digest than whey protein concentrate. And because there’s less sugar, whey isolate is the best choice for those who are lactose-intolerant too. Whey isolate has less health-boosting bioactive compounds than whey concentrate, but it boasts a very high protein content — typically between 90% and 95%.
Which is better for weight loss, whey protein concentrate or whey isolate?
The nutritional differences between whey isolate and whey concentrate are minimal. However, whey isolate does undergo different processing methods, and the resulting powder generally has most of the fat and lactose removed. As such, it has a lower carb and fat content per serving than whey concentrate, and it’s much better suited to those who are lactose-intolerant too. So, although it’s typically more expensive than whey protein concentrate, if you’re serious about losing weight or cutting carbs, then whey isolate may be the better option.
When should I drink protein shakes for weight loss?
Protein shakes work best when taken in the hour immediately after your workout. You’ll still reap the benefits from your whey protein shake a couple of hours later, but in this one-hour window, your muscles are able to absorb the nutrients more easily, and so this is when you’ll get the best results.
That’s because when we work out, we lose a lot of the important nutrients we need to help our muscles recover. Drinking a shake within 30-60 minutes of finishing your training will kick-start and boost this recovery process. The whey protein shake will send amino acids surging through your bloodstream, allowing them to quickly reach your muscle cells where they can be used to create healthy new muscle tissue.
What happens if you drink protein shakes without working out?
Protein shakes aren’t calorie-free, so if you haven’t worked out and you’re not using your shake as a meal replacement, drinking them will increase your calorie intake and may lead to weight gain. You may still receive some of the benefits of whey protein, including feeling fuller for longer, but it’s always advisable to combine whey protein shakes with a healthy workout plan, particularly if weight loss is your primary goal.
Is a protein shake a good breakfast for weight loss?
Studies have shown that having a high-protein breakfast — specifically whey protein — can help you feel full for longer and stabilise your blood sugar levels. That means you’re less likely to reach for a carb-heavy noontime snack or a sugary, caffeinated drink to keep you going until lunch.
You don’t have to get your dose of breakfast protein in shake form either — whey protein powder is one of the most versatile and easy-to-use protein varieties you can enjoy.
Here are three ways you can use whey protein powder to fuel up for the day ahead:
- Blend a scoop of your favourite flavour with a banana and an egg to make simple, high-protein breakfast pancakes.
- Mix a spoonful or two into your overnight oats for a tasty and filling breakfast bowl.
- Add a measure to your regular breakfast smoothie to give it an extra protein punch.
Can a protein shake replace a meal?
In general, the majority of your protein intake should come from your diet — protein shakes and powders should be used to supplement this and ensure that you’re getting enough. However, if weight loss is your goal, then replacing one meal or snack with a protein shake can be a great way of cutting the total amount of calories you consume in a day.
If you’re using protein shakes as meal replacements, it’s important to ensure you’re still getting all the macronutrients you need to keep you full and healthy and that your blood sugar levels are stabilised. Otherwise, meal replacements could become a short-term or counterproductive measure.
Pay attention to what you put in your blender or shaker and load it with the right mix of foods: As well as whey protein powder, your meal replacement shake should contain between 5-10g of fibre, 40-50g of carbohydrates, and 10-15g of healthy fats.