Two of my friends are training for the NYC marathon and they are convinced that whey protein smoothies are essential for their success. For years I’ve seen whey in big bellied jars illustrated with pix of body builders at the local health food store. I assumed that whey protein was just to build big lumpy muscles, but when two normally rational people had such faith in it, I knew that I needed to take a closer look at the nutritional pros and cons.
Whey protein is the substance that is leftover when milk is made into cheese– and is one of the purest protein sources. It is used primarily by body builders and athletes to increase muscle mass and improve performance. Whey can also be helpful for weight loss and provide protein for strength and repair after a serious illness.
You will find three types of whey products on the shelves:
* whey protein concentrate is the lowest in fat and about 75% pure protein. ( for comparison lean red meat is 20% protein). It is the least expensive, but has the highest amount of lactose.
* whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey and about 90% protein. It is the most expensive but the lowest in lactose
* Combo of whey protein isolate and concentrate is more affordable with very low levels of lactose.
Lactose is often blamed for the cramps and bloating that some people experience with whey protein, so lower levels are thought to decrease risk of tummy problems.
The nutritional credentials of whey protein is awesome ! A 100 calorie portion is fat free, has less than 5 grams of cholesterol, just 1 gram of carb and a whopping 20 grams of first rate protein. By comparison, 100 calories of skim milk ( 1/2 cup) has 3 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbs and just 8grams of protein. If you’re looking for protein, whey is a super option.
You can use whey protein in cookies, crackers and energy bars, but the most popular recipes are for whey smoothies. You can find vanilla and chocolate whey mixes that are delicious but they add a bit of sugar. I experimented with unflavored whey and came up with my new favorite breakfast. I know its corny but I call it my Beauty Smoothie. Its rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, and protein, keeps me happy until lunch and clocks in at just 200 calories.
Ingredients: 1 scoop of plain whey powder, 3/4 cup sliced strawberries, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup cold water, 3/4 cup crushed ice
Method: Combine whey powder, strawberries, banana and water in a blender or food processor. Blend for a few second, then add ice chips and blend until nice and smooth. Pour into a tall glass for a sweet, smooth thick super shake.