What is Whey Protein?

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is one of the major proteins present in milk. It is isolated from milk during the production of cheese and casein. It is a complete protein, with little quantities of lactose and all essential amino acids. Whey’s biological value has made it a popular product among body builders and athletes. It is available in various forms as a commercial supplement. These forms are capable of aiding body builders in attaining their recommended intake of protein. Even though it is popular, most users do not know what it is and how it works within the body.

Types of whey protein

Whey protein is available in three primary types. They include whey protein isolates (WPI), whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH).

WPC – Contains a low concentration of carbohydrates and fat. Lower end concentrates constitute about 30% protein while higher ends could contain as high as 90%.

WPI – WPIs are processed further to do away with all lactose and fats. It contains about 90% protein.

WPH – It occurs in a pre-digested form since it has already undergone partial hydrolysis. It does not need much digestion like the other two forms.

Whey protein components

Major proteins present in whey include:

Beta – lacto globulin

Beta – lacto globulin is the most abundant and makes up about 50 – 55%. It is an excellent source of branched chain amino acids.  BCAAs are useful in sparring glycogen and preventing muscle breakdown during exercise.

Alpha – lactalbumin

Alpha – lactalbumin is ranked second in abundance after beta – lacto globulin. It makes up about 20 – 25 % of whey protein. It is high in tryptophan amino acid, essential for increasing serotonin production, mood improvement and sleep regulation.


Immunoglobulins are proteins manufactured within the body’s immune system to deal with certain antigens. They make up 10 – 15% of whey protein.

Glycomacropeptide (GMP)

Glycomacropeptide is an amino acid peptide formed during the cheese – making process. Depending on the process of isolating whey protein, it can constitute up to 15%. GMP is useful in inhibiting formation of dental caries and plaque.


Lactoferrin is a globular glycoprotein with iron binding capabilities. It makes up about 1 – 2% of whey protein. Lactoferrin has the capability to inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria.

Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA)

BSA is a major protein contained in blood serum. It occurs in all body secretions and tissues and has a good essential amino acid profile. It makes up about 5 – 10% of whey protein.


Lysozyme occurs naturally in milk and constitutes less than 0.1% of whey protein. This enzyme contains properties that can enhance the immunity of the body.


Lactoperoxidase is a glycoprotein constituting 0.5% of whey protein. Ideally, it serves as a natural antibacterial agent.

Is whey really necessary?

Yes. Whey protein is a necessary dietary supplement especially for those looking forward to lose weight and build a stronger body. However, you must have a healthy diet in place before trying to add whey to it. Whey protein, just like other supplements should be used to complement a healthy diet plan rather than replacing whole meals altogether.