Whey protein powder – by far one of the most popular supplements out there – tends to be associated with a particular class of exerciser. Specifically, people generally think of big, muscle-bound, bodybuilder-types chugging whey protein shakes several times a day in an effort to bulk up.
Unfortunately, this limited view has meant that plenty of people have missed out on a powerful and underpublicized benefit of whey: weight loss.
How does whey protein powder aid in weight loss? And how can you personally use it?
Diet Benefits: Whey Protein Powder & Weight Loss
As we look into later, weight loss is a pretty complex issue. But, the vast majority of the time, people aren't really concerned with all the factors involved: they want results. Which makes sense.
So, how can whey – with all of its famed bulking prowess – work as a slimming agent?
Consider the results of one 2011 study, published in the journal Obesity. During the course of the 12-week study, 27 male participants were put on either a high-protein or normal protein diet. Both diets were low in calories to promote weight loss.
At the end of the study, the high protein group lost significantly more weight than the other group. Interestingly, this study – and others like it – have connected this added weight loss with protein's ability to make you feel more full and for longer.
But that's just about protein? Does whey protein have any unique benefits here?
Interestingly, another study compared the weight loss effects of carbohydrate shakes, whey and soy protein powders. During the study, all of the groups consumed roughly 2200 calories per day.
After 6 months, the carb group (not surprisingly) gained about 2 pounds of body fat. The soy group had no significant change. The whey group, however, lost about 2 pounds of fat and an inch off their waistline.
(It may be worth noting that this study was partially funded by the dairy industry. This does not mean, however, that they had any influence over the findings – especially since this has been backed by other research.)
Whey Protein for Long-Term Weight Control
In any discussion of weight maintenance, it's important to consider your plan for not just losing the weight but also for keeping it off. The scary statistics say that 95 percent of people who lose weight gain it back – plus a little extra.
For the most part, this is because the majority of diets simply are not designed to last and do not teach people how live a healthy lifestyle.
While whey can't do that either, it can help to change your body composition in a way that makes it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight. Primarily, this is based on whey's ability to promote muscle growth.
“But,” you say, “I'm trying to lose weight, not gain muscle.” Here's a few things to consider:
First, you will not become extremely bulky overnight and certainly not by accident. It takes years of a specifically designed workout and diet for bodybuilders to... well, build their bodies.
Second, muscle burns huge amounts of calories even when you're inactive. Fat does not. So, recruiting more muscle fibers is a perfect way to train your body to constantly burn more calories. Whey protein has been shown to increase the rate of this recruitment, creating a lasting improvement to your metabolism.
Whey Protein Application
But whey isn't a magic bullet to weight loss. There is no such thing.
As mentioned early on, any excess calories get stored as fat. Period. It doesn't matter if those calories come from whey or cake. But whey can help you to control cravings for more calorie dense and generally harmful foods.
It's also important for you to realize that whey, by itself will not recruit calorie-torching muscle fibers. You have to exercise for that. But, once you exercise, whey will help your muscles to rebuild themselves more efficiently.
Several studies have also found that whey protein powder is not as effective when a person's diet is deficient in protein in general. This means that your diet must already be pretty clean before you start to expect benefits from whey.
That being said, a quality whey protein powder can help to augment the effects of all your other weight loss efforts.