Whey protein is a hugely popular dietary supplement and is pretty much universally seen as being “healthy.”
Generally, though, people only equate whey protein powder with muscle growth, fat loss and improved athletic performance. In truth, it has a lot more to offer. Specifically, modern research has found that whey protein is a rich source of several powerful antioxidants.
But, what does that mean? Why is why particularly useful? What are the antioxidant benefits of whey protein?
What Are Antioxidants?
Nearly everything that you do – or that happens in your body without your knowledge – creates chemical waste products. Often, these byproducts are free radicals.
Also created when certain toxins enter your system or your body is under stress, free radicals are atoms that are missing an electron and are therefore unbalanced.
In an effort to fix the situation, free radicals steal electrons from other atoms, causing a sort of chain reaction. Antioxidants, however, can safely interact with free radicals and neutralize them before the damage spreads any further.
What's Special About Whey?
But how does whey have anything special to offer?
First, whey is particularly high in the amino acid called cysteine. Although this amino has a pretty impressive list of benefits on its own, we're primarily interested in what it becomes inside your body.
Through a series of reactions, cysteine is converted into an antioxidant known as glutathione. Although this particular antioxidant is especially powerful, it sadly cannot be taken in through your diet or as a supplement; it must be created in your body from raw materials.
Whey just so happens to be packed with everything needed to whip up some fresh glutathione. Whey also contains a substance called lactoferrin, which bonds to the iron already in your body.
While iron is incredibly important to the proper operation of many different biological systems, it can also cause free radical damage if it isn't properly handled. Lactoferrin quickly and efficiently sees to it that iron is safely transported without causing too much damage.
Finally, numerous peptides and enzymes are also contained within whey protein. Through various mechanisms, these chemicals reduce inflammation in your body, build up your antioxidant stores and even help antioxidants do their job more efficiently.
Thanks to this subtle benefit, whey allows your body to operate safely with fewer available antioxidants.