For plenty of people, whey protein powder is associated with one thing: bulking.
When we see shaker cups, we think of big, muscly bodybuilders chugging gallons of the stuff. In truth, though, this is only part of the picture.
It is true that whey protein powder can be a great way to support muscle growth. When used properly, though, whey can also be a powerful weapon against body fat.
How exactly does whey help burn fat? This actually happens through several mechanisms.
- Reduced Appetite - It should be said that all protein sources can help you lose body fat by controlling your appetite - with whey being a convenient, high-quality option.One study found that subjects on a high-protein diet lost more weight than individuals who followed any other eating pattern even when they were allowed to eat as many calories as they wanted. The researchers found that protein increased sensitivity to leptin – a hormone that makes you feel full – and gave the high-protein group a greater sense of satisfaction with fewer calories. Another, more recent, study compared whey to other protein sources in this regard and found that whey out-performed its competitors. In large part, this is because whey produces cholecystokinin (CCK) and other satiety hormones in addition to its influence on leptin, helping to suppress appetite through several means.
- Increased Protein Synthesis - Likely because of its high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), whey protein powder has been shown in numerous studies to increase muscle protein synthesis. This process, by which your body builds muscle fibers, burns huge amounts of calories even when you're outwardly inactive. Once the muscle is all ready to go, however, this change in your body composition results in a sustained increase in your metabolism. Essentially, this means that you will keep burning more calories even when you aren't exercising.
But studies continue to demonstrate the impressive potential of whey as a fat loss tool and, in all likelihood, will unearth more mechanisms through which this occurs.
For example, a 2014 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition examining 14 different studies, including data from 626 participants, looked at this issue.
The team found that not only did whey protein help people lose weight but it did so more effectively than several other forms of protein.
Interestingly – but not all that surprisingly - the addition of whey was even more effect when the subjects also practiced resistance training.
Even with all the above information, though, you may have gotten hung up on the whole “increase in muscle mass” aspect of whey. This goes right back to the stigma discussed at the outset.
Yes, whey protein does help build muscle. But that does not automatically result in bulk. In fact, big, bulging muscles take years of specifically designed workouts and diets to achieve.
One of the key differences is the balance of calories in versus calories out. To gain weight of any kind, whether it be from fat or muscle, caloric intake must be greater than the amount of calories burned. In the same way, to lose weight, you have to maintain a caloric deficit.
By accomplishing this while taking whey protein, you can make sure that you lose body fat while preserving all that awesome muscle you've built.