whey protein promotes weight loss

Is Whey Protein Good for Weight Loss?

I have noticed several users on Reddit and Quora asking if whey protein is good for weight loss. About a year ago in grad school, I recall reading a couple of studies showing whey protein’s statistically significant benefits on weight loss. I remember skimming a few of the studies. At the time, I was conducting pilot studies on caffeine so this information was quickly sent to my brain’s recycle bin.

Good news though! After reviewing some literature, I have the answer.

Whey protein has many wonderful beneficial health effects and promotes weight loss. Whey protein plays a direct role in improving satiety and decreasing hunger. In addition to reducing appetite, protein digestion requires more energy (calories) for digestion than carbohydrates or fat. This energy cost causes the body to burn more calories at rest. The long-term effects of whey protein consumption during a strength training program increase skeletal muscle mass and strength more than strength training alone. An increase in muscle mass leads to an increase in basal metabolic rate or the rate of calories burned at rest. A higher basal metabolic rate increases weight loss even at rest. Whew! That was a mouthful. Here is a summary of the benefits.

Whey protein benefits weight loss by:

  • Increasing metabolism
  • Decreasing appetite
  • Increasing muscle mass
  • Increasing basal metabolic rate (calories burned at rest)
  • Increasing acute post-exercise recovery time

I will cover each of these benefits in depth along with providing research to back up these claims below. If I haven’t bored you to death by then, you will find my whey protein recommendations near the bottom of this post.

What exactly is whey protein?

Whey protein is derived from a mixture of proteins isolated from milk during cheese production. It is heavy in amino acids, especially leucine which is known for its effects on protein synthesis and muscle formation.

Fun Fact: It takes 720 pounds of raw liquid to make one 5 pound bag of whey!

If you want to learn about the entire process of how whey protein is made, check this out.

whey protein from yogurt

What makes whey protein better than other sources of protein?

Whey protein boosts high essential branched-chain amino acids including high leucine content. This stimulates protein synthesis increasing muscle growth as well as decreasing muscle breakdown during dieting. Whey protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis better than other proteins such as casein and soy. (1)

As you continue reading, you will see why this is important in weight loss.

Does whey protein increase metabolism?

The thermogenic effect of food (TEF) is the calories required to digest food. TEF is higher with protein-heavy meals (to include whey) than carbohydrates or fat-based. (2)
The increase in energy consumption and heat to break proteins down into useable amino acids is thermogenesis. Thermogenesis means “heat creation” and is important to weight loss.

High protein diets lead to improved body composition and increased metabolic profile. These body composition changes last after weight loss due to increased thermogenesis, energy inefficiency, and metabolic changes from a high protein diet. (2)

Metabolic or energy inefficiency is desired when trying to lose weight. Since energy inefficiency causes the body to expend more energy to utilize macronutrients such as protein, the more inefficient your metabolism is, the more it burns calories during digestion.

Can whey protein decrease appetite?

Whey protein decreases hunger. This decrease in hunger has been shown to occur in the short-term, over 24 hours, and in the long term when a high-protein diet is followed. (3)

The easiest way to increase protein consumption is supplementation. Whey protein is better than casein protein for increasing satiety and decreasing hunger. (4) (5)

Will whey protein can lead to increased muscle mass?

People lose more fat, increase strength, and increase skeletal muscle better with whey than without while performing a resistance training program. (6) (7)

The key to increasing muscle mass while using whey protein is to lift weights. This study showed that over a year only participants that lifted while taking whey increased muscle mass. (8)

The good news is that both younger (6) and older (8) people see these results with a combination of whey protein and resistance training.

An increase in muscle mass will cause the body to burn more calories at rest by increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR). (9)

A higher BMR leads to easier weight loss.

Does dieting cause muscle loss?

Dieters can lose lean body mass (LBM) or muscle during caloric restriction equivalent to roughly 25% of the total weight lost. (10)

After reading the paragraphs above about BMR and muscle, it is apparent this is bad if you want to continue losing weight or more specifically fat. The silver lining is that supplemental whey protein can enhance fat-free mass when combined with exercise. (11)

Can whey protein decrease recovery time and perceived soreness?

In addition to supplementation enhancing total body anabolism, it improves acute recovery times in resistance training routines. (12) (13)

A lack of soreness and increase in recovery time means more time exercising and more time burning calories for weight loss. Recovery time is an undervalued variable when improving your health and losing weight. Simply put, more time working out equals more time losing weight.

Are there any other health benefits?

Whey protein is a cost-effective supplement that provides many essential amino acids that can enhance immune function and provide anti-oxidant support on top of the weight loss benefits. (14) .

Supplementing after strength training reduces inflammation and improves metabolic function compared to placebo. (15)

Age-related decline such as sarcopenia, reduced skin frailty, and decreased immune function can be reduced with supplementation. (16) (17)

Best whey protein dosage for weight loss

Hopefully, I have convinced you of the wonders of this weight loss supplement.

You have told all your friends about whey by sharing this post. 🙂

And now, you are probably wondering the best way to use it.

Three times per day is the answer.

How much protein should I consume daily?

The recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8g protein per kg or 0.36g protein per lb of body weight. For a 180 lb person, this equals about 65g protein per day. The problem with only consuming 65g of protein during a diet is the inevitable muscle loss which leads to a reduction in metabolic rate. (10)

There exists a large body of scientific evidence to support protein intakes above the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) (0.8 g protein/kg/day) to promote the retention of skeletal muscle and loss of adipose tissue during dietary energy restriction. (18)

One study suggests athletes consume from 1.8g to 2.7g protein /kg of body weight while on a reduction of 500 calories per day during a weight loss or fat reduction cycle. (11)

However, daily protein recommendations to maintain muscle and increase fat loss during calorie restriction vary significantly from 1.2g /kg to 3.1g /kg. (19) (20) (21)

The question remains, “How much protein per day is ideal for weight loss while retaining muscle?”

This depends entirely on the severity of calorie restriction, amount and intensity of exercise, and individual metabolism.

For non-athletes and regular folks that just want to lose their love handles, the upper end of these recommendations may not be necessary. I would suggest 1.8g protein per kilogram or 0.8g protein per pound of body weight per day. This recommendation is on the low-end of the recommended intake during weight loss. However, it can be adjusted week by week as you fine-tune your fitness routine and nutrition.

Our total protein intake should look like this: weight (lbs.) * 0.8 = daily protein intake

For a 180lb person, this equals about 144g of protein.

This is an easily achieved goal with whey protein shakes.

How many protein shakes per day?

Free-living overweight adults experienced an improvement in fat distribution, insulin resistance, and other health markers by consuming three whey protein shakes (20g protein each) per day along with exercise training. (22)

When should I consume whey protein?

You should consume 20g of whey protein before exercise, after exercise, and before bed.

Pre-exercise whey dosing

There is an increase in muscle circumference, strength, and exercise volume in as little as 12 weeks when consuming whey protein prior to strength training. (23)

Consuming whey protein before cardiovascular exercise has shown to increase fat oxidation while decreasing the breakdown of protein or muscle especially in a fasted state. (24)

Post-exercise whey dosing

Muscle growth is increased and recovery is improved with supplemental whey post-exercise. (13)

Whey protein before bed

Athletes supplementing with whey protein before bed experienced improved recovery and reduced muscle soreness. (11) (25)

Is supplementing with whey protein safe?

I am not a doctor and this blog does not offer medical advice. Disclaimer.

However, based on research I have gathered, protein consumption above the recommended RDA is safe and effective for most people. For example, protein intake of 1.4g protein per kg body weight has been shown safe and effective for elderly subjects with metabolic impairments. (26)

It is important to note that chronic and excessive consumption can cause adverse effects on kidney and liver function. (27)

However, this safety concern is debated by researchers.

A meta-analysis of over 300,000 studies confirmed whey protein’s efficacy and safety profile. (28)

The key take-away is to supplement with whey intelligently and avoid excessive use. Even water is deadly in excess.

Side Effects

Most people do not experience side effects with whey protein. Some people especially with milk sensitivity can experience side effects with excessive doses. Side effects include (29)

  • increased bowel movements
  • acne
  • nausea
  • thirst
  • bloating
  • reduced appetite
  • tiredness
  • headache

Top 5 Whey Protein Products of 2022

I have been using whey protein daily just about my whole life and these are the products I use and recommend. These rankings may seem harsh but these are comparing my top 5 against each other.

Ranking my top 5 recommendations

I used four categories to determine the overall brand rankings. All metrics are weighted equally.

Value – This metric isn’t just the overall price of the product. Since these products vary in total servings and protein per serving, the price per serving and the price per 25g of protein were used to determine value.

Nutrition: This was calculated by the amount of protein relative to sugar, carbs, and fat.

Taste: This subjective ranking is based on my personal preference. There are many flavors but I only have experience with the chocolate varieties and this is how I graded this category.

Mixability: This is a semi-subjective ranking based on my belief in how easily the powders mix and dissolve into room temperature water. The same protein shaker cup was used for all products.

1. Amazing Muscle 100%

  • Size: 5 lbs
  • Cost: $44.99
  • Servings: 67
  • Cost per serving: $0.67
  • Total protein: 1675g
  • Cost per 25g protein: $0.67

Pros: Advanced formula with whey protein isolate as a primary ingredient along with ultra-filtered whey protein concentrate makes this whey protein #1 in mixability. It has 5.5g BCAAs along with 4g glutamine. This company boasts being a GMP-certified facility with purity and potency testing.

Cons: Contains 6g carbs. It doesn’t have the best macronutrient profile.

Bottom Line: Even though this whey protein product doesn’t have the best macronutrient profile, it leads the way in pricing, mixability, and has the second-best taste. I highly recommend it.

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2. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100%

  • Size: 5 lbs
  • Cost: $59.99
  • Servings: 74
  • Cost per serving: $0.81
  • Total protein: 1776g
  • Cost per 25g protein: $0.84

Pros: Banned Substance tested. This gives competing athletes peace of mind. Comes in a wide range of flavors. The mixability of this product is above average. It has over 5.5g of BCAAs and over 4g of glutamine.

Cons: It’s not the cheapest but it’s not the most expensive either. It is the second most expensive per 25g of protein.

Bottom Line: This product ranks first in taste and second in nutritional profile. There are many flavors so the chances of finding one you like are high. Here is a safe bet if you haven’t purchased whey before.

buy whey amazon
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3. Nutricost

  • Size: 5 lbs
  • Cost: $67.95
  • Servings: 64
  • Cost per serving: $1.06
  • Total protein: 1920g
  • Cost per 25g protein: $0.88

Pros: This product contains the best macronutrient profile with 30g protein, 1g net carbs (1g fiber), and 1g fat. Made in a GMP compliant, FDA Registered facility. This product contains to most total protein.

Cons: Most expensive with a cost per serving of $1.06.

Bottom Line: If you have the money, this is the whey protein to buy. This product contains the best macronutrient profile and once you account for total protein in the price, it isn’t priced much more than the Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein.

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4. MusclePharm Combat 100%

  • Size: 5 lbs
  • Cost: $52.79
  • Servings: 67
  • Cost per serving: $0.79
  • Total protein: 1675g
  • Cost per 25g protein: $0.79

Pros: Banned-substance tested. Gluten-free with no artificial dyes. Great flavors.

Cons: This whey protein sits comfortable in the middle of the pack on all measured metrics.

Bottom Line: This product sits pretty much in the middle of all categories. This is another safe bet if you are unsure which protein to go with. If you see a flavor you like, I would try this product.

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5. Body Fortress

  • Size: 5 lbs
  • Cost: $40.79
  • Servings: 45
  • Cost per serving: $0.91
  • Total protein: 1350g
  • Cost per 25g protein: $0.76

Pros: Contains some carbs which is beneficial especially post-workout. This product contains 30g protein per scoop which ties for the most overall.

Cons: Second most expensive whey protein per serving with the least amount of total protein. This product contains the highest carb and sugar count. This can be beneficial post-workout but not ideal before bed.

Bottom Line: Even though it is the second most expensive protein per serving, it still ranks 2nd overall in value due to its higher protein content and lowest overall price. If you see a flavor you like, this product may surprise you. If you find a good deal on it, I wouldn’t pass it up.

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There you have it, my top whey recommendations.

Overall best whey protein:

Highest quality whey protein:

Best value whey protein:

How did I go about ranking these products?

I ranked each product on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest. Total scores were calculated by adding the total points in each category.

The scientific literature confirms that whey protein is beneficial to short-term and long-term weight loss. The benefits received from supplementing with whey protein should not be ignored. I hope that you learned as much from reading this article as I did researching it. Please share this article with family and friends who could benefit from whey protein.

Do you have any other brand suggestions or personal experience with these brands?

Let me know in the comments below!

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