Fit and fine by Kamal Singh: Which whey do we go?

Supplements like Whey and Casein can help but only if you first get your diet in order
Most gym goers depend on protein supplements to improve their physique(Shutterstock)
Most gym goers depend on protein supplements to improve their physique(Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 02, 2019 10:00 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByKamal Singh CSCS

Vikram got an unusual gift for his 18th birthday – a gym membership. For the next three months, he worked out like a maniac but saw very little change in his physique. A trainer at the gym told him that he needed to add supplements to his diet. Then and only then would he see any change in his physique. The first thing he needed to buy was Whey Protein powder and glug the protein down within half an hour of finishing his workout. A whole bunch of questions went through Vikram’s head when he heard the word, “Whey”. He was worried that Whey might actually be “steroids”, that would damage his kidneys. And also, being a strict vegetarian, he did not want to eat anything non vegetarian. This column is for all the “Vikrams”, who write to me and ask similar questions over and over again.

To supplement or not to supplement

Before I specifically talk about Whey and other types of protein, lets understand what is a supplement. The dictionary defines the word, supplement, as “a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.” Supplements can help add whatever is missing from your diet but you still have to eat solid, good quality food. Most beginners forget this and start splurging on supplements that make fantastic claims which are nothing but marketing gimmicks. Thus if you want to put on muscle or lose fat, first get your diet in order. Then start adding other stuff which your diet may be lacking in.

Casein and Whey – the milk proteins

Milk essentially contains two proteins – Whey and Casein. 80% of cow’s milk is Casein. Casein is slow digesting and releases proteins at a slow rate. Casein is the main component of cheese. While Whey is the liquid that gets left behind after milk has been curdled and strained.

Whey and casein are milk proteins (Shutterstock)
Whey and casein are milk proteins (Shutterstock)

Whey is fast digesting and quickly gets absorbed. Most vegetarians, who have a hard time getting enough protein in their daily diet, should include Whey and Casein protein. As Whey protein is fast acting, it is usually consumed after a workout to replenish the nutrients “burnt” during the workout while it is recommended that Casein is taken at bedtime so that the slower digesting protein can be absorbed through the night.

The biological value of different protein sources

Biological value refers to how readily the digested protein can be used in protein synthesis and as you can see from the following chart, Whey protein tops the chart!


Egg: 100

Cow’s Milk: 91

Casein: 80

Soy: 74

Beef: 80

Fish: 83

Chicken: 79

Wheat Gluten: 54

Kidney Beans: 49

The other proteins – Soy and pea

Though nothing beats Whey as a protein supplement, but if you are a vegan or if you are allergic to lactose, which is present in minuscule amounts in Whey and Casein then you can use soy or pea protein. Soy protein is not as efficacious as Whey but in a pinch it will do.

And the other questions

No, Whey protein is not a steroid. Steroids are chemical derivatives of the male hormone, testosterone while Whey protein is just a concentrated form of milk protein!

Whey protein is not a steroid and doesn’t harm kidneys (Shutterstock)
Whey protein is not a steroid and doesn’t harm kidneys (Shutterstock)

No, a protein heavy diet does not damage the kidneys, if your kidneys are healthy. Scientists have tested protein ingestion up to 3-4 times bodyweight in grams without any damage to the kidneys. That would mean eating 210-280 grams of protein per day for a 70 kg man. And that is a lot of protein.

In conclusion:

Real, good quality food is ideal.

Whey and Casein can be used to up the intake of protein if there is an issue with getting protein from real food.

Protein recommendation for the weight training aficionado, is up to 2 grams per kg of bodyweight. For most people, getting enough protein from supplements is lot easier and convenient.

Whey/ Casein/ Soy supplements are not steroids, nor do they damage the kidneys, if there is no prior pathology.

Author bio: Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years

From HT Brunch, November 3, 2019

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