Friday, January 14, 2011

365 days after starting a whey protein supplement

I ingested 12 pounds of this stuff in 2010.
It was exactly 1 year ago that I started taking a daily dose of whey protein. I had no prevous experience taking whey, and I have never used a dietary supplement before. I went to and browsed the different brands and products available and determined that the most positive reviews were regarding Optimum Nutrition brand 100% Whey Gold Standard. So I clicked and ordered it. Over the last year I have consumed a little more than 12 pounds of this product for a total investment of $100.

My daily dose consists of one glass of milk with a scoop mixed in. The powder does not dissolve all that well. The spoon I use to mix it in the milk usually has clumps that I lick off after some hesitation. I drink this "milk shake" in the evening after my daily weightlifting workout (although sometimes I skip the workout). I had actually wanted to add the whey to my morning breakfast since the cereal I eat contains little protein by itself. However, the clumpiness of the powder mixed with the milk poured over my cereal just was too gross and so I quickly shifted to a glass of milk in the evening. The vanilla ice cream favor took some getting used to, but now I am so accustomed to it a plain glass of milk without the whey powder tastes a little bland.

So why have I added whey to my diet, and was the outcome worth the expense? I must admit that even as a 35-year old, I desired a more muscular body that I could show off at the pool or beach. I still desire to be bigger, but it didn't happen. The whey protein does not appear to have increased the size or shape of my muscles in any obvious way. I took before-and-after photos to compare; sorry, these are not for public display! Apart from the photos, I can report a greater satisfaction with my muscle definition around my shoulders, back, and abdomen, but this is nothing that I can see in the photos I took. I believe that in the last year my pectoralis have gotten larger. Specifically, I think there is more muscle just below my clavicles, as they don't seem to stick out as much. I have also noticed more "cleavage" between my pecs, but my chest hair obscures any view of this. In sum, I want to believe that the whey protein improved the size and strength of my muscles but I've got no data to support that.

Of course a protein supplement alone will never build muscle tissue unless that tissue is worked to the point of failure. It is only when the muscle fibers tear or break (at a microscopic level) that additional protein is integrated into their structure, increasing the size of the muscle fibers. It is entirely possible that I did not work my muscles hard enough during the past year to encourage such muscle growth. Indeed, this is probably why I have not seen any obvious change in my physical form over the last year. Certainly I have not slacked off on my exercise program,  but I have concentrated much more on muscular endurance (via swimming and running) than hypertrophy (via weight lifting).

Has the whey supplement been a waste of money then? My answer is a firm "no." I am very confident in saying that the whey protein improved my health. During my adult life it has been typical for me to get a cold virus or some other illness twice a year. However, in 2010, I did not have symptoms of any such illness. There were a couple days in November when I had a slight sore throat and I thought it was the beginning of a cold, but the sore throat went away and my body apparently fought off the bug with success. As a biologist I am well aware that the body's immune system is very complex and relies on great quantities of protein to manufacture immune cells that seek out and destroy pathogens. I believe that while the whey protein did little to bolster my muscle tissue, it did provide the needed resources for my immune system to function at peak efficiency.

1 comment:

  1. I have had issues with my protein clumping. I use brown rice protein. What I have found to work is stirring it with a whisk. You can get smaller ones and they will whip it up real nice.