Guide to Whey for Weight Loss

Dieticians have long hailed protein for fighting obesity.  Protein causes us to feel full for longer, increases sensitivity to insulin, and supports the development of lean muscle mass, which indirectly boosts metabolism. Appetite and weight control are very complex processes that involve numerous bodily systems and natural chemicals.  Because of these complexities, researchers are still not exactly certain of how protein helps fight obesity. However, they do know that not all proteins are equal when it comes to weight loss.  The milk-based protein whey has proven superior when it comes to supporting long-term weight loss.

What is Whey Protein Supplement?

Whey is a protein which is derived from milk.  It is what remains after milk has coagulated.  Along with protein, whey also contains lactose, minerals, and fat.  Whey protein supplements generally come in powdered forms which are made by drying out whey.  Whey supplements can be concentrated, isolated, or hydrolysate.

A whey concentrate is essentially just dried whey and will contain fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and lactose. A whey isolate supplement has undergone a process to take out fat and lactose.  Isolates of whey will have higher percentages of protein which is listed by weight, such as 95%.  Hydrolysate whey proteins have undergone a chemical process to make them easier to absorb by the body.

How Whey Helps Weight Loss

When we consume food, our bodies react to the food with a series of complex chemical reactions.  These chemicals make us feel satiated after eating, turn off hunger cravings, control appetite, and regulate energy levels – amongst many other functions.  The reason that scientists have yet to find a cure for obesity is because hunger and weight control as so complicated.  However, researchers have found that many products can help with some aspects of weight loss.  Whey is one of these promising products.

Whey protein influences a natural chemical called cholecystokinin, which is, in part, responsible for making us feel satiated after eating a meal.  Over the short term, this can help reduce appetite and control hunger cravings.

For long term weight loss and maintenance, whey protein has the benefit of helping your body develop lean muscle mass.  In fact, this is the benefit of whey protein that has the most quality evidence behind it. A pound of muscle burns about 2-3 more calories daily than a pound of fat.  So, by increasing muscle mass while decreasing fat, you can cause your metabolism to remain high even after weight loss.

Studies also show that whey can indirectly help weight loss.  It has been shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the natural chemical which is associated with mood. Other studies support whey as being effective in reducing levels of stress hormones like cortisol.  Cortisol (Cortisol: Is it Causing Your Weight Problem?) is linked to increased appetite, stomach fat storage, and weight gain.

Is Whey as Good as the Claims?

Whey has been extensively studied for its overall health benefits, including for weight loss.  The studies are overwhelmingly positive and consistent.  When you read through the long list of medically-backed benefits from whey, this milk protein can seem like a good solution for weight loss.  It is important to realize though that the individual benefits of whey are not going to be outstanding.  Yes, whey can help block appetite – but you will still feel hungry.  Yes, whey can improve insulin sensitivity – but you will still store excess calories. Yes, whey can increase your lean muscle mass, but only if you are physical acitive in the first place.  Each of these small boosts are not going to help you lose large amounts of weight rapdily. However, when you look at the bigger picture of all of these benefits combined, you are getting a tool which can help make weight loss easier.

How to Take Whey

The amount of whey protein supplement you should take daily varies greatly depending on your lifestyle and body type.  If you are bodybuilding, for example, you will need higher amounts of protein in your diet in order to sustain muscle growth.  In general, experts recommend that 10-35% of your caloric intake come from protein.  To get weight loss benefits from protein, then experts advise getting about 120 grams of protein daily.  This can include whey protein supplements and dietary sources of whey.

To get the best results from whey, you should take it about 40 minutes before exercising and immediately after a workout.  Whey can also be taken throughout the day, not just in relation to a workout.  Taking whey protein supplements right after eating a balanced meal can help support muscle growth and balanced insulin levels. If you are only going to take a whey supplement once daily, then take it immediately after working out.  Otherwise, it is usually best to consume whey supplements in smaller amounts spread throughout the day.


Brink, Will. “How Whey Promotes Weight Loss.” Life Extension Magazine March 2006. Web. Lef.org.

Miller S. L., Tipton K. K., Chinkes D. L., Wolfe S.E., and Wolfe R.R. “Independent and combined effects of amino acids and glucose after resistance exercise.” Medicine Science Sports. Exercise 35.3 (2003): 449-455.

Bos C., Metges C. C., Gaudichon C., Petzke K. J., Pueyo M. E., Morens C., Everwand J., Benamouzig R., and Tome D. “Postprandial Kinetics of Dietary Amino Acids Are the Main Determinant of Their Metabolism after Soy or Milk Protein Ingestion in Humans.”  Journal of Nutrition 133.5 (2003):1308-1315.


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