Does whey protein build muscle?

The simple fact that whey protein is one of the most widely used supplements means it SHOULD provide some genuine benefits. One of the most essential benefits a protein supplement should deliver is building muscle mass. Whey protein is known as the fast-digesting protein. It’s typically used as a post-workout recovery aid, in part, because of its quick delivery of nutrients to the muscle tissue.

TL;DR: Whey protein is one of the most favorably studied supplements on the market. Unlike other supplement ingredients, it consistently shows benefits for a wide variety of claims, including its ability to build muscle when combined with resistance training. The studies highlighted below include subjects of both genders ranging from, young men to older women. Whey protein helped each group build more muscle than their placebo counterparts.

Gaining Muscle

Muscle mass is the difference between two continuous processes: muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. When overall synthesis is greater than breakdown, we’re building muscle mass. Resistance training, combined with sufficient protein consumption, results in greater protein synthesis, leading to more muscle.

Young Men. In a 2019 study on young, untrained men, participants took a 40 gram whey protein supplement before and after their resistance training sessions. They trained three times per week for 12 weeks. In this study, training sessions consisted of both upper and lower body routines. This study showed that the protein group had a more significant increase in muscle mass, muscle circumference, and strength than the placebo group¹.

Older Women. Aging is associated with decreased strength and muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia. As we age, we lose muscle. Women are especially susceptible to sarcopenia due to their lower levels of muscle compared to men. This study looked at the effects of whey protein on older women².

This study used 31 older women with a history of participating in resistance training. The participants took 35 grams of whey protein immediately following their training session. The results of this study were similar to the first. The whey protein group showed larger increases in muscle mass than the non-protein placebo group².

Female Athletes. A third study used female collegiate athletes. The athletes took 24 grams of whey protein before and after a training session for 8 weeks. This study’s results followed the same theme as the prior ones; the whey protein gained more lean mass and lost more fat mass than the placebo group³.

The Bottom Line

Whey protein is one of the most favorably studied supplements on the market. Unlike other supplement ingredients, it consistently shows benefits for a wide variety of claims, including its ability to build muscle when combined with resistance training. The studies highlighted above included subjects of both genders ranging from, young men to older women. Whey protein helped each group build more muscle than their placebo counterparts.

References

  1. Park, Y., Park, H., Kim, J., Hwang, H., Jung, Y., Kreider, R., Lim, K. (2019). Effects of whey protein supplementation prior to, and following, resistance exercise on body composition and training responses: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry, 23(2), 34–44. doi:10.20463/jenb.2019.0015
  2. Junior, P. S., Ribeiro, A. S., Nabuco, H. C., Fernandes, R. R., Tomeleri, C. M., Cunha, P. M., Cyrino, E. S. (2018). Effects of Whey Protein Supplementation Associated With Resistance Training on Muscular Strength, Hypertrophy, and Muscle Quality in Preconditioned Older Women. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(5), 528–535. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2017–0253
  3. Taylor, L. W., Wilborn, C., Roberts, M. D., White, A., Dugan, K. (2016). Eight weeks of pre- and postexercise whey protein supplementation increases lean body mass and improves performance in Division III collegiate female basketball players. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 41(3), 249–254. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015–0463

Originally published at https://supplementdatabase.com on January 5, 2021.

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