Does whey protein build muscle? If so, how much? We get these questions a lot. So much that I’m writing this article to answer the question for you and every other reader.
When you’re finished reading this article you will know.
- Whether whey protein shakes can help you build muscle.
- Just how much muscle people build when they use whey protein.
- How much you need to use to build muscle.
- What else you can do to get even more from your shakes.
I do want to begin this article with a few words of caution. Whey protein, and no other supplement, are magic bullets. While I’m going to be highlighting its benefits in this article I don’t want you to think for a second that it will help you outperform a bad diet and workout plan. It won’t. Neither will any other supplement.
Remember, we use whey protein to supplement our diet and help us get an extra edge.
Okay. Let’s answer the question at hand, does whey protein build muscle?
Does Whey Protein Build Muscle?
Yes it does. Whether it helps you and by how much depends on a few things. The first is whether or not you’re doing some type of strength training.
The more often and harder you train, the more muscle whey is likely to help you build. The amount of muscle gained varies depending on which study you read. The greatest gains in a month that I’ve come across is 1 pound of lean mass gained a week for 10 weeks.
Yep, 10 pounds total.
In this instance, the guys drinking whey protein had prior experience lifting weights. As I write above, this matters a lot. Prior experience with the exercises and being in good shape make it easier to train hard and get more from their workouts than a beginner.
Other studies average about 2 extra pounds of muscle over a month.
Pretty awesome results considering how inexpensive (show cost) and convenient it is to drink a whey protein shake. They taste pretty good these days too and are a great substitute for candy or cake after a meal.
Whey Protein Helps Women Build Muscle Too
Yep. Just like guys if you’re consistently lifting weights 3-4 times a week, and putting in real effort you’ll gain muscle.
Researchers had female collegiate athletes lift weights and supplement their diet with whey protein or a placebo to see who’d gain more muscle.
One group of girls drank 24 grams of whey protein before and after their workout. A second drank the same amount of a placebo (0 grams protein) pre and post-training too.
After 8 weeks, the ladies taking whey protein gained 3 pounds of muscle. Those drinking the placebo added less than a pound.
The ladies drinking whey protein shakes also lost more than 2 pounds of fat and got stronger, increasing their strength in the bench press.
Older Men & Women Taking Whey
Whey protein works no matter what your age too. Studies on guys and girls 69 years and older gained muscle when they added whey protein to their diet.
In these studies, the average amount of whey protein consumed was 25 grams a day. They drank them at different times, depending on the researchers goals (with meals, pre/post-workout, etc.).
Again, as it is true for people under 69 years old, you get better results when you combine whey protein and some type of resistance exercise. It seems to amplify the muscle building effects of working out.
Why Whey Works Better Than Others
It’s believed that the reason whey protein helps build muscle more than other proteins like soy is that it has a greater amount of leucine per serving.
Leucine is an amino acid that plays a vital role in the muscle building process. One whey protein shake gives your body what it needs to turn the process on and keep it going.
Some other reasons it’s better for building muscle.
- The majority of the protein you get from whey (9x%) is utilized by your body. No waste.
- Contains all the other amino acids in the right amounts in addition to leucine.
- Digested quickly, easy on your stomach. Amino acid spiking. Gets to muscles faster.
- More protein per serving. No fillers.
- Tastes better than other types of protein powder.
There’s also research that shows whey protein has an antioxidant effect on our muscles. This, they believe also plays a role in how whey helps build muscle.
Add a concluding sentence why whey better other proteins here.
The Best Time To Drink Whey Protein
When building muscle is one of your goals, simply drinking a whey protein shake every day does the trick.
There is research that finds drinking a shake before or after you work out helps build muscle too. It just doesn’t seem to help you build more than when you have a shake any other time of the day.
Whichever works best for you to drink your shakes regularly is the key.
If For Some Reason You Can’t Strength Train, Whey Can Still Help
Even without exercise, drinking whey protein helps to ‘turn on’ the muscle building process. While you’re not likely to pack on a lot of new muscle, drinking whey during times that you can’t lift for an extended period can be helpful.
Research finds that a whey shake a day can help to prevent muscle loss due to inactivity. It’s no substitute for exercise, so always do what you can, but it can help minimize muscle loss when you cannot train for weeks at a time.
Which Whey Protein Is The Best?
When choosing a product, make sure it contains whey isolate on its ingredients list. This is the highest purified whey available. What this means is that it contains the largest amount of protein and least amount of sugars like lactose per serving.
I also recommend going with a natural whey protein powder. This means that it doesn’t have anything artificial added. This includes artificial colors, sweeteners, and flavors.
A great product that meets these requirements is Optimum Nutrition Natural Whey Protein Powder.
You now know whether whey protein can build muscle. Even better, you also have a few tips and tricks to get the best results possible.
Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Carey MF, Hayes A. The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition, and plasma glutamine. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Oct;16(5):494-509.
Duarte NM, Cruz AL, Silva DC, Cruz GM. Intake of whey isolate supplement and muscle mass gains in young healthy adults when combined with resistance training: a blinded randomized clinical trial (pilot study). J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2020 Jan;60(1):75-84.
Gilmartin S, O’Brien N, Giblin L. Whey for Sarcopenia; Can Whey Peptides, Hydrolysates or Proteins Play a Beneficial Role?. Foods. 2020;9(6):750. Published 2020 Jun 5. doi:10.3390/foods9060750
Macnaughton LS, Wardle SL, Witard OC, McGlory C, Hamilton DL, Jeromson S, Lawrence CE, Wallis GA, Tipton KD. The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. Physiol Rep. 2016 Aug;4(15):e12893.
Park Y, Park HY, Kim J, et al. Effects of whey protein supplementation prior to, and following, resistance exercise on body composition and training responses: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2019;23(2):34-44. doi:10.20463/jenb.2019.0015
Sharp M, Shields K, Lowery R, et al. The effects of beef protein isolate and whey protein isolate supplementation on lean mass and strength in resistance trained individuals – a double blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(Suppl 1):P11. Published 2015 Sep 21. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-12-S1-P11
Taylor LW, Wilborn C, Roberts MD, White A, Dugan K. Eight weeks of pre- and postexercise whey protein supplementation increases lean body mass and improves performance in Division III collegiate female basketball players. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 Mar;41(3):249-54.
Volek JS, Volk BM, Gómez AL, Kunces LJ, Kupchak BR, Freidenreich DJ, Aristizabal JC, Saenz C, Dunn-Lewis C, Ballard KD, Quann EE, Kawiecki DL, Flanagan SD, Comstock BA, Fragala MS, Earp JE, Fernandez ML, Bruno RS, Ptolemy AS, Kellogg MD, Maresh CM, Kraemer WJ. Whey protein supplementation during resistance training augments lean body mass. J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(2):122-35.
Wilborn CD, Taylor LW, Outlaw J, et al. The Effects of Pre- and Post-Exercise Whey vs. Casein Protein Consumption on Body Composition and Performance Measures in Collegiate Female Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2013;12(1):74-79. Published 2013 Mar 1