Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet, is an expert on how to build muscle and improve your health with foods.
In this interview, Ori shares his insights about whey protein – known as the gold standard of proteins. But as you will find out, not all whey products are created equal…
Ori Hofmekler is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to fitness and how to use food to burn fat, build muscle, and optimize your health.
He has found whey protein to be a particularly beneficial food for all of these purposes.
Whey protein, a by-product of milk and cheese, was promoted for its health benefits as early as 420 B.C. At that time, Hippocrates, also known as "the Father of Medicine," recommended whey to his patients. These days, evidence continues to mount in favor of whey, often referred to as the gold standard of protein.
Ori is an authority in this area and I've learned a lot from him personally.
We cover a load of information in this interview, so I urge you to listen to it in its entirety, or read through the transcript for additional information, over and above what I've summarized below.
Health Benefits of Whey Protein
Whey protein has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including:
- Helping your insulin work more effectively, which helps maintain your blood sugar level after a meal -- This is important as research suggests lowering your blood sugar levels after meals may be more beneficial for your health than lowering fasting blood sugars.
- Promoting healthy insulin secretion, which is imperative for optimal health. This is one of the foremost reasons for avoiding sugars and grains, as overconsumption of grains and sugary foods has a negative impact on both, and is a prime factor in developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helping to promote your optimal intake of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals needed for your overall wellness
- Supporting your immune system, as it contains immunoglobulins
- Helping you preserve lean body tissue (particularly during exercise) as it delivers bioavailable amino acids and cysteine
- Maintaining blood pressure levels that are already within the normal range
There are a number of whey products on the market, but unfortunately many of them will not give you the health benefits associated with high-quality whey.
Most commercial whey products are derived from pasteurized dairy and are processed with heat and acid. Many are also artificially sweetened. All of these factors render them completely useless from a health perspective.
Whey isolate is one such inferior product, because when you remove the fat, you actually remove important components of itsimmunological properties, such as phospholipids, phosphatidylserine and cortisol.
Additionally, all of the IgG immunoglobulins, which are an excellent source of glutamine and cysteine, are also bound to the fat globule. Fat provides not just calories. In fact, most food rich in healthful fat, including nuts, seeds, chia and almonds are carriers of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and phytosterols.
Dairy also contains lipoic acid, which is a carrier of enzymes and immunoglobulin.
Therefore, if you take the fat out you're left with a clearly inferior whey protein.
"I'm totally against whey isolate," Ori says. "I think it's just the wrong whey."
Pasteurized versus Raw Milk Whey
When selecting a whey product, I strongly recommend making sure it's made from raw, grass-fed milk, in order to obtain the majority of its immune-enhancing benefits.
Unfortunately, most of the whey protein sold on the market is made from pasteurized milk, including whey protein concentrate and New Zealand whey. The New Zealand whey does come from grass-fed cows. However by New Zealand law the whey must be made from pasteurized milk, which negates many of the inherent health benefits of whey, even though it's grass-fed.
There are, however, a few good sources of high-quality whey protein, made from the raw (unpasteurized) milk of grass-fed cows.
"When you look at this whey," Ori says, "you can immediately tell the difference in the smell, the taste. It tastes creamy and good by itself. It's water soluble. It gives you only the mineral component."
Fortunately, manufacturers in the US are allowed to process whey from raw milk.
"In my opinion… in America, you can find some of the best whey in the world. You just need to know where to look for it and how to process it," Ori says.
Guidelines for Buying High-Quality Whey
As explained by Ori, these are the factors you need to look for in order to ensure you're buying a high-quality product:
- Organic (no hormones)
- Made from unpasteurized (raw) milk
- Cold processed, since heat destroys whey's fragile molecular structure
- Minimally processed
- Rich, creamy, full flavor
- Water soluble
- Sweetened naturally, not artificially
- Highly digestible—look for medium chain fatty acids (MCTs), not long chain fatty acids
Some of the best whey protein you can get today is derived from raw milk cheese manufacturing. They have very high quality controls and produce great-tasting whey, with optimal nutritional content.
One of the most important components of the whey is glycomacropeptides (GMP). GMP has amazing immuno components that are critically important for your gut flora. However, only whey produced from raw milk cheese contains GMP. Other varieties do not.
For more in-depth information about the actual processing procedure that high-quality whey must undergo, please listen to the entire interview above.
Your Second-Best Option…
High quality whey is typically more expensive than lower quality whey products and I believe it's well worth the investment. However, if you can't afford high quality whey, what's your second-best option?
The answer is simple: raw dairy products, such as raw milk or raw milk cheese.
To find a source near you, check out www.RealMilk.com. They are a great resource for raw dairy.
An additional benefit of raw milk cheese is that the fermentation process also produces vitamin K2, which is a very important nutrient for optimal health that is difficult to obtain on a normal diet, unless you eat traditionally-fermented foods.
Raw milk and raw milk cheese is also a good source of calcium, which we discuss in further detail in this interview.
Whey Protein versus Yoghurt – One Builds Muscle, The Other Doesn't
Research clearly shows that sour milk, such as kefir or yoghurt, has amazing cardiovascular benefits, such as reducing your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Whey and raw milk cheese also both contain compounds called casomorphins that have beneficial effects on blood pressure and blood sugar.
The real difference between them, however, becomes apparent when you want to build muscle. The benefits of sour milk products are primarily evident in your cardiovascular system, not your body's ability to build muscle.
So if you want to build muscle, do not use yoghurt. It contains protein, but the fermentation process strips away many of the additional immuno components that make whey stand out as a primary fuel to increase your muscle mass.
Ori recommends yoghurt for detoxifying your body and reestablishing a healthful balance of beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics). This is also important for building muscle, but yoghurt is not an ideal source of protein to build muscle or boosting your immune system…
Increasing Your Muscle Mass
Whey protein, however, is a great source of protein for building muscle.
Ideally, you'll want to use a combination of sour milk products and whey, as each has its own set of benefits.
Ori explains the supportive mechanisms of these two products.
"… [A]s protein is digested in your stomach, a large percentage of amino acids actually are not fully utilized and do not reach your low intestine. That's when probiotics come into action. They can help you utilize the remaining amino acid.
More than that, if your gut flora is healthy, we now have proof that they can actually synthesize essential amino acids, including lysine, which is missing in food stuff.
That's one of the downside of vegans -- they don't have enough lysine.
They [probiotics] can also synthesize leucine, which you need for muscle building. Good quality protein and good gut flora, and good timing of meals, is important."
Please remember that a major challenge many go through is a process called sarcopenia, which is age related muscle loss This recent New York Times article addresses this topic and clearly suggests most of us should be doing some type of strength training.
You just need to know that lifting weights will NOT necessarily result in gaining muscle mass. If you are involved in heavy catabolic exercises like aerobics or running, you will not have the hormonal influences to build muscle.
Additionally, you need to supply your muscles with fuel at the appropriate time so they will have the building blocks to build new muscle tissue. Ideally you would want to consume the whey about one hour before and one hour after your workout.
I personally add two organic pasture-raised eggs to my whey shake along with some raw milk rather than water. I am currently in a muscle gaining phase and have gained about 10 pounds of muscle in the past six month, and lost about 13 pounds of fat, using the Peak Fitness program and whey protein/raw milk/raw egg combination.
Another important benefit of the whey is that if you consume it during the day, you facilitate detoxing while at the same time giving your muscles exactly what they need to rebuild. For more information about this, please see this previous article that discusses how whey can naturally optimize your glutathione production, which is an important component for optimal health and muscles.
You will also burn more fat because you're less likely to consume excess calories. (Protein, as you may recall from previous articles, is the most filling type of food, which will help eliminate high-carb/high-calorie snacking.)
What About Naturally Occurring MSG?
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a commonly used flavor enhancer with potent neurotoxic properties. MSG should therefore be avoided as much as possible.
That said, however, it' important to realize that MSG can also occur naturally in certain foods, including yoghurt, and these types of MSG-containing foods do not cause the same kind of harm that synthetic, added MSG does.
"You want to stay away from MSG. However, your body is very well equipped to protect itself from MSG... [W]e have naturally occurring MSG in many healthy foods; tomato, potato, yoghurt.
Are you going stop eating sour milk and yoghurt with all their benefits just because it produces some MSG in the processing, the fermentation of milk?
No. We cannot be too obsessive, because your body can easily protect itself from MSG when on a healthy diet…
One of the compounds your body produces is called betaine. Betaine is produced from choline. Milk and whey is loaded with choline; with all the nutrients that help you protect yourself from MSG. It's not that it doesn't produce MSG, it provides you -- through the sunflower lecithin -- with all the nutrients your body needs to protect itself from glutamate excitotoxicity."
Whey Protein – A Great Way to Start Each Day!
For all the reasons mentioned here, and then some, high-quality whey protein is my preferred breakfast. I drink a delicious whey protein shake after my morning exercise routine, which includes high intensity Peak Fitness exercises, as whey is ideal for facilitating muscle building and fat burning.