The Impact of Whey Protein on Muscle Building and Recovery

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A recent study from Nutrition and Metabolism has shown that whey protein is the best supplement for building muscle. 

Muscle building occurs when you undertake repeated resistance training and it was highlighted in above study that “supplementation (i.e., consumption of protein over and above a habitual protein intake) of a persons’ normal dietary intake with various protein sources has been shown to augment the hypertrophic response with resistance training in both younger and older participants.” Meaning that by taking on extra protein in the form of whey, the gains in muscle size were increased.

As a secondary study, it was also researched whether the window in which you ingest protein after a workout is relevant to these gains. Although this was inconclusive, its still recommended to have your shake post workout rather than pre as the hydration and carbohydrate provision from the shake has been shown to be effective at muscle protein synthesis.

The study looked at the levels of leucine in protein powders. Leucine is one of three branch chain amino acids (we sometimes know these as BCAAs and are sold as a standalone product) and one of its main functions is stimulating skeletal muscle protein synthesis, a.k.a. making muscles bigger. Leucine has a bigger impact on muscle development than any other amino acid.

Author of the study,  Dr. Stuart M. Phillips of MacMaster University reports: “…the amount of leucine in a protein supplement has the greatest impact on muscle protein synthesis […] Leucine is not only a building block for protein, but a trigger for working muscles to synthesize more protein. In essence, it turns on muscle protein synthesis like a light switch so that over time, there could be greater gains in lean body mass and strength, and subsequently, body composition improvements."

The protein with the highest levels of important amino acids (such as leucine) was whey, which is also very easily absorbed into the body.

In conclusion, some headlines for Whey Protein are:

  • Whey is higher in all the essential amino acids – those your body doesn’t make itself and need from your diet
  • Whey protein is higher in BCAAs, especially leucine
  • Absorbed by the body more quickly


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