Whey protein is making waves right now in the fitness world, it can help body builders gain mass and those who want to slim down maintain optimum weight. You would of course have to follow schedule and maximum doses that are allowed for you. Talking to a physician is advisable before you start taking Whey protein. Before you look at whey protein specifically, you need to understand how the body deals with the protein that you eat.

How protein is digested

Digestion of the food begins in your mouth and it continues until all the nutrients have been absorbed inside the intestines. A number of different digestive enzymes are involved in the digestion process which breaks down, or hydrolyze, the protein in the food to short chain structures of protein, known as oligopeptides, or the basic monomer unit of protein known as amino acids. The amino acids are the simplest unit and there are 20-odd different types of it. When two amino acids are linked together they are called dipeptides, a few amino acids in a peptide chain are called oligopeptides and long chains of them are called polypeptides.

Some misconceptions you might have come across

You might have been lead to believe up until now that protein (and the same has been said for the carbohydrates too) can only be absorbed from the intestinal lumen in the simplest monomer form, i.e. as amino acids. However, this was never the case. The amino acids are absorbed in their basic monomer form by an active sodium-dependent transport process, where they are pumped across the cell membranes and then into the blood. Also di-peptides and oligopeptides can be taken up in their short chain form and then further broken down to free amino acids when inside the cells of the intestine rather than in the lumen. The process behind this phenomenon is not precisely known yet but it is definitely unrelated to the sodium transport system and is thought to be either cell enzyme-related or dependent on a chemical ion gradient.

Thus, there are two quite unrelated systems in operation to absorb protein (and carbohydrates). And, as these systems are independent, this allows a greater uptake of protein in the body. So, as you can see, if you take advantage of both of the methods, then there will be maximum protein absorption in your body. If you’re eating a combination of food sources, then both of the processes will be optimized naturally due to digestion processes. So it means that it will be digested and absorbed very quickly, which can be advantageous when demands are high for example post workout or first thing in the morning.


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Ramon Lopez