Whey is a fast-digesting protein that derives from milk. A wide variety of foods include whey, and most of them target people who wish to enhance muscle growth through weightlifting. Although excessive weightlifting can pose potential dangers to the growth of teens, whey is not the cause of the problem.
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Milk contains two main forms of protein: whey and casein. According to University of Connecticut associate professor Dr. Jeff Volek, approximately 20 percent of the protein in milk is whey protein, with casein making up the remaining 80 percent. The whey in powders on the shelves of nutrition centers is extracted during the process of turning milk to cheese. Whey protein digests extremely quickly, sometimes in as little as 45 minutes, making it an ideal post-workout protein. In comparison, casein protein can take as long as seven hours to digest.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, teens who do intense weightlifting sessions followed by a whey protein shake can have stunted growth, but the whey protein shake post-lifting has nothing to do with the stunted growth. As a teen, lifting weights too rigorously can damage muscles and tendons that have yet to develop, also known as growth plates. Drinking whey protein afterward merely increases the muscle growth efficiency post-workout.
Whey protein isn't found solely in cow's milk. Breast milk contains high amounts of protein to assist with muscle development and, according to the American Pregnancy Association, 60 percent to 80 percent of that protein is whey-based. The whey protein in human breast milk not only assists with muscle development, but also contains infection-fighting nutrients.
Whey protein provides teens with many benefits, none of which leads to stunted growth. Whey protein is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids a teen needs in his daily diet. Whey contains high traces of the amino acid cysteine, which is a major catalyst in boosting the immune system. According to the American Cancer Society, women with high levels of cysteine were 56 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a teen's diet should contain approximately 0.4 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. Whey protein's quick-digesting, low-calorie, easy-to-mix properties make it an excellent addition to a teen's diet.