A Potted History Of Whey Protein

If you enjoy a fitness lifestyle, there is no doubt that you will already know about the benefits of whey protein. But, are you aware of how long it has been around? It might be a lot longer than you think.

Today, I’m going to give you a potted history of whey protein, and reveal just how long this fitness food and nutrient has been around for. Let’s step back in time and find out more.


Milk curds

The basics


Before we start, let’s have a look at what exactly whey is. It’s a byproduct of milk, which, when it turns sour, separates into two different substances – whey, and curds. 

In times gone by eating these two by products was common. Who can forget that eating curds and whey was a favorite pastime for Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet wasn’t the first to use Whey Protein however, as the origins of Whey we have to go back a lot longer than the 19th century.

Ancient methods


So then, who invented whey?

The amazing truth is that no one knows. In fact, our best guess is it was a complete accident! Somebody, somewhere, left a cup of milk out one night and forgot about it. When they eventually found that cup, they discovered a process of separation occurred. Yes their forgetfulness had produced curds and whey!

Now, the big question is, did they eat it?

Well considering we’re discussing whey protein, I think the safe answer is yes, someone ate it and in doing so gave birth to the world’s cheese industry. Archeologists have found the earliest known examples of cheesemaking from over 7,000 years ago, in Poland. So, we know that all those years ago, there was knowledge of curds – which made the cheese – and whey, which was discarded.

So whey had been discovered…but it was still being discarded wastefully. To discover the first use of whey as a nutritional aid, we now turn to ancient Greece.

Greek philosophy


What links the great philosophy of Ancient Greece to the tub of VP2 Whey Isolate you scoff two or three times a day when you’re working out?

Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that you have something in common with none other than Hippocrates, the godfather of modern medicine. He realised that whey has health benefits, and considered it to be a significant boost to the immune system. As word spread of Hippocrates’ beloved whey, more medical experts began to use this ‘serum’ to help their patients. Hippocrates ‘serum’ would later be picked up by another ancient doctor named Galen who lived in Roman times. Aside from dissecting pigs, Galen was influential in treating patients through diet and exercise. So successful were Galen’s methods that they would be copied by medical men for centuries!

Whey; the Middle Aged way


At some point in the Middle Ages, some bright spark began to make medicinal tonics made from whey protein. Beginning in Italy in the early 1700s and spreading all the way through to the mid-1700s in Switzerland, this tonic began to be used to treat ailing patients.

A popular story from the 1700s recounts how a man  1749 a man whose doctors were failing to heal him travelled to the Swiss village of Gais in search of a cure. Word soon spread and a spa was established in Gais, to treat wealthy Europeans in need of their Whey fix. By the 18th and 19th centuries, the whey tonic was all over European spas, and being enjoyed by the upper classes from almost every nation.

In steps modern science

So how did we get from whey tonics to the modern protein powders we all consume?

Of course, nobody knows the exact moment that people started to refine whey even further, into powders. But, there’s every chance that Eugen Sandow had a hand in it.

As any bodybuilder will tell you, Sandow is known as the Father of Bodybuilding, and he used many different products to create his physique. In fact, he even went on to promote a product called Plasmon – which may have been some form of whey protein.

Since then, the protein and fitness supplements market have become a multi-billion dollar industry. But, it all started almost 8,000 years ago. Think about that the next time you have your morning protein shake!

2 thoughts on “A Potted History Of Whey Protein

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  1. I’ve been trying to figure out since when people actually began using whey instead of thinking of it as a byproduct. This was really informative.
    Thanks for writing an amazing post with so much detail.

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