One of the most common questions we get asked is if athletes should be using whey protein isolate (WPI) or whey protein concentrate (WPC). Whey is undoubtedly the most popular sports nutrition supplement in the fitness industry. It surrounds us in every store, every (athlete’s) kitchen, and every fitness blog.
However, before figuring out which whey protein is best, it is important to understand the differences between the two. Likewise, it is just as important to understand what exactly whey is in the first place.
What Is Whey
As surrounded as we may be by whey-produced products, very few of us know where it actually comes from. Whey is the liquid segment of milk and one of the two major elements of milk, with “curds” being the other.
Whey naturally possesses healthy proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, due to its tremendous amino acid supply, it has been proven to support muscle growth, fat burn, and the immune system.
But, what most people don’t know is that whey protein subsists in three different forms: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate. We won’t be talking about hydrolysate in this article, but we will be focusing on the other two two.
How Is Protein Made?
As we discussed, whey is a mixture of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. To create whey protein, the liquid portion of the milk needs to be pushed through a filter. Once filtered, a dry form of whey protein concentrate is left behind, containing numerous fats and carbs in lactose form.
Once filtered, a dry form of whey protein concentrate is left behind, containing numerous fats and carbs in lactose form. The percentage of protein in each whey protein concentrate can vary between 30% to 80%. It is also worth noting that the concentrate includes a number of protein subfractions, all containing both health benefits and biologic activity.
Why Is This Important in Whey Isolate vs. Concentrate?
As whey concentrate is filtered further, whey protein isolate is born. However, due to the further processing, the whey protein concentrate can lose its biologic activity. Some experts have argued that the loss of the loss of these peptides can eliminate the additional health benefits whey concentrate offers.
But don’t worry, the amino acid sequences still remain unchanged, meaning it will not affect its muscle-building properties. Trust us, it won’t matter to your muscle cells whether the protein chains get broken down in your body or in a factory.
However, being that the creation of whey isolate can affect the biologic activity of whey concentrate, the concentrated version may have a speculative health benefit. But, depending on how the whey isolation processing is performed, whey isolate can actually still have a good amount of bioactive peptides contained in it.
So Which Type Should I Pick?
Long story short, the decision really is a matter of personal preference. Before you choose, it is important to take your financial situation, personal goals, and most importantly allergies into consideration.
We say allergies because, as we mentioned, whey protein concentrate contains a large amount of lactose. With that said, anyone who is lactose intolerant should most likely avoid them. However, keep in mind that whey protein isolate is also much more expensive, as it is created through additional processing. Furthermore, there is also the added possibility that whey isolate may have lost the health-promoting compounds that can be found in whey concentrate.
On the other hand, whey isolate could appeal to those individuals who are on a strict diet plan. Although whey concentrate contains just five grams of carbs per serving, two shakes a day is equal to half an apple. While that may not seem like much, it is for some people. Additionally, whey isolate also contains more grams of protein per serving. The exact number depends on the product.
If you are looking for a simple protein supplement that provides health benefits and isn’t too expensive, go with whey protein concentrate. However, if you are specific in your needs, and want something that your body is able to absorb quickly, then we recommend finding a whey isolate product.
If you are interested in learning more about whey concentrate and whey isolate products, feel free to check out the protein blend section of our supplement shop!