Whey is one of the most widely used supplements by athletes, weight lifters, and anyone else who simply enjoys working out. If you are interested in adding a whey supplement to your diet, you have two main options: whey protein and whey isolate.
What’s the difference between the two and which one is better? Below, we’ll explain what whey is, how whey protein and whey isolate differ, and which option offers better results.
What is Whey?
Milk has two main components: curds and whey. Whey is the liquid component of milk that pulls away from the curds when cheese is being made.
Whey contains several vital elements that are important for your health, including proteins, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. It’s has a very high profile of essential amino acids, and it is very easy to absorb, which is why whey is one of the most commonly used nutritional supplements. In fact, research studies have found that whey protein facilitates enhanced protein synthesis, burns fat at a higher rate, strengthens the immune system, decreases appetite, and even improves insulin sensitivity. On top of all of that, whey has also been found to increase the production of glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the body.
There are two main forms of whey protein: concentrate and isolate. Both varieties consist of whey protein; however, whey isolate goes through additional processing, so it contains higher amounts of protein per unit than whey concentrate does. As a result, whey isolate differs from whey concentrate in several ways.
How Whey Protein is Made
The process of creating whey protein is rather simple: It involves simply moving the liquid protein of milk through a filter. The material that remains is dried and turns into the concentrate form of whey protein. This concentrate is comprised of carbohydrates and healthy fats in the form of lactose. The proteins in whey concentrate ranges between about 30 and 80 percent, depending on the type. It also contains subfractions of protein, which are also beneficial for your health.
Whey isolate is formed by processing and purifying whey protein concentrate to remove lactose. The end result is a source of protein that is much leaner and lower in fat than whey protein concentrate.
The Difference Between Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Protein Isolate
The primary differences between whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate vary in the amount of content, lactose, and fat they contain. When protein concentrate can provide between 10 and 15 percent protein per serving, and 50 percent of that protein is made up of lactose and almost 2 percent of it is fat. However, whey protein isolate provides more than 90 percent of pure protein with less than 1 percent milk fat or lactose.
The Benefits of Whey Protein Concentrate and Isolate
Both whey protein concentrate and isolate offer a number of health benefits. These benefits are largely thanks to the amino acids that whey protein provides. Some of the most notable benefits of whey protein include the following:
- Increased muscle mass. Since whey protein contains protein and amino acids – the building blocks of muscle growth – it can substantially increase the growth of muscles and overall muscle mass.
- Increased strength. Of course, the more muscles you develop, the stronger you will be, which is why whey protein helps to boost strength.
- Quick absorption. The body quickly absorbs and uses whey protein, especially when compared to other type of protein.
- Aids in weight loss. Some studies have found that whey protein may help to make you feel more satiated, which can be beneficial for weight loss. Protein is a highly fulfilling macronutrient, which means that it can make you feel fuller longer and it also helps to increase metabolism. As such, whey protein can dramatically improve weight loss results.
- Other health benefits. Whey protein does more than aid in muscle development and weight loss; it has also been found to reduce blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, and even reduce the effects of depression and stress. It may also be able to prevent certain types of cancer, reduce the symptoms that are associated with hepatitis, improve the function of the immune system, and boost mineral density in the bones.
Clearly, whey protein offers a variety of notable benefits, which is why it is such a popular supplement.
Which Should You Choose? Whey Protein Concentrate or Whey Protein Isolate?
Both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate offer the same health benefits, so which one should you choose? Well, that depends on your specific goals and needs. Since whey protein isolate has more purer proteins and less lactose and milk fat, it is a better choice for people who are lactose intolerant or who experience any adverse effects when they consume dairy products (such as gas and bloating).
Another thing to consider when deciding between whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate is your budget. Since the isolate variety undergoes more processing than concentrates, they tend to be more expensive. Additionally, the extra processing that whey isolate goes throughout could reduce the amount of proteins and other compounds found in whey protein; however, it should be noted that whey isolates do contain a larger amount of protein, as well as a higher quality of protein.
Also, if you are looking to lower your intake of carbs, fats, and calories, whey isolate is a better option than whey concentrate, as it has much fewer carbs, fats and calories. However, whey isolate tends to be more expensive than whey concentrate. The higher price tag for whey isolate is due to the added filtration that removes the lactose from the powder.
In terms of nutrition and benefits, whey protein concentrate and isolate are essentially the same. However, isolate is a leaner, more pure source or protein and minimizes the side effects associated with lactose intolerance.
Which one is right for you? – That really depends on your specific needs and goals.