Whey protein is the first ingredient you will find in protein powders, which are very popular in the fitness and bodybuilding community, as a way to boost protein intake via a supplement. It comes from splitting milk components and comes from cheese production. Whey protein became popular due to ease of use and its fast absorption and high bioavailability of amino acids. If you check ingredients of protein powders you will see the possibility of 3 types of whey protein: the most popularly used concentrate due to its taste and cost, the least used hydrolyzed due to its cost and taste, and then with the upper tier powders isolate is used. Isolate has the highest percentage of protein, and it is much easier to digest; in fact, it has no carbs, fat or cholesterol.
Where whey comes from
Whey comes from dairy, and it is the liquid we see when the casein protein is removed from cheese. Upon the conclusion of this filtering process, the leftover material is dried into whey protein concentrate. Meanwhile, the isolate is created by filtering whey protein through a microfilter. This process will take out lactose (sugar from milk), as well as ash.
Lactose is a type of sugar that is found in milk and dairy, which makes up to 2-8% of the product (depending on the species of mammal). The name comes from the Latin word for milk - Lactis, with “ose” added to represent a type of sugar. An interesting fact is that due to the way humans have evolved over time, 70% of European descendants still have the lactase enzyme to digest lactose, while only 30% of those from Africa and Asia have it. Furthermore, as a human ages, it becomes harder and harder to digest lactose. Consequently, the lactose will sit in the stomach undigested, causing bloat, gas, and other stomach problems.
Whey protein isolate contains over 90% protein. As already mentioned, the isolate undergoes processing to remove lactose and fats without losing its biological activity, which is crucial for maintaining its benefits. Therefore, it is processed under low acid and temperature, and this is even more important when making high grade isolates compared to concentrates.
Hydrolyzed whey can come from either whey concentrate or isolate. This whey has been partially broken down via heat or acid by enzymes that break apart the amino acid bonds. As a result, it tastes more bitter, but gets absorbed even faster. However, since isolate and concentrate already absorb fast enough, it makes little sense to pay a higher price for a protein that, in spite of being more expensive, doesn't taste good. Hence the reason very few athletes bother with hydrolyzed whey, and supplement companies do not make the extra effort of adding them to their protein tubs.
Advantages of concentrate vs. isolate
Now that we know about hydrolyzed whey, lets take a closer look at the two main types of whey in order to understand the advantages of both.
In terms of protein: Concentrate is 80% protein and Isolate is over 90%. The remaining % is water, carbs/fat, and some minerals too.
This is possible because the isolate version goes through extra filtering in order to remove more fat and carbs, which is not the case with the concentrate.
- Price: On a gram per gram basis, concentrate is cheaper.
- Fat: Isolate is virtually fat free, while the concentrate version has a small amount of fat in it.
- Carbs: Isolate is also virtually carb free, and concentrate has some carbs in it.
- Lactose: Isolate typically has no lactose, so those of you who get stomach issues from dairy will be able to tolerate isolate, and it will allow for a smoother digestion. On the other hand, the concentrate has enough lactose to bother your stomach.
Overall, the isolate might be slightly more expensive, but the benefits of less carbs/fat, more protein, and no lactose make it the superior type of protein.
How to use
Whey protein should be used as a supplement, and it is popularly taken in shakes. What's more, many even mix their protein in a glass with water or milk. Nonetheless, remember that your main protein sources should be always derived from whole foods, and whey protein is just a great way to get in extra protein, especially between meals. Regarding the dosage, 1-2 grams of protein per pound (lbs.) of bodyweight daily is standard.
Where to buy
Be careful when you buy your whey protein, since a lot of supplement companies will add a ton of sweeteners, fillers, or other ingredients, to make it taste better and save them money. Keep in mind that for everything they add, less protein will be left for you. An example is chocolate flavored whey protein, which will probably at least contain some cocoa and some sort of chocolate flavor on top of that. Furthermore, some companies will add artificial sweeteners, which have been found to cause health problems in studies. Therefore, choose your whey protein wisely.
I recommend using “wheytobuildmuscle” - it has excellent ingredients and tastes great to boot. I use it daily after training because I like the taste and texture. The protein you choose is up to you, but always think smart because it's your health guys.
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