Which Form of Whey Protein Is The Best?
In my last article, I talked about the differences between whey protein and casein protein, but I did not delve into the various types of whey protein. That’s precisely what this article will do. I will break down the three types of whey proteins commonly found on the shelves of nutrition stores for fitness gurus and health buffs. If you’ve been wondering the differences, if there are any major differences, and which is the best for you, continue reading.
Whey protein is an animal byproduct. It is one of two types of proteins that make up lactose and may be extracted from that lactose by adding some coagulant to the liquid. When comparing the two proteins (whey and casein), whey protein is the water-soluble portion, which allows for faster absorptive properties, while casein protein is the curd-like portion, providing for much slower tissue absorption. While casein only has its one form, whey protein may be modified through processing to slightly change its structure to increase the tissue absorption pace.
- Concentrate: this is what you think of when you hear “whey protein”. It is the most basic form of whey, which makes sense for it also being the most inexpensive. Whey concentrate is beneficial for athletes and the general public as it allows for muscle protein synthesis and aids in reaching daily nutritional goals. It also typically tastes the best, as it is the easiest to flavor.
- Isolate: the second most common form of whey protein. Whey isolate undergoes more processing than whey concentrate through a method called cross-flow micro filtration. Because it is more processed it contains more protein than whey concentrate (90% vs. 80%), is lower in fat and carbohydrate content, and contains lower levels of cholesterol, lactose, and calories. Whey isolate is ideal for individuals with lactose sensitivities, and those looking to enhance muscle protein synthesis while maintaining low fat and carbohydrate values. Whey isolate is more expensive than whey concentrate but less expensive than the next protein source to be mentioned.
- Hydrolysate: made via breaking down amino acids through exposing the protein to heat, acids, or enzymes to further process the protein and make its content purer than that of whey concentrate and whey isolate. Hydrolyzed protein removes the digestion process, allowing it to be absorbed quicker than both of the aforementioned protein sources. It provides more insulin, making the absorption process quicker, but it does not increase glucose which is beneficial in reducing the likelihood of unwanted fat. Not surprisingly, whey hydrolysate is more expensive than both concentrate and isolate whey proteins because of its processing.
All of these protein sources do the same thing. They all provide fast and easy protein supplementation to hit daily goals while increasing skeletal muscle protein synthesis and regeneration. All of these whey proteins have fast-absorption properties, making them most beneficial at the same time of day, right before and immediately following a workout. Their differences are minuscule in the grand scheme of things, particularly for the non-athlete. Deciding which of these three whey proteins is best for you is based upon a number of personal factors.
The more the whey protein is processed, the purer it becomes. This means that you will get more protein per serving, but you will lose some other nutrients. Isolates and hydrolysates contain fewer calories, fats, and carbohydrates, which may be important for you if you have specific daily goals that you are trying to meet. Further processing also reduces the amount of cholesterol and lactose in the protein. But while all of these characteristics may be beneficial for you in reaching your goals, you have to ask yourself “how much do I care about taste?”. As the whey becomes more processed, the flavor is compromised. It becomes more bitter, so it’s no surprise that whey concentrates typically have the better tasting protein. And lastly, you have to figure the price into your monthly budget. Isolates and hydrolysates are significantly more expensive than concentrates. For some this plays no factor in choosing a protein supplementation, but for others, it may make all the difference.