Whey Isolate vs Whey Concentrate: Protein Supplements

Aaron Wood, November 19, 2016
Whey Isolate vs Whey Concentrate: Protein Supplements

If you go to any supplement store and check out the protein section, you will notice a wide range of protein supplements including protein bars, whey concentrate, whey isolate, whey hydrolysates, and even casein whey.

Whey protein is a water-soluble part of milk and is absorbed faster than other forms of protein, which means it increases muscle protein synthesis. With so many different types of protein, which one is best for you?

Protein shakes may be the world's most popular sports supplement and can come in a variety of forms - concentrate and isolate being ahead of the pack.

Concentrate is micro-filtered, and it is not heat treated, so it produces an ultra-pure protein. Concentrate may contain up to 85% protein, and isolate contains closer to 95% because it undergoes a cross-flow micro-filtration which separates the protein from the fat, cholesterol, and lactose which means a purer protein for you.

Along with concentrates and isolates, hydrolysates are available as another protein alternative. Whey hydrolysates are partially broken down by exposing protein to heat, acid, or enzymes to break apart the amino acids which marginally increases speed of digestion.

The marginal increase of speed in digestion may not be worth the extra bitterness you have to deal with from the hydrolysate process.

Deeper Analysis of Whey Concentrate

Since concentrate may be the most popular choice of protein, there are many benefits and trade-offs.

Benefits of Whey Concentrate

Concentrates are not as processed as isolates, which means you get an intact protein that contains the natural fats, carbohydrates, cholesterol, lactose, vitamins, and minerals.

Whey Concentrate Production Process
Concentrates also come in a huge range of flavors, which means you can find something for anybody.

There are many significant health benefits - not all directly related to building muscle mass:

  • It may lower your blood pressure
  • It may help treat type 2 diabetes
  • It has also been shown to help you lose weight
  • Fights inflammation
  • Enhances your body's antioxidant defenses
  • It is a complete protein source
  • Great for pre or post-workout nutrition
  • Easy to create custom shakes and mass gainers

Because of the simple production processes, concentrate is more economical. You could compare concentrate to spring water - it is filtered, pure, healthy, and contains all of the natural minerals.

Trade-Offs of Whey Concentrate

While concentrate has many benefits, there are a few trade-offs to consider.

Unless a manufacturer states othewise on the package, your concentrate may contain fat and lactose, which may not be beneficial to your dietary needs.

If you are a bodybuilder or someone who is on a very strict diet, concentrates may be harder to fit your macros than an isolate.

Generally out of 100 grams of powder you will get 80 grams of protein and the other 20 grams will be the fats, carbohydrates, lactose, and minerals.

Other Traits of Whey Concentrate

Concentrate is slower to absorb than an isolate, which means you stay satiated longer.

Deeper Analysis of Whey Isolate

Isolates undergo more processing than a concentrate and hosts a different level of protein that have some benefits and trade-offs that you should be aware of.

Benefits of Whey Isolate

Isolates are modified at a molecular level, using micro-filtration or ultra-filtration to isolate pure protein.

There is a higher protein content per serving due to obtaining a more pure form of protein at the expense of cutting out the naturally occurring fats, carbohydrates, lactose, and minerals.

Since you are getting a more pure form of protein, the minimal trace of lactose means that someone who is lactose intolerant would be able to take this supplement.

Isolates are best for a post-workout shake, so you can digest it easily without any fats to slow absorption.

Trade-Offs of Whey Isolate

Isolates have removed many elements that have positive effects on your health, but are a purer form of protein. You can compare this to eating whole eggs versus only eating egg whites.

Isolates also elicit more of an insulin response than concentrates.

Other Traits of Whey Isolate

Isolates are much faster to absorb than its concentrate counterpart. While you can compare spring water to a concentrate, isolates are closer related to distilled water - virtually all other particles are removed except protein.

Concentrate VS Isolate: Which Is Better?

You've seen the benefits, trade-offs, and other traits of both types of protein… but which is the best protein powder?

Isolates are more expensive due to the extra processing and marketing certainly pushes that as a main focus point.

This means that companies can charge a premium for their product to earn a larger profit margin for a supplement that is not necessarily better than concentrate… just different.

Concentrates are better priced and overall uses less energy than isolates to be produced. Your concentrates generally taste better and are more satiating than isolates because of the fats in the concentrate.

Research shows that carbohydrates can increase the amount of amino acids that your muscles can absorb. Knowing this means that isolates may not be as effective as concentrates when it comes to protein uptake.

Isolates cost from 25%-35% more than what you will pay for a premium concentrate, so you should assess your dietary needs and fitness goals instead of fancy marketing.

Worthy Whey Concentrate products

Worthy Whey Isolate products

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