whey protein types

Whey Protein Types – Concentrate and Isolate Comparison

Whey protein types are not that difficult to understand but there are a few misconceptions that have appeared on some forums. I have heard the comment that whey concentrate is better for your health and whey isolate is better for performance and results. How much of this statement is based on fact and how much is someone trying to sell a product?

whey protein typesProtein is the most commonly used supplement by athletes and bodybuilders because of the body’s need for it to rebuild muscle tissue. Over the past 50 years, the type of protein used has changed from casein and egg albumin to a large reliance on whey protein as the most widely used. Milk is separated into whey (the liquid portion) and curds (made into cheese). Whey contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. The degree to which the whey is processed will determine the type of protein that is created: concentrate, isolate or hydrolysate.

The liquid part of milk is sent through a filter and then dried to form whey concentrate. Concentrate contains larger amounts of milk sugar in the form of lactose as well as fat. The amount of protein will vary from 29% to 89% and will include a number of different protein polypeptides (chains of amino acids). These varying forms have been shown to have an impact on your health by affecting biologic activity.

whey protein typesWhey isolate is created by refining whey concentrate to increase the percentage of protein and to break some of the peptide chains into smaller pieces. Regardless of how the refining is done, the amino acid sequence in the proteins is not changed so the body’s use of these proteins will be identical. The whey protein types are used by the body in the same way even though the isolate form is partially changed. Muscle synthesis is not affected.  The one affect the refining does have is in the presence of the longer peptide chains that affect biological activity. Many of these are broken down into smaller chains and are able to create muscle fibers just fine, but are now lost to help with other activities.

Whey isolate does have a higher protein content at 90-94% mostly due to the removal of lactose and milk fats and the breakdown of the larger chains. For those people sensitive to lactose, the isolate form is a definite benefit as it will contain only 1 gram of carbs per serving as compared to 5 grams in whey concentrate.

The last consideration is the fact that concentrate will be 25-35% cheaper than isolate for those on a tight budget.

So what do you choose? Of the two whey protein types mentioned, the ability of each to create muscle fiber is really the same, you just get more of it per serving of isolate. The concentrate will have more calories from the larger amount of carbs and fat present but is cheaper. Depending on the goals that you have and your overall budget, you could chose one over the other but for me to tell you one is better would be inaccurate. The real reason there is a buzz about which is better is from the companies trying to sell you on a higher priced product. There are far too many factors involved for me to do recommend one over the other.

Other sources of information:

Dear Mark: A Few Questions About Protein Powder Marketing Claims

          AllMaxNutrition Article


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