One of the most common questions I get asked from my clients is what is the difference between Whey protein and whey protein isolate?? Is one better than the other, will one build muscle faster than another??
What is whey? Whey is derived entirely from Milk protein. Whey is by far the most popular protein choice of athletes, dieters and just healthy active lifestyle folks. This is because Whey protein contains large amounts of amino acids (amino acids are the muscle building blocks your body needs to build muscle and repair tissues). Compared to the other proteins out there like soy, rice, vegan etc, whey is one of the fastest digesting proteins.
Whey has an extremely high biological value (BV). A high BV means that the amino acid ratio is excellent for building muscle and that a large majority of the protein digested is absorbed and utilized by the body, and not turned to waste. Whey in its original form contains significant amounts of lactose and fat. (Lactose is milk sugar) The lactose and fats are then removed through processing and filtering. If you look on the back of your whey protein tub you will see the words “microfiltration” or "ion exchange," those are just methods of separating the fat and lactose from the protein. The end product is a more concentrated protein, either concentrate, isolate or hydrolysates.
Protein Concentrates: After the purification process, the whey yields a protein powder that is approx. 70-85% protein and up to 5% lactose. People with lactose intolerance will have trouble consuming this type of whey. This whey contains some varying amount of carbs, sugars, fats….but this is the best whey to use for baking!
Protein Isolates: This is the next step up in purification; the protein is purified again using more filtration or a technique called ion-exchange or cross-flow microfiltration. Protein isolates have very low carbs,fats and sugars. Contains approx. 90-94% protein. All or almost all lactose is removed, so people with lactose intolerance usually don’t have trouble with these whey protein isolates.
Hydrolyzed Whey: This protein is where the larger proteins found in the Isolate is further broken down allowing it to get in your system faster, enabling your muscles to start rebuilding quicker. That's because this whey is made entirely with hydrolyzed whey protein isolates (absorbed and synthesized by the body very quickly, great for post workouts).
I want everyone to understand that just because an isolate is more "pure" doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better or will produce more and greater muscle growth. Whey protein concentrate is still an excellent source of protein and has the high biological values that we spoke about earlier (amino acid building blocks). Because of the extra filtration processes whey protein isolates have gone through, it is more expensive. I personally recommend having at least one of each on hand for different uses. A concentrate I like having to make pancakes or brownies, desserts, and one isolate that can be shot back quickly either post workout or as per your diet plan.