Whey Protein Isolate Vs Concentrate: Which Protein Is for You?
Many people choose to take protein supplements on a regular basis to help gain muscle mass, increase strength, and lose body fat.
Most popularly ingested in the form of protein shakes, teamed with resistance exercise, whey protein can assist in the growth of lean muscle mass. By helping your body recover from workouts more quickly, whey protein provides essential amino acids that are quite literally the building blocks of your body.
With a huge demand for whey protein, the market is flooded with various companies trying to compete for your business, and this is where things get complicated. Knowing which whey protein supplement will be right for you, however, will depend on your goals. With this in mind, we look at whey protein isolate vs concentrate to help you decide which one will be better for you.
To help you decide which is better, keep reading to find out exactly what whey protein is and the main differences between the two more popular types it is available in: isolate and concentrate.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey Protein is a byproduct of dairy. When milk is used to make yogurt or cheese, certain enzymes are added to cause the milk to separate so that the curds can be harvested to make cheese. Whey protein is in the liquid that’s leftover after the curds are removed.
Whey protein is classified as a complete protein as it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that are needed by your body to build and repair tissues. It is highly bioavailable, meaning that is very quickly absorbed into your body, and it contains branched-chain amino acids that are found in muscle mass in highly concentrated amounts, helping fuel your muscles and stimulate protein synthesis. Interestingly, before it was discovered how valuable this byproduct was, cheesemakers would simply discard it.
Whey Protein Isolate vs Concentrate
While shopping around for this protein supplement, whether it be in the form of powder to make shakes with, meal supplements, or protein bars, you will have come across two types: isolate and concentrate.
While they both contain the same types of amino acids, as they are derived from the same protein, it’s important to know the differences between the two, as some of them may impact your decision as to which one is better for you.
All of the differences between whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate are down to the way they are processed. Without going into technical details about the processing methods used, the main thing to know is that whey protein isolate is processed more than whey protein concentrate, making it more refined.
- Protein Content
The protein content is obviously of huge importance, after all, this is the reason you are taking the supplement in the first place.
Whey protein concentrate can typically have anywhere up to around 80% protein by weight. The rest is made up of carbohydrates and fat. Isolate, on the other hand, through the more refined production process, typically has around 90% protein by weight.
- Fat Content
Whey protein isolate is much lower in fat than concentrate making it much more ideal if you are taking the supplement to lose weight while retaining muscle mass. In a typical 100-calorie serving, whey protein isolate has 0g fat while whey protein concentrate has 1.5g fat.
- Carbohydrate Content
The carbohydrate content of whey protein concentrate is also higher than that found in whey protein isolate. A typical 100 calorie serving of whey concentrate will contain around 3.5g of carbohydrate against just 1g in whey isolate.
- Lactose Content
Lactose, along with fat and carbohydrate, is also found in higher abundance in whey protein concentrate. The numbers are similar to those of the carbohydrate content, up to 3.5g lactose can be found in whey concentrate against up to 1g in whey isolate.
Although neither amount is likely to affect those who suffer from lactose intolerance, if you are trying to avoid lactose completely, you are better off with the whey protein isolate.
The final main difference between the two products is their cost. As you can probably guess, whey protein isolate is more costly than whey protein concentrate, and for good reason too. The extra processing it goes through, which results in the higher protein content and reduced fat and carbs content, justifies the higher price tag for many people.
Other Potential Benefits of Whey Protein
- Can help with weight loss. One study published by Nutrition & Metabolism, showed that subjects given whey protein supplements lost more weight (a significant amount more) than those given a placebo beverage.
- May have anti-cancer properties. Promising results have been published in this field, but much more research is needed.
- Can help to lower cholesterol. One study gave half their 70 subjects whey supplements and the other half casein supplements (another family of proteins from milk), and after three months, those given whey had significantly decreased cholesterol levels against the casein group.
- Could help asthma sufferers. Children with asthma had improved immune response after just one month of taking whey protein supplements.
- Can reduce blood pressure. Studies have shown a massive decrease in blood pressure in those suffering from hypertension and their chances of having a stroke or heart attack are also reduced.
Isolate vs Concentrate: Which Is Better?
Looking at whey protein isolate vs concentrate, it’s clear to see why many people prefer whey protein isolate over concentrate. Not only does it have a higher amounts of protein by weight, but also the fat, carbohydrate, and lactose content, is significantly reduced in the isolate products.
Unless you are specifically hoping to drop a few pounds, then this may not be important to you and therefore, given the price difference, you may be better of choosing a whey protein concentrate.
If, however, you are interested in reducing your intake of fat, carbohydrates, or lactose, for any reason at all, then whey protein isolate is by far a superior choice, and well worth the extra money.
To make things slightly more complicated, some products on the market these days are actually a blend of both whey isolate and concentrate. Always check how much protein you are packing into each serving, by weight, to ensure that you are getting enough.