You need protein to help with muscle growth and fat loss. Given the emphasis on muscle growth, it’s easy to think that protein only benefits athletes and bodybuilders. However, that isn’t the case. Everyone needs to control how much protein they consume daily for a balanced diet and general health.
What better way to cover your protein quota than a protein shake in the morning? Now, most protein shakes have the best whey protein powder. It’s great for getting all the benefits associated with proteins. However, the type of whey protein you use is also important.
Folks prefer whey protein isolate because of the reduced fat content and more protein content. But, before we get into the details of whey isolate and its associated benefits, let’s go over the basics!
What is Whey Protein?
Milk has loads of proteins, but there are two protein types. Most of this protein is casein, i.e., 80%. The rest of the protein is whey, about 20%. Whey is present in the liquid part of the milk.
Now, whey is an umbrella term. There are eight proteins under this group, namely:
- Bovine serum albumin
Cheesemakers usually isolate this watery part from the liquid when they make cheese. So it’s a by-product of the cheese-making process. Moreover, whey tends to have the nine essential amino acids, which help you build a greater lean muscle mass. That’s also the reason why it’s called a complete protein.
Types of Whey Protein Products
After isolating the liquid whey, manufacturers need to process it to turn it into powders. Currently, there are three forms of whey protein on the market. These are:
- Whey concentrate
- Whey hydrolysate
- Whey isolate
Protein makes up about 70 to 80% of the total composition of whey protein concentrate. However, it also contains other compounds like fat and lactose. You can usually find it in protein bars, shakes, or baby milk formulas. It tastes better than the other two forms of whey proteins. Lower-end concentrates tend to have only about 30% protein content.
As the name suggests, this type of whey protein is hydrolyzed. That means the proteins are already broken down (pre-digested), so you’ll have an easier time metabolizing them. This form of whey protein is generally used in infant formulas.
Whey protein isolate powders have the highest percentage of protein content, i.e., 90% or higher. It also has the least amount of fat or lactose content. That makes it ideal for folks who are lactose intolerant. Whey protein isolate and concentrates are the most common forms of whey protein powder.
How Do Manufacturers Make Whey Protein Isolate?
The starting process for manufacturing is the same for both whey protein concentrate and isolate. Manufacturers of protein supplements use enzymes to curdle the milk and separate the watery part. Afterward, manufacturers pasteurize this liquid whey and further process it till it is refined.
Currently, there are two methods for the isolation of whey proteins. There are:
- Membrane filtration
- Ion Exchange technology
Membrane Filtration is a more popular method of preparing the whey protein isolate. During the first step, the manufacturers cool the liquid whey. Then, they pass it through a porous microfiltration membrane.
The membrane has pores, but they all have different sizes. The different sizes allow for selective filtration. Thus, the manufacturers separate the whey protein from the bacteria and other content (fat, lactose, etc.). They follow this by spray drying to convert the micro-filtered whey liquid into whey powder. This method is chemical-free and retains calcium and low amounts of sodium in the protein powders.
Ion Exchange Technology
This method is a bit rarer. Ions are charged atomic particles. The manufacturers use these charges to separate everything in the pasteurized liquid. The manufacturers pass the raw whey through an ion exchange column during the process.
The required whey proteins are isolated because of their negative charge. Meanwhile, all the extra components, like minerals and are removed. We don’t prefer this method because it utilizes chemicals like sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid. However, it does give you the highest protein per gram concentration.
Whey Protein Isolate Benefits
Whey protein isolates offer all the benefits of the usual protein powders. However, a few benefits are unique to this product. Some of the major benefits are:
Increases Lean Muscle Mass
Whey protein contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These BCAAs are essential amino acids that include leucine, valine, and isoleucine. They are called branched amino acids because of their branched chemical structure. They promote muscle protein synthesis and increase lean muscle mass.
When you engage in resistance training, you use up these BCAAs. Thus, without proper supplementation, you could lose muscle tissue instead of gaining it. Furthermore, whey protein helps release hormones that can promote protein anabolism, further increasing muscle mass.
Taking whey protein near the time of your workout can further increase these effects. Thus, it would be best to opt for whey protein supplements before, during, or after your workout.
During a 2016 study, participants from the 18 to 30 age group took whey protein supplements and resistance training. They continued this regimen for twelve weeks, and after this period, they saw a 30% increase in muscle thickness. They observed the greatest effect in the vastus lateralis (VI), a quad muscle in the thigh. This muscle increases by 50% during the study.
Like we said earlier, whey protein isolate has tons of BCAAs. For muscle strength, we will focus on leucine BCAA’s rapid muscle growth, which is important for muscle building. However, supplementing your resistance training with whey protein isolate powder promotes muscle strength.
Improves Muscle Recovery
When you’re starting resistance training, you have to take it slow. That’s because training works your muscles to the extent that they get micro-tears and other damage. As the body heals this damage, your muscles become stronger.
The only problem is that you can’t train until the body repairs this damage, as you might make it worse. It can take the body a few days to repair the damage. Thus, you will have to train less than you want.
Training less is a problem because that hinders your progress. Athletes and gym enthusiasts resort to supplementation to reduce their recovery time. Whey Protein Isolate has BCAAs and L-Glutamine that can help your muscles heal faster. That faster healing means lesser recovery time. Thus, you can train more in lesser time.
Your body needs nitrogen to repair the muscles. L-glutamine is responsible for moving this nitrogen to the damaged areas. The more glutamate you have, the easier the recovery will be. However, you don’t need dedicated l-glutamine supplements as it’s pretty abundant in your body. If you’re a training enthusiast, a whey protein supplement will help you better than separate supplements.
Prevents Muscle Wastage
As you get older, you start losing your muscle mass. This muscle loss starts in your thirties and forties. However, the problems become far more severe after your fifties. Severe muscle loss, called sarcopenia, can also occur due to other causes.
You can avoid losing your muscle mass or slow it down by increasing protein uptake. Whey protein isolates contain leucine which can even help decrease muscle mass by promoting muscle synthesis. Thus, whey protein supplements not only help with preventing muscle loss but can also improve sarcopenia by helping you build muscle.
Lower Concentration of Fat
If you’re on a special diet or want to reduce your carb and fat intake, you might want to choose whey protein isolate. Whey isolates are low on both carbs and fats since they undergo micro-filtration. Whey protein isolates are also easily digested because they have a higher absorption rate. Thus, your body can quickly absorb and subsequently process them faster than other proteins.
Lower Lactose Content
Lactose is a sugar usually found in milk. Some folks have lactose intolerance which means they can’t digest lactose. If such people take dairy, they get bloating, diarrhea, stomach pains, and gas.
Whey protein isolates that do not have lactose. So people with lactose intolerance can supplement their diet with whey protein isolate supplements. You can make smoothies with the supplements, which will still be easily digestible.
Helps with Weight Loss
Increasing your protein intake can help you lose weight. That’s because protein is a micronutrient that is harder to digest. Thus, your body will burn more calories digesting it. They also boost your metabolism, which helps you maintain your weight in the long run.
A study in 1999 checked the efficacy of carbohydrates and proteins in weight loss. The randomized trial included sixty-five participants. These participants included healthy, overweight, and obese people. People on the high-protein diet lost 8.9 kg of weight, with 7.6 kg of that being fat. Overall, they lost 35% more weight than the group with the high carbohydrate intake.
Carbohydrates are easy to digest. Thus, you keep getting hungry. Since protein is a macronutrient, it is harder to digest. It causes you to feel full for a longer period. Thus, you are less likely to head over to processed or sugary snacks.
Side Effects of Whey Protein Isolate Supplements
The first thing you need to know is that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements that include protein shakes or other supplements. Thus, you must be careful where you get your whey protein isolate supplements.
If you have a safe supplement, whey protein isolates shouldn’t cause any problems. However, if you take more than the recommended amounts, you’ll likely face some mild effects. These can include diarrhea, bloating, acne, thirst, nausea, headaches, reduced appetite, and tiredness.
One more thing you need to remember is that whey protein isolate isn’t dairy-free. It’s made from milk. So if you are allergic to milk proteins, you probably shouldn’t take whey protein supplements. The same goes if you’re a vegan.
Who Can Take Whey Protein Isolate Supplements?
If you’re watching your calorie intake, whey protein isolates are a good idea since they’re pretty low on fats. Similarly, if you do serious workouts and are an athlete, you’ll need plenty of proteins. A whey protein isolate bar or shake can help you maintain your protein levels.
Whey protein isolates are also a good idea if you’re lactose intolerant. The isolate barely has any lactose after microfiltration, so it should be safe for you. However, just to be on the safe side, start with a small amount to see if you have any reactions.
Whey protein isolates are safe for people with gluten allergies because they’re made from milk. However, take a good look at the ingredient list as some brands add artificial sweeteners and other ingredients which can cause you to have an allergic reaction.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you might want to consult with your doctor before starting any supplements. They’ll tell you if it is okay to start the supplement based on your condition.
Common Dosage for Whey Protein Isolate
Each person’s supplement dosage will differ depending upon their metabolism, age, weight, and other factors. For bodybuilders, the activity levels are also important. If you’re trying to build loads of lean muscle mass, you will need significantly higher doses of the whey protein isolate.
For common purposes, the dose ought to be around 0.37 grams per pound of your body weight. However, if a person is athletic, the quantity will be about 0.5 grams per pound. Some hardcore athletes push this number up to 0.9 grams per pound. Please note that these are only the minimum limits.
What’s the Difference Between Whey Protein and Whey Isolate?
Both whey protein isolate and concentrate are derivatives of cow’s milk. However, there are some differences between the whey protein products in terms of the processing and final nutrient content. For both forms, liquid whey by-product from cheese making or yogurt is isolated. Then, it is pasteurized and concentrated.
If, after sufficient protein concentration, the raw whey is simply spray dried for the powder, it is whey protein concentrate. This powder should be about 80% protein; the rest should be fat and lactose.
However, if the isolated watery whey undergoes more processing like microfiltration to separate everything else out, it will be whey protein isolate. The isolate contains 90% protein content, while the rest has other components.
The main difference between whey products is in the amount of protein content. However, both forms are complete proteins with nine essential amino acids and have a similar amino acid profile. Both forms are almost equally beneficial.
Whey protein isolates tend to be more processed than concentrates. That’s because the whey protein is further separated through various methods to lower the number of carbs and fat in the final product.
Let’s compare the nutritional content in a 100 g serving of both forms of whey protein powders. The isolate has a higher concentration of protein content at 23 g per 100 g when compared to the concentrate’s 18 grams.
Whey protein concentrate is high in carbs with 3.5 g per 100 g. On the other hand, the isolate has few carbs at 1 g. The whey protein isolate has no fat content, while the concentrate has 1.5 g of fat per 100 g.
The concentrate has 3.5 g of lactose per 100 g of powder compared to the isolate’s 1 g or less. The price points differ as whey isolates are more expensive than concentrates. That’s because they’re more processed till they are almost ultra-pure whey protein, which adds to the manufacturing costs.
Which is Better?
It depends on your needs. The protein content is different. However, it won’t make a big difference unless you’re focused on strength training. So if you are on a budget, you can opt for a whey protein concentrate as it offers nearly the same benefits.
On the other hand, if you want to lose weight or build lean body mass, we recommend going for whey protein isolates. They are incredibly pure and have fewer carbs and body fats. No matter what you do, stay away from dietary supplements that have added calories as it’s counterintuitive to your goals.
Comparison Between Whey Protein and Casein
Both Whey and Casein are derived from milk. However, they both have different benefits depending on all the amino acids present in each type of protein. The production process for both proteins is different even though they are both by-products of the cheese-making process.
Manufacturers add enzymes to hot milk so that it separates. Most of it coagulates while the rest separates as water. The coagulated part is casein which is converted into powders or added to dairy products like cheese. On the other hand, the watery part is further processed and then dried to form whey protein isolate powder.
Absorption in the Body
Your body digests proteins by breaking them into amino acids. It takes it longer to digest casein than whey. That’s because whey proteins are fast-digesting proteins. Thus, they only last about ninety minutes in your bloodstream.
On the other hand, casein can last anywhere from four to five hours in your blood. That’s because it curdles up as soon as it comes in contact with the acids in the stomach. That means the body takes longer to digest these curds and absorb the proteins.
Casein protein powder is slowly released into the bloodstream while whey is released all at once. That means casein is more suitable for when you’re going to fast over a longer period. On the other hand, whey provides a quick energy boost which is why you’re supposed to take it around your workout time.
Casein has bioactive proteins that are supposed to support the digestive and immune systems. They also work to regulate your blood pressure while reducing the chances of any clotting in the vessels. They also transport minerals like calcium and phosphorous in the body.
On the other hand, whey proteins contain immunoglobulin. They also boost the immune system with their anti-microbial tendencies. They work by killing or stopping bacterial growth and any other foreign microorganisms. Immunoglobulins can also work to inhibit cancer cells and act as antioxidants. Whey proteins help with the transport of compounds like vitamin A and absorption of minerals like iron.
Since both proteins are milk derivatives, their nutritional content is pretty similar. Let’s compare the nutritional content of a standard scoop of each powder. A standard scoop has 31 g whey protein powder and 34 g casein powder.
Whey has fewer calories at 110, whereas casein has 120 calories. Both have the same amount of fat at 1 g. However, whey protein isolates don’t have any fats. Whey has 2 g of carbs while casein has 4 g.
Both powders have the same protein content at 24 g. Whey contains no iron content, while casein has 4% iron content. Whey only has 8% calcium compared to casein’s 50% calcium content. Please note that this content can vary depending on the brand of the powders. You can check the bottle’s label for the nutritional information on that brand.
Which is Better?
Each protein powder has its own benefit. Whey is the obvious choice if you’re looking to build your muscles. That’s because it’s quickly digested and has a higher BCAAs content. These amino acids are great for promoting muscle synthesis. In particular, whey has higher concentrations of leucine which are known to help increase muscle mass.
Additionally, whey is cheaper than casein. It tastes better and has a better consistency. However, you must choose the protein type best suited to your body’s needs. If you can’t decide, you can buy a blend of both casein and whey proteins.
Vegan Alternative: Pea Protein
When it comes to plant-based protein supplements, pea protein is the best alternative you’ll find for whey proteins. You can also opt for it if you are allergic to dairy products. Pea protein is a good substitute for whey protein because it has a similar amino acid profile.
We know that whey is extracted from milk via chemical means. On the other hand, brands derive pea protein from yellow split peas through mechanical processing. This protein powder is free of lactose or dairy.
Amino Acid Profile
Pea protein is a viable alternative to whey protein because of the similar amino acid content. However, whey protein has all the essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein. Technically, pea protein has all the amino acids as well, but its methionine content is so low that we can’t be sure it is a complete protein.
All things considered, pea protein is a good alternative and will help you build lean muscle mass. However, if you’re still in doubt, you can mix pea powder with other plant-based protein powders to ensure you get all the essential acids.
Both protein powders have similar nutritional content. However, a few values differ. Let’s compare the nutritional content of 30 grams of each powder. Pea protein has more calories at 120, whereas whey protein has only 118 calories.
Whey protein has a higher protein content at 27 g. However, pea protein follows close behind at 22.5 g. Whey protein has only 1 g of carbs, while pea protein has 1.5 g. Pea protein has 2.25 g of fat, while whey has less than a gram of fat content. Pea protein doesn’t contain fat, while whey protein has a minute amount, i.e., 0.011 g.
Whey proteins don’t have sugar or fiber, but pea proteins have 1.5 g of fiber. Pea protein has 15% phosphorous, 7% calcium, 1% potassium, and 42% iron. On the other hand, whey protein has 2% phosphorous, 10% calcium, 4% potassium, and 0% iron.
Which is Better?
Given its protein content, whey protein is the best option. However, since people could have dietary limits stopping them from consuming whey, pea protein is a decent alternative. It has a higher percentage of iron and some fiber content. Fibers are great for digestion and can help with weight loss.
The problem with pea protein supplements is that they can be harder to find. Additionally, organic pea powders are more expensive than whey powder. Since vegans don’t eat meat, they may suffer from protein malnutrition. In such a case, plant-based protein sources like pea proteins are a great idea.
Whey Protein Isolate Vs Concentrate – The Difference
That wraps up our take on whey protein isolates and their benefits. Whey protein isolates are not that different from whey concentrates or hydrolysate. However, switching to whey isolates may be a good idea if you want to lower your calorie intake.
Nevertheless, you need to be careful with the brand you choose. Look closely at the ingredient list to see if any additives offset the isolate’s benefit. For example, artificial sweeteners will increase the calorie count, which moots the point of switching to whey protein isolate supplements.
Last but not least, drinking protein shakes won’t help you at all if you don’t carry out resistance training. You need to set a training routine to see real results. To increase the effects, take the whey protein isolate after a workout. That’s when the recovery process starts, which the proteins can help with.