Whey Protein Isolate – What’s all the Fuss?

30 Years ago, when I began my journey into weight training, I had never heard the term Whey Protein Isolate. We knew that protein was important and where good protein was found such as eggs, chicken, tuna, and meat. Sometimes I would buy a protein powder to supplement my protein from food intake. I never looked at what type of protein was used and whether it was isolate or concentrate. I am pretty sure this wasn’t even listed on the ingredients way back then.
 
So why has this protein type become so popular in the last 5-10 years? Is it better then the other protein products or is it just a way to extract more dollars from consumers? This is what my research tells me:
 

What is Whey Protein Isolate?

 
Before we can talk about what whey protein isolate is, we need to understand what whey protein is and how it is manufactured.
 
Whey protein, as most of us know, comes from dairy milk. Cows at the dairy farm are milked two to three times a day. The milk is collected from the dairy farm and sent to a manufacturing facility. It is then tested to make sure it is safe for consumption.
Whey Protein Isolate from Cows
 
The milk is used to produce cheese by adding a special enzyme. This separates the curds from the liquid whey. The curds are used to manufacture cheese and the liquid whey is then pasteurised and dried into a powder. This powder is what we know as Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, or Hydrolysed Whey.
 
Whey is considered a very high-quality protein as it contains all the amino acids our bodies require. The two most common and readily available whey products are whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.
 
When the liquid whey is separated during the manufacturing process, it undergoes further processing. This processing increases its protein content.
 
Whey protein concentrate uses processing steps in order to get to around 80% protein content with the rest being carbohydrates and fats.
 
A different processing method allows whey protein isolate to get to a 90% protein content with the remaining 10% being carbohydrates and fats.
 
The two proteins mentioned above both have the same amino acid content. The only difference would be the 90% as opposed to the 80% of the concentrate.
Whey Protein Concentrate
 Bulk Nutrients Raw Whey Protein Concentrate
 
Whey Protein Isolate
Bulk Nutrients Raw Whey Protein Isolate
 
From the above nutrition tables one can see that the main difference is the increase in protein content from concentrate to isolate.
 

What are the Advantages of Whey Protein Isolate compared to Concentrate?

 
Whey protein isolate has a lower fat content and lower carbohydrate content. This can be beneficial when dieting or cutting for a bodybuilding competition. Dieters following a “low carb” or “no carb” diet would prefer the isolate version.
 
Whey protein isolate is also considered to be lactose free due to the extremely low amounts of lactose present. Most lactose is filtered out during the manufacturing process.
 
Whey protein concentrate would still contain around 10% lactose. This would not be suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.
 

What are the Disadvantages of Whey Protein Isolate compared to Concentrate?

 
Cost – Quite simply you get slightly more protein for an increase in cost. Isolate seems to be around 40% more expensive then concentrate. For the extra 40% you get 10% more protein. This doesn’t seem worthwhile.
 

Should I choose Whey Protein Isolate instead of Whey Protein Concentrate?

 
Yes, if you are lactose intolerant or on a very strict diet.

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