Protein powder is often one of the first (if not the first) supplements an individual purchases when beginning their fitness journey.
However, choosing the best protein powder supplement for your needs isn’t the easiest task due to the sheer number of options that litter the marketplace.
Further complicating the issue is that there isn’t just one type of protein powder available. There are multiple types of protein powder that can be incorporated into protein powder supplements, including:
- Egg white
- Milk protein
- Brown rice
- Pea protein
- Hemp seed
- And many more
Still, the most popular protein used in protein supplements is whey protein, which is derived from cow’s milk. But, there’s not just one type of whey protein. In fact, there are three:
- Whey protein concentrate
- Whey protein isolate
- Whey protein hydrolysate (hydrolyzed whey protein)
Is one form “better” than the other, and which should you choose?
Let’s discuss protein concentrate vs protein isolate.
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey concentrate is the least refined form of whey protein, which also makes it the cheapest to produce. Additionally, whey protein concentrates also have the greatest variability in terms of protein content, ranging from ~35 – 80% protein by weight.
So, if a company is using WPC-80, 80 percent of the powder would be protein while the remaining 20% consists of carbohydrates (including lactose) and dairy fats. Along the same lines, a protein powder that is made with WPC-65 contains only 65% protein and the remaining 35% is made of carbohydrates and fats.
Now, here is the problem with whey protein concentrates from the consumer’s standpoint -- supplement companies are not required to list which grade of whey protein concentrate they use in their protein supplements. The vast majority of companies simply list “whey protein concentrate” on the supplement facts panel under “Ingredients.”
As a result, consumers (including you) may not have any idea the quality of protein concentrate you’re paying for...other than the considerable amount of GI distress and flatulence you’ll have as a result of taking in a crappy whey concentrate.
Something else to consider is that some companies can pull a switcheroo wherein they run one batch of protein powder using WPC-80, then after they sell out of that batch of product, they swap it out for the cheaper WPC-70. This increases the profit margin for the supplement company and most consumers aren’t the wiser. They still see “whey concentrate” on the label.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate takes the refining and purification process one step further than whey concentrate, and it MUST contain a minimum 90% protein by mass, leaving very little (basically no) room left for carbohydrates, lactose, or fat.
As a consumer, you’re guaranteed a protein powder that’s actually high in protein, unlike protein powders and mass gainers that use lower quality concentrates (WPC-60, for example), which hardly qualify as a “protein supplement” in our book.
Furthermore, since isolates are so high in protein, they contain virtually no lactose, making whey isolate an appealing option for individuals who may experience GI distress from whey concentrates.
Now, since isolates are further refined than concentrates, they tend to be slightly more expensive (not that much in the grand scheme of things) and they have a slightly thinner taste and texture, due to containing less carbohydrates and fats.
Still, if it’s the purest protein powder you’re after, whey protein isolate is what you want.
We’ve further amplified the muscle and recovery-promoting properties of whey protein by adding in a novel blend of enzymes in DigestivMax as well as Velositol to help your body breakdown and assimilate the nutrients from your protein shake more efficiently.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
The final form of whey protein you’ll encounter is hydrolyzed whey protein. Here, whey protein isolate is mixed with chemical enzymes to “pre digest” the protein, further accelerating its travel through the GI tract. While good in theory, most research has shown that there’s no real difference in recovery or muscle building when supplementing with hydrolyzed whey protein vs other forms of whey protein or other protein powders, such as casein.
Moreover, the addition of these enzymes both significantly increases the cost of the protein powder while also imparting a rather unpalatable “chemically” taste to the product. Together, this makes hydrolyzed whey protein a hard “pass.”