What is the Difference Between Whey Protein Isolate and Concentrate Powders?

Protein bars, powders, and drinks are among the most talked-about dietary supplements in the market today. A common denominator among these three protein-rich products is whey. Whey is a protein that is gotten from dairy and is a top-rated source of protein. Whey Protein is incredibly popular among athletes, sportsmen and women, and ordinary individuals who want to gain more muscle mass. It is marketed under different brand names and has gained immense popularity over the past decades. There are several types of whey protein. Notable among them are whey isolate and whey concentrate. The best between these two forms of whey protein is a source of significant arguments among fans of whey protein. 

This writeup will outline the major differences between whey isolate and whey concentrate. It will also spell-out whether one is better than the other and which one is better and the benefits each have to offer. And by the time you are through, you will know without a doubt which is the best option for you. 

But first, let’s get to know whey protein a bit. 

What Is Whey Protein?

A bulk of the protein in protein drinks, bars, and powders is gotten from milk. Whey protein is usually a by-product of a cheese or yogurt-making process.  Whey, in its natural form, is generally contained in milk. After the milk is heated in making cheese, the rising temperature causes the milk to be separated into liquid whey and curds. Before processing the milk into yogurt or cheese, about 80 percent of the protein is casein, a slow-digesting protein. The remaining 20 percent is whey protein. 

Both forms of protein are adjudged as high-quality because they contain all the necessary amino-acids our body needs. Nonetheless, whey protein is usually valued over casein because it enhances protein production in our body’s muscles. There different forms of whey protein used for making dietary supplements. The most prominent or common ones among them are whey concentrate and whey isolate. 

Different processing techniques are usually adopted in the production of these two forms of whey protein. Also, the two forms are slightly different in nutritional content. So, what’s the difference between these two forms? Let us find out below. 

Differences Between Whey Concentrate and Whey Isolate 

The differences between whey concentrate and whey isolate are mainly due to the processing techniques adopted during their production. After liquid whey is collected during yogurt or cheese production, some additional rounds of processing aim to increase its protein content. When a target amount of protein concentration is reached, the liquid is dried to form what we call “Whey concentrate powder.” For the powder to be called whey concentrate, it must contain around 80 percent protein. The other 20 percent is usually made up of fats and carbohydrates. This means, if you were to scoop 1000 grams of whey protein powder, you could call it whey concentrate if around 800 grams of that 1000g powder is whey protein. 

If other processing steps are introduced to reduce the whey’s carbohydrate and fat contents (to as little as 10 percent or less), the resulting powder is a whey isolate.  This means, for a whey protein to be called a whey isolate, it must contain around 90 percent or more protein of whey protein. Considering our previous illustration, a 1000 gram of grass fed whey protein powders can be called a whey isolate if around 900 grams or more of its content is whey protein.

The production techniques employed in making whey isolate ensure that it contains much lower amounts of fat and carbs. It also makes sure they have a higher amount of protein per serving. Nonetheless, both forms of whey protein contain virtually identical types of amino acids. 

Apart from having much lower carbohydrate and fat contents, whey isolate contains only a minimal amount of lactose. This makes whey isolate a healthier choice for whey protein fans who have problems with lactose tolerance. However, this doesn’t mean that whey concentrate contains a large amount of lactose. On the contrary, both whey isolate and whey concentrate contain low amounts of lactose. Whey isolate has the edge over whey concentrate because of a few percentage differences. Therefore, whey concentrate is still safe for those that are lactose intolerant, though whey isolate would be a better choice. 

Because of the cost of extra processing steps employed in whey isolate production, it is usually costlier than whey concentrate. However, while whey isolate is purer and packs a greater percentage of whey protein, it could be possible to get a similar protein concentration amount by taking more whey concentrate. This means that one can get a similar amount of whey protein at a lower price by consuming a little more whey concentrate. 

Both Whey Isolate and Concentrate Have Similar Benefits

There are tons of research that highlight the benefits that whey protein offers to active people. One such study conducted on 192 individuals who participated in regular exercises showed that both forms of whey protein provided substantial benefits. In the study, participants who took whey concentrate and isolate whey experienced improvement in strength and lean mass. 

Although whey isolate and Concentrate have slight nutritional differences, there is no definitive evidence that indicates that either form of whey protein has varying effects in the body. 

Both forms of whey protein are generally considered high-quality, and they’re rightly so. Though there’s a growing community of people that favor either of the two forms over the other, both forms offer quite similar benefits.

Nonetheless, people trying to put a lid on their lactose, carbs, and fat consumption may find whey isolate more suitable for their needs. On the other hand, people who have no problem with taking a bit more fats, carbs, and lactose may opt for whey concentrate. Also, since Whey concentrate is generally cheaper, price-sensitive consumers may find whey concentrate more price friendly. 

Which Should You Choose Between the Two?

If you’ve made up your mind to use whey protein, the next likely decision will be choosing between whey isolate and whey concentrate. While your friends or family may advise you to go for either of the two forms because it worked for them, the ultimate decision is in your hands. Rather than going for what works, you should go for what’s best for you. Figuring out the type of whey protein that’s best for you might mean taking your health goals, your body type, and your lifestyle into consideration. Some people are usually concerned about taste as well. More fat and carbohydrate in whey protein concentrate gives it a more creamy, milky taste. This means, if you’re looking for a better tasting form of whey protein, whey concentrate is a safer bet. 

Both whey protein isolate and Concentrate will provide very similar results. The reasons most people choose one over the other is usually as a result of personal preferences in taste, price friendliness, or some health-related factor. Since there are no significant differences in health benefits between the two, either form of whey protein could be just as good as the other. Though whey isolate has tremendous hype and support for being purer, the purity of whey concentrate is not significantly far behind. 

However, suppose you have health problems that may be impacted by wrong protein choices. In that case, it is imperative to seek a qualified health professional’s advice before making a decision. This will ensure you go with the option that is ideal for you and your requirements. 


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