Whey protein is popular with everyone from avid gym goers and bodybuilders, to those trying to lose weight or up their protein intake. But did you know that there are not one, not two, but THREE different types of whey protein!
Let’s take a closer look at what exactly whey protein is (and why it’s so popular), and what the differences are between each individual type.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk, and in a nutshell is the by-product left over during the cheesemaking process.
Milk is made up of two different types of protein: casein and whey. Whey is a quick digesting protein which forms 20% of the protein in cow’s milk; the remaining 80% is formed of Casein, a slow digesting protein also used to make supplements.
When cheese is made, casein hardens and is used towards forming cheese. The liquid part of the milk left over as a by-product of this process is whey protein, which then goes through a series of processes to become the whey powder we recognise.
Why Use Whey Protein
Whey protein is popular for good reason - it offers a wide variety of health benefits! It can also taste great: flavours such as chocolate, strawberry and banana are often added to whey protein powder to make it more enjoyable, and it’s delicious in smoothies as an on-the-go snack to refuel.
Whey protein is a ‘complete’ protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids (the amino acids our bodies are unable to produce, and which we need to get through food).
One of the most well known uses of whey protein is as a workout aid - whether that’s as a pre, during or post workout supplement. This is down to a number of factors, including the high protein content; its fast absorption; and its release of anabolic hormones such as insulin, which play a role in promoting muscle growth.
Studies have also shown that whey protein can be helpful in aiding weight loss. Protein as a macronutrient is incredibly filling (in fact, it’s the most filling macronutrient out there), so eating a protein rich diet can help to reduce hunger as well as boosting calorie output.
Not sure how much protein you need per day? Take a look at our handy guide for an idea of just how much protein you should be eating to achieve your goals.
What are the Three Different Types of Whey Protein?
The three different types of whey protein are: Concentrate, Isolate and Hydrolysate. Let’s take a look at how they differ.
Whey Protein Concentrate
At a glance: Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) usually contains between 30% - 90% of protein, depending on the level of processing undergone; and is seen as a bit of an all rounder.
In more detail: WPC offers a relatively balanced range of benefits, and is considered to be the most cost effective and efficient whey protein. It boasts low levels of carbohydrates, fat and lactose alongside a high protein content, which can make it great for those looking to make gains, boost recovery time, and achieve their health and fitness goals.
However, that’s not to say it’s the best option for everyone. It also has a higher lactose, carbohydrate and fat content than Whey Protein Isolate - and while these levels are still low, WPI could be better for those with allergies or on a strict diet.
Whey Protein Isolate
At a glance: Whey Protein Isolate usually contains 90% protein as a minimum, and is almost completely carbohydrate and fat free.
In more detail: Whey Protein Isolate goes through a higher level of processing than WPC, which results in a higher protein percentage, and less fat and carbohydrates. It also contains less lactose, making it a potentially better choice for those suffering from a lactose allergy or intolerance - although it is worth nothing that the lactose content of WPC should be low enough to not cause an issue.
On the flip side, WPI usually comes at a higher price point than WPC, while offering many of the same benefits - including that all important protein boost. So if you’re on a tighter budget, WPC could be the one for you.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
At a glance: Whey Protein Hydrolysate is a partially pre-digested form of whey protein, making it much quicker to be absorbed into the body.
In more detail: Whey Protein Hydrolysate undergoes a process called partial hydrolysis - which usually occurs in the body to break down proteins for absorption. As a result, WPH is more easily digested and quicker to be absorbed - which can mean that essential amino acids reach your muscles quicker than when using other types of Whey Protein.
However, it is typically the most expensive; and can come with a more bitter taste.
So, which should you choose?
As with many things in life, there is no clear answer. Whey Protein Concentrate is a great all rounder, offering a low carbohydrate, fat and lactose content alongside a solid protein hit.
Whey Protein Isolate boasts a purer form, with more protein and less carbohydrates, fat and lactose - however typically costs more while offering similar benefits to WPC.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate could be a winner for those with digestive issues, or high level athletes, due to its pre-digested form and quick absorption. However it also comes with a higher price point.
Ultimately, the Whey Protein you opt for should be chosen in line with your health and fitness goals, as well as with budget in mind. Browse our protein deals, for whey protein, diet whey and even vegan protein.