When it comes to protein there are lots of choices on store shelves. From the standpoint of digestibility, full spectrum amino acid profiles, ease of mixing and taste, whey protein is often thought of as the superior form of protein. When choosing a whey protein though, there several elements to keep in mind to know which one is right for you.
Let’s start with where whey protein comes from. All whey comes from milk. It is separated from milk during the cheese making process when the milk separates into cheese curd and liquid whey. While the solid cheese curd goes on to be made into all kinds of wonderful cheeses, the liquid whey can be used to make whey protein.
In its original liquid state, whey is a mixture of mostly water with some protein, fat, carbohydrates and lactose. Once it arrives at the processing facility, it is carefully filtered to remove excess fat, lactose, carbohydrates, and any other naturally occurring ingredients. Eventually, after enough of those ingredients are removed, the remaining product is approximately 80 percent protein. So, for every 100 grams of powder you’ll get about 80 grams of pure whey protein. This 80 percent protein is known as a whey protein concentrate.
If you continue to filter the 80 percent protein, you can remove a little more lactose, carbohydrates and fat, which creates a whey protein isolate that provides up to 90% protein. So in this case, 100 grams of powder would give you about 90 grams of protein.
You might think the 90 percent isolate is your best choice, but this may not be the case. Though there are differences in absorption speed and bioavailability, one of the key factors to keep in mind is lactose content. An isolate contains almost no lactose whereas the concentrate contains a small amount of lactose.
If you are lactose intolerant, whey concentrate may cause some bloating and even gas. You’ll know if you have a lactose sensitivity after your first protein shake; no protein shake should ever leave you feeling bloated. If you are lactose sensitive, opt for the isolate.
If you have no lactose sensitivity, either type of protein will be fine. Assuming you can use either, here are a few more characteristics that may help you make your final decision. Whey protein concentrate is the best choice if your goal is to maintain a healthy weight and you’re using shakes in between meals to help keep hunger at bay. It is actually digested a little slower than an isolate.
This means it will help you feel full longer, which is a good thing when you are working towards a weight-loss goal. Another great feature of whey concentrate as compared to an isolate is a lower price point.
If, on the other hand, you are engaged in an intense form of physical activity and want to maximize muscle recuperation, an isolate may be a better choice as it is absorbed faster and is easier for the body to break down and use.
So what’s the bottom line? If you are lactose intolerant, go for the whey protein isolate. If you are simply looking for a great quality protein to support overall good health, help meet your weight-loss goals and save money, try the concentrate. If you are a hard training athlete, the isolate will serve you best.
Happy protein shopping!