Whey Protein Isolate vs. Concentrate: What's the difference, and which one should I use?

Many of us have heard of whey protein, but most people don’t know the difference between the three main forms that are found in protein supplements: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate. When it comes to protein powder, the two most common forms of whey are concentrate and isolate. In this article, we’ll look at what each form is and how to know which is right for you.

What is whey protein?

Whey protein is the most popular dairy-based protein available on the market. Derived from milk during the cheesemaking process, whey is the liquid portion of milk that separates from curds. If you have ever opened a container of yogurt and found liquid at the top, then you know exactly what whey is. After filtering and drying , that liquid becomes the whey protein powder that most people are familiar with. Whey is considered to be a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids.

What is whey protein isolate?

Whey protein isolate is a highly filtered form of whey protein. In general, whey protein contains a very small amount of lactose (less than 1%). However, the fine filtration of whey protein isolate leaves it with virtually no lactose content. Additionally, whey protein isolate generally has less fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and calories than its cousin whey protein concentrate. This makes it a great option for those with particularly acute lactose intolerance, as well as those looking to maintain muscles while losing fat. The best whey protein isolates typically contain at least 90% protein, a higher protein content than its concentrated form.

What is whey protein concentrate?

The other common form of whey protein is whey protein concentrate. Concentrated forms of whey are packed with biologically active components with beneficial properties – the “good stuff” you’d find in whole milk. Whey protein concentrate has a higher percentage of lactose than the isolate version, but is still relatively low in fats and carbohydrates. The protein content of whey protein concentrates depends on how concentrated it is, with most whey concentrates containing between 70-80% protein. Rich in BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) as well as glutamine, whey protein concentrate is a great choice for those looking to build or maintain muscles, or recover after a workout.

Should I have whey protein isolate or concentrate?

Figuring out the best type of protein for you means looking at your body type, goals, fitness routine, and lifestyle. The ideal protein for you could be whey, but could also be a plant-based protein. That said, whey protein remains the most popular form of protein powder on the market, and it’s no surprise why. It has many proven benefits, and supplies a complete source of all nine essential amino acids. While both whey isolate and whey concentrate are fantastic protein sources, choosing the right one is important.

If you are particularly sensitive to lactose, whey protein isolate is a great option. Whey isolate is so finely filtered that it has virtually no lactose. For those on a diet, whey protein isolate has slightly lower carbohydrate and fat content. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the best tasting form of whey protein, whey concentrate is a safe bet. The added carbohydrates and fat in the more concentrated form of whey protein give it a more creamy, milk like flavor. Whey protein concentrate is often cheaper than isolate as well, but offers the same great benefits for muscle growth, maintenance, and overall recovery with the added perk of being packed with bioavailable peptides.

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