Whey, the most popular protein used by most bodybuilders, resistance trainers, and athletes who sing praises about the benefits to no end. It is the most effective, these users opine, in almost all stages of the sporting activities they do. Be it the pre- intra- or post-workout stage, whey protein is most beneficial amongst all the proteins found at health stores. This is the sole reason why athletes prefer whey protein the most though other proteins are also used in less quantity.
Whey protein which is derived from milk forms just a miniscule percentage. Typically when you consider whole milk it is made up of over 88 per cent water and balance is solids. Out of this solid percentage only around 26 % is protein and about the same quantity of lactose and also fat. When we further break up this 26% protein, only 20% is whey and the rest is casein. So now you can very well imagine that when you measure a liter of whole milk, you don’t get more than 10 grams of whey. Moreover, this is the wet protein and not the one we find in dried form. This whole process can help you understand why whey protein costs more.
Now that you are armed with the basic info which goes into processing whey protein from raw milk, we will uncover the types of protein associated with whey.
The 3 Types of Whey Protein
Nutritional suppliers always speak about the three types of whey protein offered to the athletes. Their constitution may be slightly different for every manufacturer but broadly, the whey protein is classified in three distinct varieties:
- Whey Protein Concentrate
- Whey Protein Isolate, and
- Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Most standard quality protein supplement suppliers usually employ the second variety, the whey protein isolate (WPI). The first one, the concentrate is the cheapest version whereas the last one is the most expensive on the market today.
Before proceeding ahead, we will simply outline the process of whey extraction so that you have full understanding of how whey is actually produced and the difference between the 3 varieties.
How Whey is Extracted from Milk
When milk is curdled, it separates in two distinct forms: solids & liquids and the latter part, the liquid is where the whey lies (we are not concerned about the solid part). However, along with whey, the liquid also has many inherent parts of the liquid (milk) like carbohydrates, lactose, fat, and other nutrients which are part and parcel of milk.
This liquid is now dried out using evaporation towers and the powdery substance is what everyone uses. We will carry this powder further in all the discussion below.
Whey Protein Concentrate
This powder form is obtained by evaporating the liquid and hence termed as Concentrate. This does not involve any other complex process, and has all the goodness of milk and is the cheapest form of whey protein. Commercially this is called as the Whey Protein Concentrate and denoted as WPC.
There are many varieties and used for different usage, like for mixing with food products like Biscuits, Cakes for denoting them as Nutritious. These are the lowest concentrations having around 30% protein. The higher concentrations are used in the health supplement industry and used in Protein Shakes and typically contain around 88% protein. The industry uses similar naming protocol when discussing about the percentage their whey contains inside the mix, for instance WPC31 and WPC 86 should give you enough indication.
1. If any bottle does not put any ingredient like Sucralose/Stevia/Aspartame you can be sure that the whey protein used is whey protein concentrate as this is the only one which is slightly sweet. The other two varieties are bland and always need some kind of sweetener to make the supplement palatable.
2. Taste is a matter of prime concern for many and most sports supplements use whey protein concentrate with strength of 75 % and 85 % whereas when they get their products tested at labs, generally they include whey protein isolate (without specifically mentioning on the list of ingredients). Hence it is better to not take the benefits on their face value and deduct a safe percentage, say 15% from the performance figures.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
The whey protein concentrate we read above is processed further and all traces of fat, lactose and carbs are removed. You can say that this protein is “isolated” from other nutrients found in milk. Obviously this is the purest form and carries its own bland taste as protein should be. Every manufacturer tries to show itself as producing this stuff with an out of this world technology and names the process like:
- Cold pressed
- Cold filtered
- Cross Flow
- Cross Filtered
- Ion Exchange
- Micro-micro filtered etc.
Some even go to the level of patenting their process, just so that they can put it on their bottles.
Though it is obvious this whey protein isolate or WPI variety has the purest, at least 91% protein, it is much more expensive than its concentrate variety.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Whey protein manufacturers were not satisfied on creating the isolate variety and after considerable research released the hydrolysate version in the market. This needed a separate process and hence this upping of the manufacturing process needs more money to buy.
This money did not go down the drain totally because they created a variety of protein which was hydrolyzed. Not bad because even our stomach hydrolyzes first before digesting and hence the researchers did a fantastic job. When compared to the other two varieties, our body needs to do less work and that is always welcome. This means that when bodybuilders consume it post workout sessions, the nutrition almost immediately reaches the internals like muscle tissues.
There is another category which benefits the most from this hydrolyzed whey protein variety: Infants. This pre-digested form of protein is mostly included in infant formula who benefit because their digestive system is not fully developed.
Best for Lactose Intolerants
These two whey protein variants, the isolate and hydrolysate are useful for lactose intolerant people. Since both varieties either don’t have any trace of lactose or have fractional quantity, they work well.
These varieties are also bereft of fats and carbohydrates and those averse to these two ingredients should also choose them. They should also note that both are bland in taste and need external flavours to make them palatable.
Whey Protein is the world’s favourite health supplement. It is beneficial in all three variants as the concentrate variety serves those who cannot afford highly priced supplements. The other two varieties viz., whey protein isolates and whey protein hydrolysate pack the purest of proteins and highly beneficial to bodybuilding athletes. The latter two are also well digested by the lactose intolerant despite being bland on taste factor. Moreover, the absence of fat makes them a healthy choice. Why look afar, even infants are the immediate customers for the whey protein hydrolysate variety.
Derived from milk, whey protein packs all the goodies of its parent and due to human intervention, has carved out three distinct protein varieties serving different communities.