Whey Protein vs. Isolate and Concentrate

whey protein vs isolate
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Whey isolate and concentrate are two forms of whey protein. Learn the differences between the two, including their nutritional values and how they are produced.

Whey protein has become increasingly popular in the fitness industry due to its nutritional value and performance-enhancing benefits. Like all protein powders, whey increases and maintains muscle mass. Whey protein also contains all nine amino acids, providing sufficient nutrients to carry out essential body functions.

Whey protein is a byproduct of the cheese-making process. Special enzymes are added to milk to separate liquid whey from the curd. This liquid is then filtered and dried, resulting in whey powder — a vegetarian protein powder. If you are vegan or lactose-free, make sure to look for a vegan protein powder.

Two of the most common forms of whey protein are whey concentrate and whey isolate. The main difference between whey concentrate and isolate comes from their manufacturing processes, which make the nutritional values slightly different. 

Whey Concentrate

Whey concentrate has a creamy texture good for smoothies, shakes and baked oats.
Whey concentrate has a creamy texture good for smoothies, shakes and baked oats.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pexels)

Whey concentrate is produced from various filtration processes of whey protein. Once the whey is collected as a byproduct of the cheese-making process, it is micro-filtered rather than heated to keep its amino acid content strong and pure.

Whey concentrate contains around 80 percent protein content, 7 percent carbohydrates and 13 percent fats. Its carbohydrates are in lactose form, so it is unsuitable for lactose-free diets. It also tends to have a more soluble and creamy consistency than whey isolate, making it ideal for smoothies, shakes and baked oats. 

Whey Isolate

Whey isolate vs. concentrate: Are you conscious of the nutrition in your protein powder?
Whey isolate vs. concentrate: Are you conscious of the nutrition in your protein powder?
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / lograstudio)

Whey isolate is a filtered form of whey protein that is purer and leaner than whey concentrate. Through a process called crossflow microfiltration, protein is separated from fat, cholesterol and lactose. Therefore, whey isolate is a good choice of protein powder if you are trying to lose weight, as it has lower levels of fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates and calories than whey concentrate.

Whey protein isolate contains around 3 percent carbohydrates and 2 percent fats. It also has less than 1 percent lactose, making it potentially suitable for people who eat lactose-free diets. Due to the higher filtration process, isolate has more protein than concentrate, with around 90 to 95 percent. 

So, while both whey isolate and whey concentrate help muscle growth, whey isolate is the better option if you are lactose intolerant or trying to lose a bit of weight. 

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