What is the difference between the different kinds of whey?
by Julia Partrat
Have you ever walked through the milk or protein powder aisle and been completely overwhelmed with all the different kinds of whey available on the market, let alone the different kinds of protein powder? Well I’m here to break down all the different types of whey out there to make it easier to understand the differences and make an informed choice when including whey protein into your diet. Hopefully you will leave understanding, not only, a bit more about the different kinds, but also understand a little better the benefits of consuming grass fed and cold processed whey over the standard industrial whey protein.
It’s easy to assume that all whey is created equal. However, not only does most whey on the market differ in regards to ingredients but they also differ in how they have been processed. There are currently 3 different kinds of whey protein powder on the market: whey isolate, whey concentrate and whey hydrolysate. It’s important to note that when the protein from milk is broken down, it’s separated into two different kinds of protein: casein and whey, the watery-by product of the milk manufacturing process. Casein makes up of 80% of the protein found in milk and whey makes up the remaining 20%. Although both are considered high quality as they contain all amino acids, whey is considered particularly more beneficial in increasing the production of new protein in your muscles. Additionally on the market, are vegetable proteins such as pea or rice, however we will not dive into those as they have a lower amino acid profile and are harder for the body to absorb.
Going back to the 3 different kinds of whey:
- whey isolate
- whey concentrate
- whey hydrolysate
Each is processed differently and their nutritional content varies. Concentrate and isolate tend to be the most popular on the market. All come, however, with their advantages and disadvantages.
Once processed, whey is usually broken down into two forms; whey protein concentrate which typically comprises of around 80% protein, and whey protein isolate which comprises around 85 - 90% protein (Smithers, 2008). Whey concentrate contains the naturally occurring macro- and micro-nutrients derived from the manufacturing process and is the most calorie dense form of the supplement as it is not entirely stripped from its’ nutrients. Whey isolate has undergone additional processing and purification to minimise extraneous carbohydrates and fats and enhance the protein content. The advantage of whey isolate is that it is higher in protein concentration, however it does not contain much of the naturally occurring benefits in whey concentrate.
Whey protein hydrolysate can either be a whey concentrate or isolate in which some of the amino bonds have been broken by exposure of the proteins to heat, acids or enzymes. The advantage is that it is more quickly absorbed in the stomach but is much more expensive, despite it generally not tasting as good. You do however tend to get the quickest protein absorption due to the hydrolyzation, which almost acts as a pre-digestion process. This generally means faster recovery rate for your muscles, however, it does not necessarily contain all the naturally occurring benefits that whey concentrate may offer, especially if it is cold pressed and grass fed.
As noted before, whey concentrate contains the naturally occurring macro- and micro-nutrients derived from the manufacturing process and is the most calorie dense form of the supplement. It is generally cheaper and easier to find as it is quite popular. Although the protein percentage is not as high as isolate, it is considerably healthier as it is not stripped of all the nutritional benefits that whey may offer beyond better muscle recovery. Especially if grass fed and cold pressed, whey concentrate can be especially healthy. Heat can often kill all the micronutrients (ie. the powerful antioxidants) and be more damaging to the proteins hence cold pressed whey is ideal. And lastly, similarly with grass fed whey. It is easy to assume that most cows eat a grass-fed diet. However, that is not the case - most cows are fed a grain rich diet (generally with fertilizers and GMO) and are given antibiotics to grow faster and bigger. This unfortunately affects the quality of the whey! Not only is grass fed cows sustainable as it encourages grass-fed farming (generally more ethical), the cows produce comparatively better whey in terms of quality, nutrient profile and taste. Protelicious is just that - cold pressed, grass fed whey concentrate that has nothing to hide and goes above and beyond simply helping in muscle recovery and tasting good.
Hopefully this helped clarify between the different kinds of whey in regards to price, digestibility, taste, absorption and richness in nutrients!