Protein is a crucial food group. Your body functions very well without carbohydrates and reasonably well without fats, but not well at all without protein. Protein is used for tissue repair and growth and is also involved in a host of critical functions, including the synthesis of enzymes and maintaining the health and integrity of your bones and skin.
Unfortunately, getting enough protein is not always easy, and that’s where protein supplements come in.
Protein supplements make getting enough protein easy, but there are several different types to choose from, including whey. So, which is the best whey protein?
Whether you are an exerciser, are dieting for weight loss, or just want to make sure you’ve got all your nutritional bases covered for health reasons, whey protein can help. It’s easy to use, and whey protein supplements come in various flavors, many of which are delicious.
What is the Best Whey?
In this guide, we will discuss the three different types of whey protein and help you choose the right one for you.
Where does whey protein come from?
Whey protein is a dairy product that comes from cheese manufacture. Milk is separated into curds and whey. The solid curds are used to make cheese, while the liquid whey is dried and turned into powder.
Whey is put into animal feeds and used in food manufacturing, but more recently has become a popular type of protein supplement.
Because whey is made from milk, it does contain some lactose and is not suitable for vegans. However, the lactose content is very low and varies from one type of whey to another. There are also plenty of plant-based protein powders available, which are suitable for vegans.
Whey protein concentrate is the most common type of whey for protein powders. Depending on how it’s processed, it contains between 70-80 percent protein. It’s also the form of whey with the most lactose, fat, and carbs. Whey protein concentrate contains several beneficial nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.
Protein powders often contain whey protein concentrate because it’s cheap and also tastes pretty good even if it’s not flavored.
On the downside, because of its typically higher fat and carb content, concentrate is higher in calories than other types of whey protein, so it may not be ideal if you are trying to lose weight. However, if you want more than protein from your whey supplement, concentrate is a good choice.
Whey protein isolate (WPI) is the purest form of whey protein. Typically 90-95% protein, WPI is very low in carbs and fat and contains only minimal amounts of lactose. Because of this, people with low/less severe lactose allergies may be able to use whey protein isolate with no significant side effects.
On the downside, WPI has mostly been stripped of the nutrients that make whey good for your health. It’s literally a source of protein, and that’s it! However, this does mean it’s ideal for weight loss dieters. Whey protein isolate is the least tasty type of whey and usually makes for a very watery protein shake.
Also known as hydrolysate, hydrolyzed whey protein (HWP) is a very fast-acting protein because it is pre-digested. Because it’s so fast-acting, hydrolyzed whey protein is ideal for immediately after exercise.
In addition, and unlike other types of whey, hydrolyzed whey protein causes a significant insulin spike, which helps drive its amino acids into your muscles. However, large spikes in insulin can prevent fat burning and increase fat storage, so this type of whey is less useful for dieters.
Hydrolyzed whey protein is usually 80-90% protein and contains modest amounts of both lactose and fat.
Whey Protein Blends
Most whey protein supplements use some sort of blend of concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. Such products have an immediate, medium, and long-term effect, which helps keep your body supplied with a steady stream of amino acids.
However, depending on your nutritional goals, you may benefit more from using one particular type of whey protein.
Whey Proteins – Which Is the Best?
Whey concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate all have benefits and drawbacks. The best one really depends on why you are using a whey protein supplement in the first place. Another keynote is to know when the best time to take a protein shake is.
If you are looking to increase your general protein intake while also consuming the beneficial nutrients that whey protein can provide, whey protein concentrate could be your best choice. With its higher fat and carbohydrate content, isolate is also the best-tasting whey protein.
However, WPI is also higher in fat and carbs, so it is not such a concentrated source of protein, and it may be too high in lactose for some users.
- Good for: Exercisers who want protein, fat, carbs, and calories and want a good-tasting protein shake that’s also high in health-boosting nutrients.
- Less good for: Weight loss dieters and people with lactose intolerance.
Isolate is very high in protein because it’s had most of the fat and carbs removed. It’s a concentrated source of protein, which is also low in calories and lactose. Being low in calories, isolate is a good choice for weight loss dieters.
However, the lack of fat and carbs means it’s also not particularly tasty and usually makes for a thin protein shake.
On the downside, whey protein isolate tends to be more expensive than the less pure concentrate. However, its higher protein content means a little can go a long way.
- Good for: Dieters and users with lactose intolerance issues.
- Less good for: Users who prefer a thicker, tastier protein shake.
Hydrolysate is a very fast-acting protein, making it ideal for after exercise. However, that same fast action may be disadvantageous the rest of the time, as it causes a big spike in insulin levels, leading to weight gain or, at least, interfering with fat burning. Hydrolysate is usually low in carbs, fat, and lactose and is a concentrated source of protein.
- Good for: Boosting recovery after exercise.
- Less good for: Weight loss and diabetics
Not so many years ago, protein supplements were mostly made from soy or egg. While both of these substances are high in protein, they make for lousy protein shakes. Users often experienced extreme digestive distress, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Also, these supplements didn’t mix well and usually tasted horrible.
Whey protein digests more easily and tastes good. It’s also easy to flavor. If plain whey is unappealing, you can get whey protein supplements in every imaginable flavor, from regular vanilla to birthday cake to mint choc-chip!
Don’t just buy any old whey protein supplement. Take a moment to see what type of whey is in your chosen product. Whey protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate can all be beneficial, but because of their different nutritional characteristics, one may be better for you than another.
But, if you aren’t too concerned about things like carb or fat content, or digestion speed, a blend containing all three types is probably your best choice.