Protein powder keeps getting more popular for its amazing health benefits—both in the fitness world and for anyone looking to improve their diet. People are becoming conscious of their nutritional habits, and they’re ready to increase protein intake while decreasing overconsumption of other food types.
So they’re turning to whey, which has become the protein powder on everybody’s lips. It offers a low-carb, low-fat alternative to other forms of protein intake. Still, the nutritional powerhouse isn’t just one simple substance. There are a few types of whey protein, which leaves beginners confused about which type they should try.
This comprehensive guide details everything you should know about whey protein vs isolate vs hydrolysate, so you can compare all your options and determine which is best for you.
Where Does Whey Protein Come From?
To make supplements, enzymes are used to separate milk into casein and whey proteins. This is the same process used to make cheese since cheese is made of casein. Despite its origins, there are safe variations for lactose-intolerant people.
Whey by itself is not as fatty as whole milk or cheese, and your body absorbs it faster than casein. Though some people mix whole milk with their supplements, the natural lower fat content has boosted its popularity as a healthy protein option.
What are the Types of Whey Protein?
The three primary forms of whey protein are concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. There’s a huge debate in the health and wellness community over which is the superior option, particularly over the concentrate of whey protein vs isolate.
Here are the highlights of each.
1) Whey Concentrate
Whey concentrate is also known as whey protein. Concentrate is processed the least, but this also means it has the most fat and carbs. Since it is derived from milk, the higher levels of fat and carbs could potentially cause digestion troubles for lactose-intolerant people.
Concentrate supplements should have at least 11 grams of protein per 100 grams of concentrate. Most supplements will have more, but it’s in your best interest to check that third-party facilities test the product’s purity. Since protein supplements are unregulated in the U.S, this is the best way to ensure you’re buying a quality product.
2) Whey Isolate
When looking at whey protein vs isolate, the main thing to remember is that isolate is processed more. More processing results in a higher ratio of protein to fats and carbs. This makes isolate more popular with lactose-intolerant people, people on diets, and those who already get enough fats and carbs from other foods.
As with concentrate, it’s important to check that your chosen product has been verified by third-party testing. Some sellers will make false or dramatized claims—such as their untested product having no fat or carb content—which can lead to you ingesting something that you wouldn’t otherwise. Only trust claims that are backed by facts and outside verification.
3) Whey Hydrolysate
With hydrolysate, enzymes are added to the whey to break it down and make it easier to digest. As a result, it has the highest protein ratio out of all the supplement variations.
Hydrolysate is popular with athletes and those who experience indigestion with other supplements.
Comparing Whey Protein vs Isolate vs Hydrolysate
Each powder has different costs, tastes, and benefits for your body. Read more below to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of whey protein vs isolate and hydrolysate.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Whey Concentrate
You’ll see a good range of whey concentrate when looking for a supplement. Concentrate is the most popular whey supplement type and is also the most affordable form. In addition, many concentrate supplements have a high amount of protein, making it great for most who want to improve their nutrition.
Due to the higher amounts of fats and carbs, concentrate potentially exacerbates indigestion. It also doesn’t provide quite as much protein compared to isolate or hydrolysate.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Whey Isolate
Isolate provides a higher ratio of protein than concentrate. Its reduced fat and carbohydrates content makes it great for people with dietary restrictions. Even with these benefits, most isolate supplement products will still be at a budget-friendly price.
Isolate does not offer the highest protein concentration possible, so it may not be the best for athletes with intense training. Additionally, sellers may falsely advertise their isolate product, so buyers should research supplements before purchasing.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Whey Hydrolysate
Out of all varieties, hydrolysate offers the highest ratio of protein in one serving. The pre-added enzymes make hydrolysate supplements easier on your digestive system when compared to concentrate or isolate. Higher levels of protein also mean more energy and faster recovery for athletes.
Because of the increased amount of processing, hydrolysate is on the more expensive side. The added enzymes also give hydrolysate powder supplements an unpleasant flavor.
Choosing Whey Protein vs Isolate vs Hydrolysate
When deciding between whey protein vs isolate vs hydrolysate, the most important factor is which type will give your body what it needs:
- Whey concentrate is a great choice for anyone without restrictions or someone that’s just looking for a simple protein supplement.
- Isolate may be a better choice for those who are on dietary restrictions or have intolerances—such as lactose intolerance.
- Those who wish to reduce their fat or carb intake may also want to opt for isolate. For serious athletes looking in on the whey protein vs isolate debate, you may actually want to purchase whey hydrolysate instead.
No matter what whey type you’re interested in, make sure to research the average cost of your chosen form. Hydrolysate will be the most expensive, while whey concentrate will be the most affordable.
The Bottom Line
Use our breakdown above to decide on whey powder vs isolate or hydrolysate based on your body and fitness goals. Concentrate is an amazing choice for most people, but those with stricter dietary plans may prefer isolate or hydrolysate instead.
We recommend testing each form to see and jot down your experiences. Once you’ve tried all three, you’ll have a visual table of pros and cons to make picking one protein product easier.
Learn more about whey protein vs isolate.
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