Whey Isolate vs Whey Concentrate vs Whey Blend?
That’s the question most buyers of protein constantly ask. It’s a question where absorption, amino acid profile, ease of mixing and preference of taste are factors. Funny enough, you don’t start asking these questions until you have solved that you actually want a whey protein as there are so many others such as vegan protein, egg, goat, etc.
Among these choices, whey proteins continue to be the most popular and for many strength coaches, the most recommended for sports training programs. But coming back around to our main questions, which type of whey protein should I be buying? Which type is best for me? What is the most natural? What doesn’t have lactose? We decided that we wanted to set the record straight once and for all.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey proteins are found in the whey component of milk and consist of alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, immunoglobulin, proteose-peptones and serum albumin. That’s a lot of big words, but all you need to know is that these components are separated from milk curd, which is used for manufacturing cheese or casein. A fun fact about this is that cheese manufacturers used to throw this away, until one day they fed this to cows and noticed that the cows started looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. (more like bodybuilder Arnold and not Governor Arnold). All of that goodness gets further subdivided into whey blends, whey concentrates, and finally the highest isolation of the protein, called whey isolate
What is Whey Blend Protein?
In the question of Whey Isolate vs Whey Concentrate vs Whey Blend, a blend is exactly what the name states, a blend. The question you should always be asking is, “what is it blended with and how much actual protein am I really going to get.” This is important because the protein content found in blends is usually lower than found in whey isolate. Good blends should be blended between isolates and concentrates.
Ideal For: We believe that a blend is not ideal for anything, however, some believe that a Whey blend is ideal for as an endurance exercise supplement, primarily because of casein’s ability to last longer in bloodstream as compared to other whey protein options. But remember, this could also prove to be a disadvantage among individuals who have a slow metabolism.
Watch out for: Blends many times are not very good. They are not as pure and though you are getting a big scoop, you are not getting a lot of protein with that scoop and many times, you are getting a lot of other things like sodium that will cause bloating. Speaking of bloating, the other issue here is that it still contains lactose and if you have ever had whey protein and you feel like you have become a natural gas refinery with an unlimited amount of the stinky stuff, you probably had a blend or a concentrate.
Also watch out for: There are a lot of companies that will put out a whey blend that the average consumer will look at it and say, “Wow, that is really cheap.” However, you get what you pay for. Sometimes blends are mixed with other things that you really don’t want to be consuming. Lastly, there is something called Spiking (aka nitrogen spiking/protein spiking) , that is deviously employed by some protein brands to make it look like there is more protein than there actually is based on tricking the machine that measures protein. Read more about that here.
What is Whey Concentrate Protein?
This is the most common and least processed form of whey there is. The least processed part might get you excited, but the issue here is the lactose and fat that comes along with it. We now know that the right kinds of fat are actually good for us, but milk fat with lactose is a different story. Concentrate is 80% protein and the other 20% is water, carbohydrates, fat, lactose and other minerals, with the protein content varying from 30 to 80 percent. In comparison to other whey protein variants available in the market, whey concentrate is significantly a cheaper but cruder variety of whey protein.
Ideal For: Anyone concerned about costs that also isn’t worried about stomach bloating or becoming a gas factory.
Watch out for: Some of the same gotchas as a blend, concentrates also suffer from the side effects of lactose, though usually less than blends. Also, you see a lot of body builders going for a concentrate or a blend on trying to get bigger based on the milk fat content. For them that is good, but something to think about if you’re not looking to tan and oil up!
What is Whey Isolate Protein?
Whey isolate protein is basically a more refined version of whey concentrate. The manufacturer filters the whey concentrate, removing the remaining lactose, fat, and carbohydrate and increasing the protein content to 90 percent of the filtered weight.
The whey concentrate can be passed through two filtration techniques: ion exchange filtration and micro filtration. Ion exchange filtration yields a higher percentage of protein content in whey isolate protein but if not done right, denatures some bioactive peptides. Microfiltration on the other hand, produces lower protein content in comparison but keeps the structure of bioactive peptides intact. Whey isolate protein is the most expensive variant of whey protein available in the market as it’s just about the purest form of the protein.
Ideal For: Whey isolate protein is ideal for individuals who want the cleanest, purest form of protein that is looking to build muscle and not just bulk. It is also ideal for anyone who is lactose intolerant and/or doesn’t want stomach bloating as well as wanting as little casein as possible. You will find some of the most knowledgeable doctors, coaches, athletes recommending isolate over concentrates or blends including professional sports athletes, recreational athletes, fit moms and dads, yoga disciples, etc.
Watch out for: Keep in mind that whey isolate protein causes the insulin levels to rise in the body primarily because of its fast absorption rate. Strength coaches that know what they’re doing will recommend mixing protein with a 1:1 ratio of carbohydrates, post workout. So, if you are mixing your isolate into a shake with fruit, you will then get the fiber to help slow everything down.
In Conclusion: Which Whey Should You Go?
So in the end, Whey Isolate vs Whey Concentrate vs Whey Blend is actually budget and bloating vs effectiveness …these should be your main considerations. We would be dishonest if we told you that we subscribe to blends and concentrates being OK. We really do feel that you should try to get the purest form of protein because supplements should be enjoyable and effective, and anything that stands in the way of that like the side effects of lactose and milk fat should be avoided.