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The Definitive Guide to Whey Protein Powder: Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, and Hydrolysate

The Definitive Guide to Whey Protein Powder

If you’re an athlete or a casual gym goer, you’ve heard about whey protein. You’ve probably seen people chugging protein drinks after a workout.

The big question though - Does whey protein help at all? 

Short answer. Yes, absolutely. Adding organic whey protein to your diet contributes to fitness goals such as:

  • Building lean muscle
  • Getting stronger
  • Losing weight
  • Improving your immune system

Are you focused on any of the above goals? If so, you should boost your diet with whey protein powder. It's arguably the most important supplement for weight loss and muscle growth.

Why should you be taking this powerhouse nutritional supplement? How does it affect your body? What benefits can you get from whey protein?

What Whey Protein Supplements Do For Your Body

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of your body. Protein makes up your muscles, organs, skin, and tendons. It’s critical for hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and other tiny molecules too.

It goes down even further. Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids. Amino acids come in chains. Think of them like beads connected along a string. 

Your body's cells produce some amino acids on their own. They’re called non-essential amino acids. Other amino acids called essential amino acids - you’ll need to get them in your diet. In all, there are about 20 amino acids. Each plays a different role in helping build and repair your body.

The more protein and amino acids you ingest, the better your body can repair itself. That’s essential for building muscle, recovering from your workouts, and losing weight. 

What Is Whey Protein Powder?

Whey is naturally produced during the cheese-making process. It’s the liquid part of the milk that separates. Casein is the protein left in the curds.

Ever popped open a yogurt container and seen some liquid floating at the top? That’s whey.

After processing and filtering, you get whey protein powder. Different processes yield different results. You can make whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, or hydrolysate from whey.

First Things First: Protein Powder Basics

Whey protein is a big subject. First you should understand these basics of protein powder supplements.

Foods are rated on how well the human body can synthesize their protein. This measure of absorbed protein is called the Biological Value, or BV.

A higher BV is better. It indicates that your body is able to effectively utilize the protein in food. Lower BV means that much of that the digestion process eliminates most of the protein. Here are some examples:

  • Eggs are the standard measurement for other proteins. Their BV is 100. 
  • Milk has a BV of 91.
  • Beef’s BV is 80. 

What does this have to do with muscle building supplements?

The point of muscle building supplements is to get a lot of protein into your body. It should be quick and efficient. So your protein supplements should have a BV of at least 100.

Where does whey protein come in? It’s BV is 104 - 159, depending on how it was processed. So it blows beef out of the water. It even leaves behind milk and eggs. 

Your body can absorb whey protein easily. Very little is lost during digestion. It can go straight to building muscle and supporting your body’s essential functions.

A brief detour to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 20 amino acids in all. Proteins are “complete” or “incomplete” depending on how many amino acids they contain. 

Remember, your body can produce non-essential amino acids on its own. But not essential amino acids. They’re critical to protein synthesis and increasing muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth). So the best protein powder supplement is high in essential amino acids to help aid in muscle growth.

Again, whey protein powder comes out on top. It’s high in both non-essential and essential amino acids. That makes it one of the most complete proteins you can find anywhere.

Types of Whey Protein Powder

Whey comes in three different forms. Their differences are:

  • How “pure” they are, and
  • What other nutrients they contain.

To gain protein purity, whey goes through extra filters. To get the most protein, those filters remove fat and lactose.

  • Concentrate. Whey Concentrate is about 80% protein. It has a higher level of lactose (milk sugar) and fat.
  • Isolate. Whey Isolate is roughly 90% protein. It has lower levels of lactose and fat, but lacks some nutrients found in concentrate.
  • Hydrolysate. Whey hydrolysate has just above 90% protein. It’s a pre-digested protein and is the fastest absorbed form of whey.

For most people, whey concentrate or whey protein isolate is fine. 

Have issues with lactose? Want to get every possible ounce of protein your body can absorb? Go with hydrolysate. 

Whey concentrate and whey isolate supplements are usually flavored. That way they taste great after a hard workout. But whey hydrolysate is typically bitter, even with flavoring.

The Benefits of Whey Protein Supplements

This is what you really want to know. What are you going to get out of it? The good news is that researchers have spent much time delving into the benefits of whey protein supplements. Here are a few examples.

Build muscle with whey protein

Muscle Building

A 2010 review of research on whey protein focused on “whey protein supplementation and its effects on skeletal muscle mass when combined with heavy resistance training.” Researchers found that dietary protein - especially whey protein supplements - can “stimulate the greatest rise in muscle protein synthesis.” In younger individuals, it also enhanced exercise recovery.

A 2006 study looked at the effect of whey isolate and resistance training on the body. Participants - recreational male bodybuilders - were divided into two groups.

One used hydrolyzed whey isolate while the other used casein. Researchers analyzed their results based on barbell bench press, squat, and cable pull-down exercises.

After 10 weeks of training, the whey group “achieved a significantly greater gain in lean mass." They also saw “a significant change in fat mass” compared to the other group. They gained more strength relative to body weight too.

Long-Term Health Benefits

Many health problems that come with aging may be related to the weakening of skeletal muscle. Leucine, an amino acid that is plentiful in whey protein, can help elderly persons to preserve muscle mass. Whey protein is “effective in augmenting the effects of resistance exercise, particularly when supplementation occurs in the hours surrounding the exercise training.”

Weight Loss

A clinical trial from 2011 shows the weight loss benefits of whey protein. Ninety participants - all overweight adults - were given one of three supplements. They kept eating their normal diets and were not asked to make any changes to their typical routine. After 23 weeks, “body weight and fat mass of the group consuming whey protein were lower by 1.8 kg.” Waist circumference was also smaller for the whey protein group. 

Hunger Control

Researchers have looked into how increased protein intake affects hunger. Their goal is to find a way to reduce obesity by controlling hunger. They’ve found “differences in appetite ratings between different proteins.” It turns out that whey protein is more filling than casein or soy. So adding a whey protein supplement to your diet can help you lose weight by keeping you feeling full longer. 

How and When to Take Whey Protein Powder Shakes

Taking the best whey protein is easy. Mix, stir, or blend it into water. Add milk for a rich, thick, protein-packed shake.

You can take whey protein powder anytime, day or night. Want to maximize your muscle building supplement benefits? Have a whey protein shake within 60 minutes of working out. 

This 60 minute period is the “anabolic window.” It’s the time when your muscles are most able to take in nutrients. It’s the best time to drink a protein shake for effective recovery after a tough workout.

Lose weight with whey protein supplements

What About Casein Protein Powder?

Casein protein is whey’s little brother. Remember, there are two parts to milk protein – casein and whey. Whey protein is the thin liquid part. The curds are casein. 

Casein offers a complete amino acid profile, plus some other benefits. It’s BV isn’t as high as whey’s.

But the body digests casein slower. So it can help carry you over until your next meal.

Still, there’s one major caveat with casein: it’s not for people with lactose intolerance. 

Why not get the benefits of both? We suggest mixing casein with whey for the best results. 

Use Whey Protein Supplements, Get Results

Getting fit - and staying fit - is hard work. It’s a daily struggle. Make things a little easier on yourself by using whey protein supplements

Whey protein gives you the protein you need to build muscle. It manages your hunger and promotes weight loss. Use it to help make your fitness goals into reality.


Robert Gennis on May 14 2017 at 06:48AM

I found this article very informative. I will add whey protein to my diet forthwith. I am in great condition for my age 63. I have been a fan of resistance training for the previous 30 years, after reading the benefits of whey protein, It sounds like it may be one part of the fountain of youth.

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