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The whey protein guide: whey isolate vs concentrate vs hydrolysate

Types of whey protein: whey isolate vs concentrate vs whey protein hydrolysate | Progenex Fit

When choosing their post workout shakes, people almost unanimously agree that whey protein is best for recovery and having optimal potential for muscle gain. The reason is that whey is a complete protein and one of the most natural sources of protein available on earth. Therefore, it has the highest percentage of branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs that the body can’t produce on its own, including leucine, which plays the biggest part in muscle protein synthesis.

While it is common knowledge that Whey Protein is the best when it comes to recovery and muscle building, less known are the differences between each type of Whey Protein out there. Finding out what are these differences can help you identify which one will better fulfil your needs.

What are the main whey protein powder types?

The three main whey protein powder types are: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate and hydrolyzed whey protein isolate.

Whey protein is obtained in the cheese manufacturing process and is considered to be the best source of protein for muscle building and growth. Cow’s milk is made up of approximately 3.5% protein, out of which 20% is whey protein. As a comparison, human breast milk is less than 1% protein, with a protein content of 60-80% whey. This makes whey protein one of the most natural sources of protein available.

In the cheese manufacturing process, the casein is separated to make cheese. After casein has been separated, the remaining liquid sweet whey is processed in a few different ways in order to get the different types of whey protein: the whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate and hydrolyzed whey protein isolate.


What’s the difference between each type of whey protein powder?

Whey protein concentrate

The liquid sweet whey remaining after the separation of casein, goes through a process called microfiltration. The result is whey protein concentrate.

The whey concentrate has a protein concentration of 70-80% and still contains some lactose, sugar and fat. A supplement that’s calorie dense and takes a long time, sometimes hours, to be absorbed by the muscles. What this means is a slower recovery time and smaller results in time.

Some supplement manufacturers stop here, add the flavouring and sell the whey protein concentrate as a finished product.


Whey protein isolate

The next step in obtaining a superior type of whey protein is to ultrafiltrate the whey protein concentrate. This is another purification that minimises the number of carbohydrates and fats, while enhancing the protein content. Basically the ultrafiltration removes the non-protein components and “isolates” the whey protein. Hence the name: whey protein isolate.

This type of whey contains 90% protein with less lactose, sugar and fat. A more purified form of protein.

This is another form of whey protein that you will find on the market by companies who stop the production process here and add the flavouring. However there is one more step that can be made, a step that only a handful of companies actually take.


Hydrolyzed whey protein isolate

Progenex is one of the companies who takes the process even further, and that means the whey protein isolate is turned into a whey protein hydrolysate. This happens by exposing the whey protein isolate to enzymes that break the bonds holding the amino acids together. Basically this means that the amino acids are cut into smaller pieces, shorter chains of di- and tri-peptides, making hydrolyzed whey protein isolate the fastest and easiest protein for digestion.

This is basically a pre-digestion process, which makes hydrolyzed proteins more rapidly absorbed in the gut and at a much higher rate, then both whey protein isolates or concentrates. It’s also easier to digest by people with sensitive stomachs.


Now that you know the differences between the three types of whey protein, you might be wondering what’s the most suitable one for you.


What’s the best whey protein for me?

To make it easy to follow, have a look at the infographic below with the particularities of each type of whey protein powder. Besides that, we made a list of advantages and disadvantages for all three types of whey protein.


What to expect when choosing Whey Protein Concentrate? 

+ Popular, easy to find, cheap;

- The percentage of protein per serving varies a lot, making it not clear what to expect in a product;

- Low absorption rate which results in longer time needed for recovery;

- Higher amounts of lactose, which can result in serious stomach bloating for people with sensitive stomachs.

What to expect when choosing Whey Protein Isolate?

+ Higher amount of protein per serving than in the Whey Concentrate;

+ Faster absorption in the body than whey concentrate, but still much slower than hydrolyzed whey protein isolate;

- More expensive than the concentrate;

- Some contamination, lactose, carbs and fats traces;

- If you have a sensitive stomach chances are you will experience stomach bloating. 

What to expect when choosing RECOVERY Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate?

+ The highest amount of protein absorption due to the hydrolyzation (pre-digestion) process;

+ More of the important di and tri-peptide protein molecules, known to play a key factor in protein synthesis, the muscle building process in the body.

+ More amino acids delivered to your muscles; 

+ Fastest recovery after an intense workout;

+ Easy digestion and no stomach bloating even for people with severe lactose intolerance;

+ Highest degree of purification;

- The price is higher than the regular Whey Isolates or Concentrates; however when considering the amount of protein delivered to the muscles by each type of whey, the difference in price is justifiable.

What does the research says about recovery with different types of whey?

A study published in the Journal of Science in Medicine and Sports found that subjects consuming hydrolyzed whey isolate post-workout experienced better recovery and performance, shortly after an intense muscle-damaging session, in comparison with those consuming whey isolate. The research was based on 28 subjects completing 100 eccentric-focused repetitions on leg extension. An eccentric focus induces significantly more muscle damage than typical concentric movements.

Straight after the training session, the subjects consumed either 25 grams of whey hydrolysate, 25 grams of whey isolate, or a protein-free placebo. Recovery was assessed via blood markers, subjective ratings, and performance testing. The measures were completed 1, 2, 6, and 24 hours post-testing.

The whey-hydrolysate group was able to regain performance 6 hours later, whereas the placebo and whey isolate group had not yet fully recovered even 24 hours later. This proves that there is a serious difference in the whey you choose to take. 

If you want to see results…

Hydrolyzed whey protein isolate is the best option for those athletes and sports enthusiasts that do intense, frequent training. A whey hydrolysate will be advantageous to attenuate muscle damage and replenish glycogen quickly so that you enjoy a full recovery much quicker than with other types of whey. However if you’re looking for a cheap protein, training just once-twice per week and you’ve got plenty of time in between workouts to allow your muscles to naturally rebuild, then whey concentrate or isolate is an option you can stick to. 

If you’re dieting, choosing a whey hydrolysate post-workout will also be advantageous to promote recovery in the presence of limited carbohydrates. It will help you maximize the muscle-building response with fewer calories, given than it has a significantly higher leucine content compared to whey isolate.

If you’re looking to increase your endurance and feel the effects of your high intensity workouts, the choice is obviously a hydrolyzed whey protein isolate. 

PROGENEX RECOVERY is known to be the favourite hydrolyzed whey isolate of some of the top CrossFit athletes worldwide, due to its high quality standards and delicious flavours.

Take it from the CrossFit Aerobic Capacity Expert, coach Chris Hinshaw: 

PROGENEX Recovery comes in 5 incredible flavours: Belgian Chocolate, Tropical Vanilla, Chocolate Peanut Butter Smash, Peppermint Bark and Loca Mocha.

Check out more about Recovery


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Tagged with: recovery post workout whey protein hydrolyzed whey protein isolate

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