The battle of whey protein – concentrate vs. isolate

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It’s all about whey-ing up the options

It is well established that supplementation with whey has massive benefits to any aspiring bodybuilder, but what’s the difference between concentrate and isolate?

Which is superior quality, which provides the most health benefits, and which packs in the most protein?

Whey Protein Concentrate

We’ve discussed the numerous benefits of whey protein before, but here are the specific benefits of whey protein concentrate:

• Contains lactose and fat, therefore considered more ‘wholefood’
• Fat levels help regulate hormone levels and support a healthy immune system
• Generally cheaper than protein isolates

Many trainers believe that due to the large and more diverse nutrient profile found in whey protein concentrate, the benefits outweigh the lower protein content (30% – 90%). However, these health benefits are mostly anecdotal and have little scientific research to back them up.

The main reason whey concentrate remains so popular, is because of the lower price. Suppliers often offer concentrate at a much lower cost than isolate, as it is easier to produce, making the higher protein percentage of isolate much less cost effective.

Whey Protein Isolate

What exactly is the difference between whey concentrate and isolate? And why do they have varying degrees of protein content, when they are effectively from the same source?

Whey protein isolate is, like concentrate, a by-product of cheese production. However, whey isolates get dehydrated leaving a much purer protein content, free from lactose, cholesterol and carbohydrates. This makes them a popular choice amongst trainers who are lactose intolerant. The benefits of whey protein isolate are as follows:

• Much lower in carbohydrates, lactose and fats, which is great for those on a cutting diet
• Whey Isolate generally contain a much higher protein to non protein ratio than concentrate
• Mixes easier than concentrate

The Verdict

Although on paper whey protein isolates are clearly superior to concentrates, in the real world the variations between the two rarely impact the recovery and muscle building abilities of the user. Many concentrate mixes contain high levels of protein that can almost compete with isolate. In addition concentrate is cheaper and contains additional, beneficial nutrients.

Isolate on the other, whilst packing more protein per gram, is generally not as cost effective as concentrate, and best serves users with very specific needs such as those on a low carbohydrate, cutting diet.

If money is no issue then whey protein isolate wins hands down. But for the general trainer on a budget, the money saved using cheaper whey protein concentrate can be put to better use.

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