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WPI vs. WPC: What you need to know

Protein supplements are some of the most beneficial on the planet. While they may not be ‘sexy’ like pre-workouts and creatine, they are arguably more important.

See, every time you train in the gym you place your body under stress. And this stress tells your body that it needs to build more muscle tissue to ensure that it can better tolerate that stress in the future.

And what is required to build that new muscle?

Bingo -- protein.

In short, if you don't have enough protein in your system to facilitate the development of new muscle tissue, your muscle growth becomes impaired. Which is why you want to make sure you have adequate protein available at all times.

Which explains why protein supplements are so useful.

When it comes to supplementing with protein, there are two options that stand above the rest -- Whey Protein Isolate and Whey Protein Concentrate.

What is Whey Protein?

What in the world is whey protein?

First and foremost, whey is a specific part of dairy milk.

Dairy milk is made up of several individual components, including water, carbohydrates, a multitude of vitamins and minerals, and two distinct proteins -- which are known as casein and whey protein.

Casein is found in the solid components of milk, whereas whey is found in the liquid components.

With all this in mind, when people make cheese, the liquid component of the milk is separated from the solid to make it thicker. This watery component is then filtered to extract the whey.

While whey was once considered a useless byproduct, it is now purified and dried to form a powder.

And this powder is what we now call whey protein.

Why Whey Protein?

The main reason that whey protein has become the most popular type of protein powder is because it is considered a complete protein.

It is considered complete because it provides you with all nine essential amino acids (which cannot be made in your body and therefore must be obtained through diet), including the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine.

This ultimately means that it provides your body with everything it needs to build new muscle.

Whey Protein Isolate VS. Whey Protein Concentrate

Once whey has been separated from the rest of the milk, it can be refined and processed in a number of different ways, each resulting in a slightly different type of protein powder.

However, the two most common are Whey protein Isolate (WPI for short) and Whey Protein Concentrate (or WPC).

But what's the difference, and more importantly, is one better than the other?

1.    Nutrient Breakdown

WPI undergoes a more serious process of filtration than WPC. This means that it contains less carbohydrates, less fat, and more protein per serving. In fact, if you were to look at the Amino Z branded WPI and WPC, this becomes apparent.

Our WPI contains a whopping 90 grams of protein per 100 grams, for only 1.2 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fat.  On the other hand, our WPC contains 80 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, and 7 grams of carbohydrates (again, per 100 grams).

While this does not make a huge difference when you are looking at the typical 30-40 gram serving size of protein powder, over time it can start to add up.

2.    Digestibility

As I alluded to above, WPI is more refined than WPC. This means that it is absorbed a little bit faster than WPC. But even though this may sound like a big deal, it doesn't appear to have a huge difference when it comes to real-world outcomes.

In fact, both WPI and WPC are absorbed in less than an hour after consumption. As a result, they have similar effects on muscle protein synthesis, and consequently, similar effects on muscle growth [1].

Although one notable difference that does need to be considered when discussing the digestibility of these two supplements is related to lactose.

WPC contains a lot more lactose than WPI.

As a result, WPI is probably a much better choice for people who are lactose intolerant, or find themselves getting digestive issues after consuming large amounts of dairy [2].

3.    Price

Finally, onto the big one -- price.

Because WPC is much easier to make than WPI, it is noticeably cheaper. It is for this reason a kilogram of our WPI will set you back $34.95, while a kilogram of our WPC only costs $29.95.

This means that if you are a little bit short on cash, WPC might be a better option for you.

Take Home Points

I would argue that 99% of people in the gym should be taking a protein supplement. It ultimately ensures that you have enough protein available to maximise recovery, boosting muscle growth in the process.

However, when it comes to choosing what type of protein supplement to take, it can get a little tricky.

WPI contains more protein than WPC on a per serving basis, in conjunction with less fat, less carbohydrates, and a lot less lactose. However, this is reflected in its price, where it is a little more expensive.

In essence, if you are sensitive to lactose, WPI is a must. If you are short on cash, then WPC is probably the better option.

And if you fit neither of those categories?

Go with whatever one you feel is best for you!

References

  1. Hulmi, Juha J., Christopher M. Lockwood, and Jeffrey R. Stout. "Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein." Nutrition & metabolism 7.1 (2010): 51.
  2. Hoffman, Jay R., and Michael J. Falvo. "Protein–which is best?." Journal of sports science & medicine 3.3 (2004): 118.
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