When you buy whey protein powders, you are probably looking to pack on some easy protein into your diet, and help reach your goals of building or retaining lean muscle mass.
But do you know what's in that whey protein powder?
Whey protein has three main forms: whey protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. We are going to be comparing the differences between whey protein isolate and concentrate, so that you understand what makes them different.
Concentrate vs Isolate: What's The Deal?
You've probably heard of whey protein isolate far more than concentrate, and it is the most important ingredient found in protein powders. While both are mixed in most protein powders, marketing will focus on the isolate side, due to its benefits.
Whey protein isolate is more expensive that concentrate, due to its higher quality, higher biological value, and higher amount of protein per serving. When comparing the numbers of protein per serving, isolate brings in around 90-98% protein, while whey protein concentrate contains anywhere from 70-85% protein per serving.
The rest of these servings is made up of fat and lactose. So, as a result of a higher protein percentage, whey protein isolate becomes the more pure option, as it reduces the amount of lactose and fat that is ingested.
However, the biggest thing that is talked about with whey protein isolate is its absorption abilities.
Isolate is a high quality, fast acting form of protein, and is the best of its kind. It fuels the muscles quicker for exercise, and helps them recover faster after exercise. This helps increase your potential of gaining muscle mass, or preserving lean muscle mass on a cut.
Studies have shown that elderly individuals can still respond to the anabolic signals that come from protein ingestion, with the proper amino acids1. Because of the high amount of beneficial amino acids found in whey protein powder supplements, they are best known for providing a great jumpstart in protein synthesis, and thus are very effective at helping with the recovery and growth of lean muscle mass.
Now, while whey protein isolate is superior when it comes to purity and effectiveness, it doesn't beat whey protein concentrate in every category. If you are on a budget, whey protein isolate may not be the best option. This is because it the more expensive of the two, due to its purity.
It's also important to remember that just because it is more pure, this doesn't mean that it will give you noticeably more size and strength gains than whey protein concentrate would. It just means that there is a slight difference in quality between the two, and isolate just happens to be known for its effectiveness more so than concentrate.
What Should You Choose?
If you have the budget, whey protein isolate clearly is the better choice. It does have many more benefits than concentrate, and is the best fast acting protein out there.
However, if you are tight on money, or just don't think the difference is big enough to have that much of an effect on you, go with whey protein concentrate. It is more cost effective, and it isn't going to leave you weaker or smaller.
- Hayes, A., & Cribb, P. J. (2008, January). Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 11(1).