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Whey Isolate vs. Whey Concentrate : What’s the Difference?


Whey protein powders are not a new fad and have been around for quite some time. Most people associate them with losing weight or body building because protein is a primary nutrient that aids in both of these processes. Additionally, since protein is so important to the body, whey protein is found in many products like ice cream, bread, and even baby formulas as it allows the protein content to increase and is so easily digestible.

When it comes to choosing what type of whey protein is the best, whey protein is divided into two categories: whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.  It is important to note that there is a third called whey protein hydrolysate but it is simply a purer form of whey isolate. So, are concentrate and isolate different?  And, if so, what is the difference?

Whey Protein Concentrate vs. Isolate

The answer to the aforementioned question is yes: they are different. But before we discuss the differences, let’s start at the beginning and discuss what whey protein is.

Whey protein is a mix of globular proteins (unstructured protein) found in milk.  Not only does it help with weight loss and building muscle, but it also aids in preventing heart disease and other conditions like diabetes and bone loss that occurs as people age.

Whey Concentrate. Whey protein concentrate contains byproducts other than just protein. It still has small amounts of lactose and even milk fat in it, which keeps it from being simply protein. Most whey protein concentrate contains about 80% protein, with the other 20% as carbohydrates and fat (not the bad kind). This form of concentrate is much better when used for its health benefits such as improving the immune system and maintaining a healthy diet. Because it does contain trace amounts of lactose, those who are lactose intolerant should avoid it for obvious reasons.

Whey Isolate. Whey protein isolate is almost pure protein with only 10% at most being byproducts like fat. It is basically whey protein concentrate that undergoes further processing and purifying to contain more protein than concentrate. Whey protein isolate is used by those trying to lose weight or build muscle. This form is used in many meal replacement programs because of its high protein content which curbs the appetite and aids in quicker weight loss. For body builders, it increases muscle growth after resistance training. In terms of its advantages, it is a better option for those who are more interested in building muscle and/or losing weight as well as those who are lactose intolerant.

Both Are Beneficial to the Body

When deciding between the two types, the main things to take into consideration are cost and purpose. If money is no object and weight loss or building muscle is the goal, paying up for whey protein isolate might be a better option, especially if there is an issue with lactose intolerance. But if the purpose of drinking shakes with whey protein is simply improving health, spending the extra money is not worth it and whey protein concentrate is the whey (ha – get it?) to go. No matter the choice between whey protein concentrate and isolate, both are beneficial to the body.

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Casey Eade

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