Protein Supplements

Whey Isolate vs Whey Concentrate: Health Benefits of Whey Protein?

Confused by the many protein supplements options on the market? Read on to find out more about the different types of protein supplements and how each type functions to help your body tide over the stress from working out.

If your fitness goals during this holiday break are gaining muscles and losing weight at the same time, or if you are looking for another way to boost your immune system or just prevent diseases, then look no further than adding more protein to your diet! However, if you are someone who’s like me (doesn’t like eating too much to meet your daily recommended protein intake), you can consider switching things up by consuming whey as an alternative to other protein sources such as chicken, beef, and eggs.

Whey is so effective because it provides more absorbability than any other type of food or supplement, and it’s easy to digest! No wonder whey has become one of the most popular protein supplements on the market today.

Just like any other protein food, the benefits extend to consuming whey. If you’re still confused about the benefits of having whey protein powders, remember that protein is crucial for the rebuilding of cells and tissues, boosting the health of nails, skin, and hair, and keeping bodily fluids in balance.

Here’s a fun fact: whey protein is one of the most popular proteins for athletes and bodybuilders, mainly because of its muscle-enhancing effects and amino acid rapid digestibility. Not only does it work to build muscle and enhance your body’s composition, but it also speeds up the recovery of broken down and stressed muscles after exercise!

But here’s the catch; there are different types of whey protein, including whey concentrate and whey isolate.

Before we proceed to discuss the difference between whey isolate and whey concentrate, let’s talk more about whey protein.

Table of Content

What is Whey Protein?

There are two types of protein found in milk: whey and casein. Whey is the translucent liquid part of milk that remains after the cheese manufacturing process, after coagulation and curd removal. Whey has excellent properties and high nutritional value due to its sulfur amino acids, including lysine, tryptophan, and many other amino acids.

So how is whey protein made? How does the cheese manufacturing process produce whey protein?

Manufacturing whey protein follows a series of steps that begin at dairy farms. Cows are milked 2-3 times daily, ideally using robotic systems to make sure milking four times per cow per day is possible.

The milk is then transported by tanker trucks to the whey manufacturing plant. Milk tanker trucks are insulated and thus raw milk is kept cold, which prevents the spoilage from happening before reaching the processing plant.

The Importance of Quality Testing in Dairy

Good dairy products such as cheese or whey require raw materials of excellent quality. A milk processor carries out tests at different stages from when it’s received until it’s offered to the consumer. The processor performs analysis and quality control on each batch before deciding whether to accept the load.

How is Whey Separated from Milk?

Whey is derived from the cheesemaking process. Once the milk passes quality tests, enzymes are added to separate the curd from the liquid whey. The liquid whey is then pasteurized and the protein is concentrated and isolated. Two main methods to achieve this are membrane filtration and ion exchange technology.

What is membrane filtration? Membrane Filtration (MF) is a cold temperature separation process that uses porous membranes. Whey protein passes through these membranes to get separated from bacteria, while at the same time splitting into whey isolate and concentrate due to the different pore sizes.

Then what is ion exchange technology? It is a process that selectively isolates specific protein components. The raw whey is sent through a column that collects the proteins and separates them based on their differences in their net charges. The rest of the components such as lactose and minerals are washed away and further processed into a different ingredient. the resulting whey protein, therefore, has less fat and lactose than other whey protein isolates on the market. It also allows complete solubility with a clean and neutral taste.

What’s the Difference Between Whey Isolate and Whey Concentrate?

The differences between whey isolate and whey concentrate lie in its processing methods. When the liquid whey is collected as the by-product of the cheese manufacturing process, it undergoes several processing steps to increase its protein content.

Now here comes the distinctive difference between whey concentrate and whey isolate.

After a sufficient protein concentration is achieved, the liquid can be dried to form whey concentrate powder that consists of up to 80% protein by weight. The remaining 20% of the whey concentrate powder contains carbohydrates and fats.

If different processing steps are used to reduce the fat and carbohydrate content of whey, a whey isolate powder containing 90% or more protein by weight can be produced.

In short, the processing steps used in the production of whey isolate result in higher protein content and lower fat and carbohydrate content per serving.

However, the types of amino acids found in both forms of whey are virtually identical, since they are derived from the same proteins.

In addition to having lower total carbohydrate content, whey isolate also has lower lactose content. This is good news for those who are physically active and lactose intolerant!

Other than the nutritional differences, there are cost differences between these two types of whey. Generally speaking, whey isolate is more expensive than whey concentrate. Why? Because whey isolate is made up of more purity compared to whey concentrate due to more processing effort taken into the process.

Whey Concentrate vs Whey Isolate: Which One Should You Take?

Both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate contain very high protein contents, but the difference comes down to the contents of carbohydrates and fats each contains.

Whey protein concentrate – If you’re someone who’s looking at building lean muscle mass without a controlled diet, then whey protein concentrate might be the whey protein option for you as it contains a higher concentration of carbohydrates and fats!

Whey protein isolate – If you’re following a calorie-controlled diet and looking at reducing your weight, then whey protein isolate might be the one for you! Moreover, due to its lower lactose content, whey protein isolate is also a much more friendly option for you if you’re struggling with lactose intolerance!

Nutritional facts: Health Benefits of Whey Protein

The constituents of whey protein provide high levels of essential and branched-chain amino acids. It is the bioactivity of these proteins that gives whey protein its many beneficial properties.

For example, cysteine, an amino acid that is present in whey protein, enhances glutathione(an important antioxidant) levels that can help reduce the risk of cancer and diseases caused by oxidative stress.

Now let’s jump right into the lists of health benefits of whey protein to find out if it really is the protein supplement that you’ve been looking for!

Here’s an overview of the health benefits of whey protein:

  • Increases Muscle Mass
  • Burns Fat
  • Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
  • Extends Life Span
  • Improves Heart Health
  • Boosts Glutathione Levels
  • Boosts Immunity
  • Improves Energy
  • Reduces Cravings
1. Increases Strength and Builds Muscle

Whey protein is the most efficient way to add protein to your diet without extra calories from carbohydrates or fats. It typically contains 80 percent to 90 percent protein, which provides the body with what it needs to build muscle and strength while recovering quickly after a workout.

A 2007 study conducted at Baylor University analyzed the use of supplementation protein and amino acids on 19 males who exercised four times per week. They found that supplementing with 20 grams of protein led to a greater increase in total body mass, fat-free mass, thigh mass, and muscle strength compared to those taking the carbohydrate placebo.

2. Burns Fat

Researchers found that adults supplementing with whey experienced significant decreases in body fat and body weight. The results were even more significant among adults who combined whey protein supplementation with resistance exercise. (1)

There was also a study published that evaluated the effect of a whey supplement when taken by participants who reduced their caloric intake by 500 calories per day. When compared to the control group participants who also reduced their caloric intake by 500 calories, both groups lost a significant amount of weight, but the group who supplemented with whey protein lost significantly more body fat and showed a greater sign of lean muscle preservation.

3. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels

Whey is able to stabilize blood sugar levels, but only when it’s consumed at the right timing. When is the right timing? Whey protein is recommended to be consumed right before meals with a high glycemic index. It helps stimulate the production of insulin and prevents spikes in blood sugar levels which would result in fatigue once that blood level drops dramatically.

In fact, whey protein can be used for the management of diabetes symptoms. It can slow gastric emptying, stimulate insulin and gut hormones including incretins, and thereby reduce blood sugar levels, especially when consumed minutes before a meal. There’s also a correlation between appetite and blood sugar levels; greater appetite leads to more food ingested and hence a greater spike in blood sugar levels. The good news is that consuming whey protein can help suppress your appetite, due to its effects on the gut-brain axis and the hypothalamus. (2)

4. Extends Life Span

Whey protein has been found to increase life span by reducing muscle wasting that’s associated with aging and increasing nutrient absorption without increasing hunger. This is important because as you age, you lose muscle mass, bone mass, cell function, and digestive function.

Whey has also been shown to reduce the loss in all of these areas, hence making it an incredible superfood that slows the aging process.

A study has also been found that when older adults supplement with whey protein, it translates to positive effects on muscle protein synthesis, muscle mass, and muscle strength. This helps improve muscle health, maintain energy balance, and weight management.

5. Improves Heart Health

Studies show that whey protein promotes a reduction in blood pressure and arterial stiffness and improves lipid profiles. It works to reduce cardiovascular risk factors by protecting your muscles and helping you shed extra pounds. Reductions in body weight could potentially reduce obesity-related problems like heart disease.

There was a study done to investigate the effects of whey protein on lipids, glucose, and insulin in overweight women, a population highly susceptible to cardiovascular disease. The result was that there was no significant change in postprandial for total cholesterol and LDL & HDL between groups. However, there was a significant decrease in the appearance of triglycerides in the blood by 21% and 27% after consuming the whey meal compared to control and casein meals. (3)

6. Boosts Glutathione Levels

Whey protein helps increase the production of glutathione, the master antioxidant that is found in every cell of your body. Research shows that whey protein is rich in cysteine, an amino acid that’s needed for the synthesis of glutathione.

A study done by the department of food science and technology, the Ohio State University, showed that hydrolyzed whey protein isolate can increase the antioxidant glutathione concentrations and protect oxidation-induced cell death in humans. Treatment of cells with hydrolyzed whey protein significantly increased glutathione activity by 64%, compared with control cells receiving no hydrolyzed whey protein. (4)

7. Boosts Immunity

Because whey protein promotes the synthesis of glutathione, it works as a great antioxidant to boost your immune system. Glutathione also boosts the efficacy of other antioxidants, like vitamin C, coQ10, ALA, and vitamin E.

Whey protein also contains lots of other proteins and amino acids that could positively affect immune function and demonstrate antimicrobial activity.

According to research published, whey protein helps the body recover after exercise, which is important for reducing the chances of impaired immunity, oxidative stress, and excessive inflammation. Not only does whey increase the production of glutathione, but it also contains L-arginine and L-lysine, both types of amino acids that promote immune function. (5)

8. Improves Energy

Whey protein increases glycogen, which is a source of energy during heavy workout sessions, and glycogen enhances the effect of leptin, a hormone that affects energy balance. Because whey is highly accessible and digestible in the body, our body usually taps into the whey protein in our body immediately and converts them into energy that can help boost our athletic performance.

The improved energy levels and performance are due to the amino acids that are present in whey protein. When the body lacks sufficient levels of amino acids, that’s when you experience muscle wasting and delayed exercise recovery after a workout.

In a 2017 study published by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, it was concluded that whey protein enhances body anabolism, and may improve acute exercise performance after a strenuous bout of resistance exercise. (6)

9. Reduces Cravings

Whey protein affects both ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that help regulate your appetite. Leptin primarily affects energy balance, which helps suppress food intake, while ghrelin regulates hunger and plays a role in meal initiation.

These hormones work hand-in-hand to determine your body’s time to eat. Studies show that in obese patients the circulating levels of leptin are increased while the ghrelin levels are decreased.

While it may be true that whey protein suppresses appetite, stimulates anorexigenic gastrointestinal peptides, and improve glucometabolic homeostasis in many people, further studies are actually needed to be conducted to support this effect of whey protein.

What are the Recommended Uses of Whey Protein?

Whey protein is usually found in the form of powder in most vitamin or supplement stores or even online. This is great news! Why? It means these flavored whey protein powders can be added to your usual smoothie drink or morning oats!

To use whey protein powders, simply add one or a few scoops (25-28 grams of protein) to any liquid such as water, almond milk, or coconut milk, depending on the flavor and taste which you’d like to achieve.

The powder is reconstituted when it’s mixed with a liquid. Using a blender or bottle shaker helps to mix the powder and give a creamy or frothy texture, without the clumps.

When is the Best Time to Take Whey Protein?

The best times to use whey protein are in the morning, as part of your breakfast, and after workouts. Remember – consuming whey protein before your main meals not only helps suppress cravings but also reduces insulin production! In addition, supplementing your fatigue body 30 minutes after a workout also helps improve muscle recovery.

Risks and Side Effects

Despite the many health benefits of whey protein, it should not be consumed by people with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance.

What happens if you consume whey protein while you have lactose intolerance? You may experience gas, bloating, cramps, fatigue, headaches, and irritability.

Whey protein products that contain artificial sweeteners, like isolates, may lead to whey protein side effects as they are usually more difficult to break down and can cause digestive discomfort.

If you don’t have a whey allergy, then make sure you choose whey products made of high-quality processing and ingredients. But if you are, unfortunately, allergic to whey, consider using pea protein or vegan protein powder as they are extremely beneficial for building muscle, improving energy and losing body fat too.


Now that you know what benefits whey protein brings to us, is whey protein still necessary? Whey protein can definitely be a great addition to your daily diet plans due to its absorbability and digestibility, whether you are someone who weight-lifts or runs excessively. The constituents of whey protein provide high levels of essential and branched-chain amino acids, more so than some of the protein sources found in your kitchen!

However, whey protein is never for everyone! If you’re someone who’s lactose intolerant or prefer to avoid dairy products, you can always opt for vegan or pea protein powder! After all, whey protein powder has been known to cause some gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating and gas!

However, if you’re staying with whey protein, try to look for one that is natural or organic and is completely free of hormones, pesticides, artificial ingredients, and genetically modified substances. Avoiding processed whey protein, such as whey isolate, goes a long way too!


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