Whey Concentrate / Isolate / Hydrolysates – Facts

Concentrate / Isolate / Hydrolyzed Whey: What’s The Difference?

You may have seen the terms whey concentrate, whey isolate, hydrolyzed whey (or whey hydrolysates), or whey blend on the labels of your protein supplements before and wondered what they meant. You also probably noticed that products marketed with whey isolate and hydrolyzed whey were also significantly more expensive compared to your ‘normal’ whey products.

Well, what’s the difference?

Concentrate – Whey concentrate is the least processed form of whey, which makes it the cheapest form. It is also the form that contains the most additional non-protein ingredients (most notably lactose and fat) which translates to the highest likelihood of causing digestion issues, aka the dreaded ‘protein farts’, due to the aforementioned lactose.

Isolate – Whey isolate is whey concentrate that has been further filtered to remove the majority of non-protein ingredients. Whey isolate is thus much purer and protein dense (hence why you would typically see higher protein-per-serving), easily digestible (no more lactose), and also more expensive form of whey (from the additional processing).

Hydrolyzed – Hydrolyzed whey is whey isolate that has gone through an additional round of processing (known as hydrolyzing or pre-digesting). This process claims to increase its bio-availability (the fraction of an administered dose that reaches the systemic circulation) and digestibility. Also by far the most expensive form of whey out there.

Blend – A combination of any of the above forms of whey described above, but typically refers to a combination of whey concentrate and isolate.

Does it matter which type of whey I consume when it comes to building muscle?

As long as you are consuming the optimal amount of protein for building muscle (0.8 – 1.0g of protein-per-lb of bodyweight), consuming a caloric surplus, and following a disciplined lifting program, there is practically no difference when it comes to the different types of whey.

Remember, the main reason to consume whey protein is to obtain additional sources of protein that you may not be able to get from real food (e.g. due to lack of time). Despite what supplement companies want you to believe, whey protein is largely a generic source of protein. There is no magic, and choosing hydrolyzed whey over whey concentrate doesn’t mean that you will end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his prime of course) by the time you reach the bottom of your protein tub. This is why the focus of this site is to help you find the best affordable (read: cheap) whey protein there is.

So should I only choose whey concentrate then?

Not necessarily. While I believe that there is absolutely no need to choose hydrolyzed whey, barring some masochistic need to give more of your hard earned money to supplement companies, as mentioned above, whey concentrate might give those with digestion issues, the dreaded ‘protein farts’ or worse, the ‘protein shits’! Anyway, most brands nowadays are generally a blend of whey concentrate and isolate.

However, if you find that concentrate/isolate blends are causing your partner to want to sleep in the other room, you may want to consider a 100% isolate. Our top recommendation for a whey isolate? NOW Foods Whey Protein Isolate. Not only is it a pure isolate, it also ranks #2 in terms in our analysis of the best cheap whey protein! Now that’s a 2-for-1 deal!


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