Whey Protein 101: What is Concentrate, Isolate, and Hydrolysate Whey Protein?

One thing is for sure- there are lots of different types of protein out there. When you start looking for a protein supplement, you will encounter whey, casein, egg, hemp, pea, and so many more. In fact, there are so many different options, it can make your head spin.

However, it’s important to understand that they are not all created equal. No matter how much the different brands want you to think they all work the same, they do not. There are some forms of protein that are better than others, such as whey protein.

According to research, whey protein is a complete protein because it contains an array of essential amino acids, which are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. There are lots of studies available that indicate whey protein is beneficial for increasing strength, gaining muscle mass, and losing body fat.

That being said, it’s important to note that there is so much more to whey than protein- it contains a variety of other nutrients, some of them offering powerful biological effects.

Whey protein is one of the most studied fitness supplements in the world. In this article, we’ll explore more about whey protein: what it is, how it works, and so much more. By the time you are finished reading this article, you’ll know just about everything you would want to know about whey protein- and more.

What is Whey Protein?

Before we can really discuss it, we need to first explain exactly what whey protein is. This is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey. In case you didn’t know, whey is the liquid that is separated from the milk solids during the process of making cheese.

In fact, you should know that milk is actually made up of two types of protein:

As stated, whey is the liquid that is separated from the solids in the process of making cheese. It is the watery portion. The fatty parts (solids) coagulate to make cheese. At one time, whey was a waste product- it was thrown out. However, eventually, it was discovered that it’s actually useful.

Whey is also found in yogurt. The liquid you see floating on top of your yogurt when you open it is whey.

After it is separated during the production of cheese, whey goes through several steps to become what we know as whey protein, which is a powder that you can add to shakes, protein bars, meal replacements, and more.

On its own, whey does not have a very pleasant flavor. That is why it is typically flavored or added to things that do taste good. Some of the most common flavors include chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. However, you will find brands that have some more unique flavors, such as cookies & cream, mocha, birthday cake, banana pancakes, and so many more. The more traditional flavors are typically the most popular.

When you are shopping for a protein supplement, it’s very important that you check the ingredient list so that you know what you are getting. There are some that contain unhealthy additives, such as refined sugars.

Using a whey protein supplement is a great way to ensure that you are getting the recommended daily intake of protein. This is very important for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and weightlifters. In addition, anyone that wants to lose weight or isn’t getting enough protein through their typical diet can benefit from adding a whey protein supplement to their daily routine.

As mentioned, many of the whey protein supplements are flavored and are delicious, which means you can blend them to create pre-workout or post-workout smoothies. There are a few unflavored options that can be added to your favorite beverage without affecting the taste.

Whey is typically well-tolerated. However, it’s important to note that individuals who are lactose intolerant should be careful and not consume too much. Also, anyone with a dairy allergy should avoid using whey protein powder.


Whey protein is a combination of proteins in whey, a byproduct of cheesemaking. It is typically processed into a powder and sold as a fitness supplement. It is available in unflavored and flavored versions which can be added to shakes, smoothies, meal replacements, and so much more.

Whey Protein Supplements Boost Protein and BCAA Consumption

In case you don’t remember from your high school anatomy class, proteins are the primary building block of the human body. They make up a variety of things in the body, including organs, skin, tendons, neurotransmitters, molecules, and enzymes.

Proteins also make up the elements in your muscle that are responsible for making them contract. They are made from amino acids, which are smaller molecules connected like beads on a string. Your body produces some of the amino acids, while you must get others through the foods that you eat. There are 9 that come from the foods you eat and are known as the 9 essential amino acids.

The best protein supplements are the ones that provide these 9 essential amino acids and whey protein is packed with them. In fact, it is especially high in BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, such as leucine and cysteine.

Research indicates that leucine is the amino acid that is responsible for promoting muscle growth and cysteine helps boost the levels of glutathione, an antioxidant. It seems that whey protein is especially effective at stimulating human growth. Human breast milk is 60% whey, while cow’s milk is only 20% whey.


The proteins that are present in whey are very high quality. They are packed with essential amino acids, including cysteine and leucine.

3 Types of Whey Protein: Concentrate, Isolate, and Hydrolysate

There are three main types of whey protein: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. The primary difference between the three is the way they are processed.

  • Concentrate: this form of whey protein is approximately 70% to 89% protein. It has the best flavor, but does contain some lactose, fat, and carbs.
  • Isolate: this form of whey protein is 90%+ protein. It has been processed so that it is free from carbs, fats, and contains very little lactose. Also, experts believe that it lacks some of the beneficial nutrients found in whey protein concentrate.
  • Hydrolysate: this form of whey protein is also referred to as hydrolyzed whey and is processed in such a way that it’s “pre-digested” to that it’s absorbed faster. When you use this form of whey protein, you have a 28% to 43% spike in insulin over whey isolate.

Overall, it seems like the best option is whey protein concentrate. After all, it is the most budget friendly option and contains most of the valuable nutrients naturally found in whey. Plus, since it contains lactose and fat, most people prefer the taste of whey concentrate over the other forms.

If you have issues tolerating the whey concentrate or you want to increase protein consumption while keeping your carbs and fats low, you may want to consider whey isolate or even whey hydrolysate. Also, if you are lactose intolerant, you may want to try these other forms since there is little to no lactose.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that while many people prefer to use whey concentrate, when talking about studies on whey protein, isolate is the form that is typically used.


There are three primary forms of whey protein. They are: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. Each one has their own features and varies in protein content, price, taste, and digestibility.

How Does Whey Protein Supplementation Affect Muscle Mass and Strength?

The most popular reason that people use whey protein supplements is to increase muscle mass and strength. Whey protein is extremely popular among athletes, fitness enthusiasts, weightlifters, bodybuilders, and even those who just want to improve their performance in the gym or on the field.

There are several ways that whey protein can improve muscle mass and increase strength. They are as follows:

Building blocks: whey protein provides your body with protein and amino acids, which are the building blocks needed for muscle growth.

Hormones: whey protein stimulates the release of anabolic hormones, such as insulin, which results in muscle growth.

Leucine: whey protein has high levels of leucine, which stimulates muscle protein synthesis at the genetic and molecular levels

Absorbs quickly: whey protein is quickly absorbed and used by the body compared to other forms of protein.

Research indicates that whey protein is especially effective at increasing muscle mass when consumed prior to, during, or following a workout. Typically, muscle protein synthesis is maximized following training.

That being said, recent reviews of the available research found that total daily protein consumption is most relevant when it comes to muscle growth. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the protein is consumed near the workout.

When compared to other forms of protein, such as soy protein, it seems that whey protein performs better.

When compared to casein protein, results are mixed. Research indicates that whey may be more effective in the short term, but casein protein stimulates growth over a longer period of time, which results in very similar net effects.

Additionally, it’s important to note that unless your diet lacks protein, supplementation is not likely to really do much for you.

For example, in one 12-week study involving older adults with adequate protein consumption who engaged in resistance training. They saw no difference in muscle growth when supplementing with carbs or with whey protein. Therefore, it’s not clear how much whey protein affects muscle growth and strength- and it may actually vary from one person to another.

If you are already consuming enough protein in your typical diet, such as dairy, meat, eggs, and fish- you probably won’t see much, if any, benefit from adding whey protein to your diet.


There are plenty of studies out there regarding the effect of whey protein on muscle growth and strength. Some of these studies support the use of whey protein for increasing growth and strength, other studies say there’s little to no effect. Overall, it seems that it varies based on the individual.

Does Whey Protein Improve Satiety and Promote Weight Loss?

In many studies, it has been proven over and over that protein promotes weight loss and it is definitely the most satiating of the macronutrients.

Protein increases energy expenditure by 80 to 100 calories each day and causes people to eat up to 441 less calories than they typically would. One study revealed that individuals who consumed 25% of their daily calories in protein reduced their cravings by 60% and decreased their desire for late-night snacking by 50%.

By using a whey protein supplement, you can increase your protein consumption, which can help facilitate weight loss. Studies indicate that by replacing calories with whey protein, in conjunction with weightlifting, can result in weight loss of approximately 8 pounds while also increasing lean muscle mass.

If your ultimate goal is to lose weight, according to the experts, a whey protein supplement can help you do that- as well as increase your lean muscle mass.


According to the experts, whey protein facilitates weight loss by improving metabolism and reducing appetite. Whey protein can help preserve current muscle mass, while facilitating the development of more lean muscle mass. At the same time, it’s facilitating fat loss.

What Other Health Benefits are Associated with Whey Protein?

There is so much more to whey protein than the protein itself. It also contains several other beneficial nutrients, including the following:

Therefore, in addition to increasing lean muscle mass and strength, whey protein may also provide a variety of other benefits to health as well. These potential benefits include lowering blood pressure and blood glucose levels, as well as reducing symptoms of depression and stress.

Some research indicates that it also may protect against cancer, increase bone density, reduce hepatitis symptoms, improve immune response in HIV patients, and increases the lifespan of rodents.

The high cysteine levels seem to be what drives these health benefits. It does this by increasing the level of glutathione in your body, which is the primary antioxidant found in your cells.


Whey protein is known to be high in amino acids, especially the 9 essential amino acids that your body needs- as well as other healthy nutrients. It is also packed with the amino acid cysteine, which increases glutathione levels, resulting in a wide variety of benefits.

Dosage and Side Effects Associated with Whey Protein Powder

The most common dosage of whey protein powder is 1 to 2 scoops, which is typically around 25 to 50 grams, daily. As mentioned earlier, it really doesn’t seem to matter if you take it prior to, during, or following your workout- but most people choose t take it after.

Of course, there will be serving instructions on the package, so experts recommend that you follow those instructions, as they are tailored for that specific product. Also, remember, if you are already consuming an adequate amount of protein in your diet, adding a whey protein supplement isn’t likely to do much for you.

There are some people who are concerned that whey protein could damage kidneys and even cause osteoporosis. However, these concerns are unvalidated. In fact, researchers indicate that protein protects against osteoporosis and as long as your kidneys are healthy, it should not affect them at all. That being said, if you already have issues with your kidneys or liver, you may wish to consult with a medical professional before you start taking a whey protein supplement.

If you consume too much whey protein, you may end up with digestive issues, such as gas, cramping, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. In addition, keep in mind that if you have dairy allergies and may have a reaction with whey.

As mentioned, whey concentrate seems to be the best option, but if you can’t tolerate it, isolate or hydrolysate may be better for you. On the other hand, you could simply opt for natural foods that are rich in protein instead of using a supplement.

As a general rule, whey protein is safe, and most people have no issues at all with consuming it.


According to the experts, whey protein is generally safe. The most common recommended dose is 1 to 2 scoops, or 25 to 50 grams per day. Of course, you’ll want to follow the directions on the container that you purchase.


If you are not getting enough protein in your diet, a whey protein supplement may be a great way to add more. It’s a high-quality source of protein that is easily absorbed and used by the body. This is a great way for athletes, bodybuilders, weightlifters, and anyone else serious about their health and fitness to lose fat while gaining muscle mass and increasing strength.

When it comes to fat loss and muscle/strength gain, it seems that whey protein is the most superior option. It’s better than most of the other forms of protein on the market today.


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