We've had quite a few questions regarding the difference between whey protein isolate (WPI) and whey protein concentrate (WPC), so hopefully this article will clear many of them up. We'll address the differences between the two, and let you know what you should be taking for optimal muscle gain and fat loss!
The Difference Between WPI and WPC
Both whey isolate and concentrate come from the exact same batch of milk, although they undergo different processing methods. Whey protein concentrate is the first result of the separation of the whey from the casein in cows' milk, and contains not only protein, but also fat, lactose, and many growth fractions that are naturally-occurring.
Whey protein isolate is essentially a filtered version of whey protein concentrate. Using microfiltration or ion-exchange methods, the protein is ‘isolated' from the concentrate, leaving a much more pure protein source, with most of the fat and lactose removed. WPI can be as high as 93% protein, while WPC is usually in the 75-85% range.
WPC is often quite a bit cheaper than WPI due to the lack of extra processing involved, and many protein blends use a good amount of whey concentrate to increase the protein percentage without dramatically increasing the cost of the product.
WPI or WPC for Post-Workout?
Whey isolate is the superior choice for an intra or post-workout protein powder. The reason? It digests a little quicker than whey protein concentrate - delivering the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth immediately. With the additional fat naturally occurring in whey concentrate, the absorption rate is a little slower.
WPI or WPC for Between Meals?
Whey concentrate has the edge here. With the slower absorption and a little fat and carbs, WPC will keep you fuller for longer than WPI, delivering a steady stream of amino acids to your body for growth. Since it is metabolically-difficult to digest, taking protein is one of the best ways to curb hunger when dieting as well.
WPI or WPC for Morning Meals?
Due to the quick absorption rate, whey protein isolate would have to get the nod again. If you're looking to get a quick hit of protein as soon as you wake up, whey isolate is the way to do it.
WPI or WPC for Someone on a Budget?
Whey protein concentrate is usually quite a bit cheaper than whey isolate, with only a little less protein per serve (usually 3-4g), so it's a better choice for anyone on a budget. Even if you have to increase the serving size, you'd still be saving money by supplementing with WPC instead of WPI.
WPI or WPC for Someone who is Lactose Intolerant?
Definitely WPI! Lactose, which naturally occurs in milk products, doesn't agree with everyone - sometimes resulting in stomach cramping, bloating and gas. During the processing, the majority of lactose in whey protein isolate is removed, leaving usually less than 1g of lactose per 100g of whey protein isolate. It's an easy decision here!
As you can see, whey isolate and concentrate each have their place in the supplement world, whether as a cost-reducer, optimal post-workout drink or for anyone with lactose intolerance. Something not mentioned as yet is the common occurrence of whey protein blends - combining whey isolate, concentrate (and sometimes hydrolysate). These combine the best features of each, and are widely available in protein powders such as Max's Superwhey and Optimum Gold Standard. Whichever way you go, whey isolate and concentrate are important tools for both muscle growth and fat loss, so make sure to include them in your supplement plan!
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