Taking whey protein can be helpful for anyone looking to build muscle, improve recovery after exercise, or simply boost their daily protein intake. There are two main types of whey protein: whey isolate and whey concentrate. This article will explore the difference between the two and help you decide which is best for you.
Whey Concentrate vs Isolate: What’s the Difference?
Before choosing between whey concentrate and whey isolate, it’s important to understand their differences.
Whey concentrate is the most common form of whey protein. When it’s made, some fats and carbohydrates are filtered out. However, the final product still contains a small amount of carbs and fats, lending to a slightly creamy texture.
Alternatively, whey isolate is filtered more extensively, removing more of the carbohydrates and fats. The resulting protein powder is 90% protein by weight, while whey concentrate is about 70-80% protein by weight. Because it’s more heavily filtered, the remaining product is also lower in lactose than whey concentrate.
Which is Better for Muscle Recovery?
For muscles to recover properly after exercise, it’s important that they are fueled with adequate, high-quality protein. Both whey concentrate and isolate provide all nine essential amino acids, and leucine in particular helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis after exercise.
Whey isolate contains slightly higher protein by weight compared to whey concentrate, with whey isolate containing about 23 grams of protein per serving, while whey concentrate contains about 18 grams per serving.
Research is inconclusive as to deciphering a better option when it comes to muscle recovery. However, there is evidence to suggest that whey isolate is absorbed more rapidly, allowing amino acids to target muscle fibers more rapidly, and allowing for a speedier recovery (1).
Whey concentrate and isolate are very similar and if you’re taking an equal dose of protein, your body will reap the benefits (2).
Most people would likely not notice a significant difference in muscle recovery when taking whey concentrate vs whey isolate.
Which is Better for Daily Protein Intake?
Both whey concentrate and whey isolate can be effective ways to meet your body’s daily protein needs.
When deciding which you should take on a daily basis, it’s important to consider factors like taste, cost, and dietary preferences.
Many people prefer the taste and texture of whey concentrate, thanks to its fat and carbohydrate content. Plus, whey concentrate is less expensive than whey isolate.
On the other hand, whey isolate might be a better choice if you have certain dietary restrictions or sensitivities. Isolate is lower in lactose, making this a better choice for those sensitive to lactose. If you’re following a stricter dietary protocol you might opt for whey isolate as it doesn’t have additional carbohydrates or fats.
Ultimately, both are great options but the choice comes down to cost and subtle differences in both taste and nutrition.
Which is More Easily Absorbed?
Whey protein in general is rapidly and easily absorbed by the body, making either form a great choice for post-workout recovery.
However, whey isolate tends to be absorbed a bit quicker than whey concentrate. Due to its higher protein content and rapid absorption rate, amino acids can therefore be delivered to muscles quickly.
Who Should Take Whey Concentrate?
Whey concentrate is a great option for many recreational gym-goers or athletes. It’s versatile, cost-effective, and a great way to meet protein needs and boost muscle recovery after exercise.
If you are looking for ways to increase your daily protein intake, adding a whey concentrate supplement can be a good choice. Simply blend the whey into your morning smoothie, oatmeal, or even your favorite baked goods recipe.
You can also incorporate whey concentrate within 30 minutes after exercise to optimize post-exercise muscle recovery (3).
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly, effective whey protein option, whey concentrate might be your best bet.
Should I Switch to Whey Isolate?
Whether you should switch to whey isolate depends on your goals, dietary preferences, and budget.
If you’re following a strict dietary protocol with specific macronutrient targets, whey isolate can help you meet your protein needs while not contributing to your fat or carbohydrate intake.
Additionally, if you’re someone who is sensitive to lactose, switching to isolate is lower in lactose and tends to be gentler on the digestive system.
Lastly, if you’re an elite athlete or bodybuilder and need to maximize muscle recovery and growth, you might be better off taking whey isolate since it has a slightly faster absorption rate. However, this difference in absorption is likely not noticeable for most people, especially for the average recreational athlete.
Whichever protein supplement you choose to incorporate, ensure you are meeting your daily nutrition needs by following a healthy, balanced diet in addition to your supplement routine to best support your health and fitness journey.