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Whey Concentrate vs Isolate? What’s the difference?

The main difference between whey concentrate and isolate is the processing.

Whey protein isolate undergoes more processing in order to isolate the protein from whey.

The processing to isolate the protein component of whey, clears out a lot of lactose, fats, immunoglobulins, vitamins and minerals. 

This is why a 20 gram serving of whey protein isolate will contain around 18 grams of protein, whereas a 20 gram serving of whey protein concentrate will contain on average about 16.5-17 grams of protein. 

The flavor profile of whey protein isolate is also more easily manipulated via removal of the other components of whey, making it much more amenable to use in processed foods.   

Whey protein isolate by itself will be less flavorful.

The more processing that occurs with any food, the greater the loss of its inherent nutrients. 

One of these compounds that can be lost in the processing of whey protein isolate is lactoferrin.   

Lactoferrin is an amazing bioactive protein with antibacterial, antioxidant and general immune enhancing properties. It also has a significant effect on iron metabolism. 

Lactoferrin feeds good beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

Other bioactive compounds like insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which is important for muscle repair and growth and Glycomacropeptide (GMP), which promotes digestive health and feelings of satiety and Lysozyme, an antimicrobial enzyme found in higher amounts in minimally processed whey protein, like whey protein concentrate.

However you wouldn’t get these same benefits if you are using a protein that has been heated at a high temperature or processed with chemicals.

You may have heard of words like cross-flow microfiltration, which is used to produce whey protein isolate, as it removes the non protein elements like these bioactive components, minerals, vitamins and fats. Unfortunately, these bioactive components are what set whey protein apart as the most beneficial protein sources in supplemental form.  

These compounds support immune activity, have anti-inflammatory effects, improve gut health, support detoxification and insulin sensitivity.

I think as athletes and as humans pursuing a high level of performance, it is important to recognize what we are putting into our body.  

Often words like protein are thrown around, like protein is protein and it is all the same, just hit your gram levels. But just like 20 grams of protein from black beans is not going to have the same benefit as 20 grams of protein from beef, so too, when it comes to whey protein isolate as compared to whey protein concentrates. 

To summarize, here are 5 questions I would consider when taking a protein supplement:

  1. Is it a complete protein? Does it have all of the amino acids as well as the resources necessary to build and repair tissues as well as enzymes and neurotransmitters?
  2. Has heat changed the protein structure?
  3. Is it a low allergy protein? We don’t want to increase allergenicity with our supplemental protein powder. This is one of the key differentiating factors between goat whey and cow whey.
  4. Does it support insulin sensitivity? Does it support healthy cholesterol profiles?
  5. Am I getting healthier by consuming this protein or is it just an isolated macronutrient?

Even amongst whey protein concentrates there are different levels of processing. For Elite Fuel Goat Whey, we use Refractance Window Drying technology which is a dehydrating method that uses infrared red light, rather than direct heat which can lead to extremes in temperature and degrade the living components of the whey protein.  

This drying method is a very gentle way of removing the water from the whey protein while preserving the nutrients and bioactive compounds. 

Elite Fuel Goat Whey is also tested for pesticides, herbicides, molds, heavy metals, and pathogenic bacteria. It also has a light carbon footprint.

 

Have you tried a form of whey concentrate? If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

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