If there is one supplement that almost everyone will benefit from using, whey protein powder is it. Whey protein powder supplements are great for those who struggle to meet their macronutrient needs due to living a vegetarian lifestyle, lack of time, or a simple dislike of protein-rich food sources. It’s also a great supplement for those who want to take their physical training to the next level.
Studies have identified the fact that consuming a quality whey protein immediately post-training can help to kick-start protein synthesis and assist with faster recovery and greater overall rates of lean muscle growth. These are just a couple of the main whey protein benefits to be had.
And, with the hundreds of different flavors out there now, protein powder is anything but boring. Gone are the days where you had to slam back a chalky tasting whey protein shake to get your whey in. Now, you can prepare delicious gourmet protein smoothies or even use the powders in any number of different baking recipes.
All of this said, not all whey protein powder is created equally. If you’re wondering what is whey protein and which is the best whey protein for you, we have your answers.
Let’s give you the run down of three different types, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate.
Whey Protein Concentrate
What is whey protein concentrate?
This variety of whey is a type that has gone through minimal processing, so it’s your most natural form, so to speak. This also makes it easier to manufacture, thus you’ll typically find it at the lowest price point for all whey protein powders.
Because it only has gone through a light filtration process, whey protein concentrates typically have your highest total percentage of carbs and dietary fats. Generally speaking you can expect whey protein concentrate to contain 70-80% total protein content, 10-20% total fat content, and 10-20% total carb content depending on the particular brand in question.
The calories in whey protein will typically be greatest when looking at a concentrate variety, so you’ll normally be coming in at around 120-150 calories per serving assuming you want to keep the protein level per serving at around 22-25 grams. This is thanks to those additional fat and carb calories.
Because whey protein concentrate is as close to its natural state as possible, this also means it retains more of the health related benefits that whey protein has to offer.
Whey protein concentrate has been shown to provide antioxidants that help combat oxidative damage and may also help enhance your immune system as well. Because of this immune enhancement benefit, whey concentrate can be a great choice prior to going to bed.
As it’s during the overnight sleeping period your immune system goes into overdrive, repairing the tissues from the day, giving yourself this boost could be highly beneficial.
Finally, whey protein concentrate may also help to regulate appetite, so can help you lower your overall hunger level, making it easier to stick with your lower calorie diet plan.
Whey Protein Isolate
The next question to answer is what is whey protein isolate. This form of protein is one step above whey protein concentrate in terms of the process of filtration it goes through.
Either the filtration process on this form of whey protein is slower, or it has simply been through more forms of filtration overall. Two of the primary ones include cross-flow microfiltration as well as ion-exchange chromatography.
What’s the end result of these filtration methods? The result is you get a protein that’s high in total protein content and lower in carbs and fats. For those who are looking to stay as lean as possible, whey protein isolate (WPI), is usually selected. During intense dieting, you are likely looking to minimize your carbs and fat calories, thus whey protein isolate works better.
Generally you’ll only take in around one or two grams of either fat or carbs in WPI (with some brands containing absolutely no carbs or fats), with the rest of the content coming from protein. You’ll also see a lower calorie count per serving at around 100-120 calories.
Because it is more processed, it also breaks down faster once it hits your system. For this reason, it’s often the whey selected for using right around the workout period. At this time, the faster you can get those amino acids to your muscle tissues, the better. Whey protein isolate powder accomplishes this nicely.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Finally, hydrolyzed whey protein is the last option to consider. This is the most processed form of protein and as such, often comes with the highest price tag.
This is basically whey protein isolate that has been put through one more process called hydrolysis, which serves to break the peptide chains down into smaller pieces. This makes it even faster digesting, so those amino acids literally hit your muscle cells seconds after it enters your system. One study noted that when comparing whey protein hydrolysate with both soy and casein protein, the WPH stimulated muscle protein synthesis 93% more than casein and 18% more than soy.
Because it is so heavily refined, this form of protein is also usually free from lactose entirely, so it’s a great option for those who may be lactose intolerant. While some varieties of whey concentrate and whey isolate are also very low in lactose (or even lactose free), don’t assume they are unless otherwise stated.
With whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) though, usually anyone with lactose intolerance will tolerate these fine.
Your WPH typically is free from both carbs and fats, so is 100% pure protein. As such, you normally get 25 grams of protein per serving and 100 calories.
So there you have a round-up of the three main types of whey protein powder. What is the best whey protein powder to use? The answer all depends on your goals, needs, and preferences.
If you are looking to get as lean as possible and need a protein for immediately post-workout, you simply can’t go wrong with a whey protein hydrolysate.
If you are someone looking to build muscle and putting in intense training sessions and want a protein to drink during the day, a whey concentrate is likely your best bet. This protein will contain a few more calories (which you need while building muscle!) not to mention help you recover faster thanks to the immune boosting benefits it provides.
On the flip side, if you are looking to build muscle and need a post workout protein, whey protein isolate may be the superior choice. It won’t be quite as expensive as whey protein hydrolysate, however will still provide the fast digesting nature that helps you achieve peak protein synthesis.
By taking into account your budget, how you respond to lactose, when you will be using the protein powder, and your body composition goals, you can figure out the right whey protein powder supplements to use.
How To Take Whey Protein
What’s the best way to use your whey protein after you’ve selected it? To receive the optimal benefits of whey protein around your workouts, you’ll want to consume WPI or WPH within the first 30 minutes of finishing up. This is when your rates of protein synthesis will be highest, so when it will be most helpful.
If you are using a whey protein concentrate throughout the day, feel free to take it any point. Some people prefer taking it first thing in the morning to give their body a boost to get the day going, while others take it mid-afternoon because they don’t have time to prepare a solid meal such as a chicken breast.
You may also incorporate your whey protein powder into your diet in other ways. Try mixing it with a bowl of cooked oatmeal, stirring some into Greek yogurt, or baking up a patch of protein pancakes or protein muffins. Some may even consider preparing their own home-made protein bars as well.
There is an endless number of possibilities with protein powder so great creative and see what you can come up with.
One thing is for certain though, harnessing the benefits of whey protein powder in your meal plan will help you achieve superior health and fitness success.
What’s your favourite way to serve your protein powder?
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