Whey Protein: Nutrition, Proven Benefits, Concentrate vs Isolate vs Hydrolysate (Science Based)

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Whey Protein: Nutrition, Benefits, Concentrate vs Isolate vs Hydrolysate

Whey protein is a mixture of proteins found in whey, the watery part of the milk remaining after it has been curdled and strained. Whey protein powder is good for you because it is rich in essential amino acids that promote good health and help your body to function properly. Among the benefits of whey protein are helping you to lose weight and body fat, build muscle mass, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, and manage diabetes symptoms.


Whey protein comes in 3 different types – whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate. These types of whey protein are good for your health because they can help to improve the nutritional content of your diet. It is also very easy to add whey protein to your diet. Most people add 1 or 2 tablespoons of whey protein powder to make a whey protein shake.

In this article, you will learn about the benefits to your health and weight management that whey protein powder can give you.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey and casein are the main two proteins in milk. Casein makes up about 80% of the milk and the rest is whey. Whey is the liquid substance left over during the cheese-making process, when casein turns into curds. Whey protein powder is made by processing the liquid whey into dry powder. Whey protein is considered to be a complete protein source because it contains all the 9 essential amino acids.

Whey protein powder doesn’t taste good on its own. Most people who use whey protein powder to increase their protein intake buy flavored whey protein. Some of the most popular flavors of whey protein powder are chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. To mask the unpleasant taste of whey protein, you can also add a tablespoon of it to your favorite smoothie.

Whey protein powder is also added to shakes, meal replacements and protein bars.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that whey protein powder can be added to soft foods or liquids or blended with fresh fruit and ice. Consuming whey protein can help to increase muscle strength, improve athletic performance, and resolve nutritional deficiencies. (1)

The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reports that whey protein is rich in amino acids. Therefore, the nutritional benefits of consuming whey powder are more than just improving muscle strength. Whey protein products can help to enhance your immune system and have many other potential health benefits. (2)

Different Forms of Whey Protein: Concentrate vs. Isolate vs. Hydrolysate

Whey protein makes up about 20% of milk, and casein protein accounts for the remainder. The Journal of Sports Science & Medicine says that whey is also rich in vitamins and minerals. (3)

There are 3 main types of whey protein that you can buy.

Whey protein concentrate

Whey protein concentration is the least processed of the three main types of whey protein.

Researchers say that whey concentrate contains more bioactive compounds and protein than other types of whey supplements. Whey protein concentrates can contain between 25% and 90% of protein. (3)

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Whey protein isolate

Whey protein isolate contains about 90% protein and is the purest type of whey supplement you can buy.

Whey protein isolate supplements are a good choice for making a protein shake if you are lactose intolerant. During the processing, most of the lactose and fat are removed from the whey. Even though whey protein isolate contains more protein than whey concentrate, the quality of protein may not be as good as in whey concentrate. (3)

Whey protein hydrolysate

Whey protein hydrolysates are whey products that have been processed to break down some of the protein structures in the whey.

Scientists say that this helps to make whey protein easier to digest and can have better functional and nutritional benefits than other whey supplements. (4)

Which is the Best Type of Whey Protein?

You can easily use whey protein powder to boost the nutritional value of your food and get many health benefits. But which type of whey protein should you choose?

Most people choose whey protein concentrate because it is the cheapest form of whey protein and contains high-quality protein. Whey concentrate supplements come in many flavors and can help make delicious protein-rich smoothies.

If you find that whey protein concentrates affect your digestion and cause cramping, whey protein hydrolysate may be the better option. Whey hydrolysates are so easy to digest that they can be given to infants to help improve the nutritional value of their food.

Whey protein isolates contain very little lactose and are a good choice if you have sensitivities to lactose and you need high-protein shakes.

Health Benefits of Whey Protein

Let’s look at the many reasons why whey protein is good for your health.

Whey Concentrate is a Good Source of Protein

One of the main reasons why many people consume whey protein shakes is to boost their protein intake.

The Journal of Dietary Supplements reported that whey protein supplements have a high nutritional value due to proteins and amino acids in them. (5)

1 scoop of whey protein powder (1 oz., or 28 g) contains 20 grams of protein which is 40% of your recommended daily protein intake. (6)

Whey protein concentrate is also a good source of high-quality protein. For example, researchers have found that the biological value of whey protein is better than eggs, milk, soy protein, and beef. The biological value is the amount of absorbed protein from a food. (3)

Learn about other high-quality sources of meat-free protein that are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Whey Protein Helps Build Strength and Muscle Mass

One of the health benefits of whey protein powder is helping to prevent loss of muscle mass without any side effects.

There are many reasons why people choose to take protein shakes to build muscle mass. Whey protein helps build muscle when taken after weight training. Whey protein shakes can also help prevent muscle waste in the elderly.

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One study found that whey protein hydrolysate supplements boost the effects of resistance training in young men. Researchers found that whey hydrolysates were better than casein protein and soy protein. One reason for the good effect was that whey protein contains leucine and is quickly digested. (7) Leucine is an essential amino acid that helps protect against muscle degradation. (8)

A double-blind crossover study found that whey protein powder supplements boost muscle recovery after strenuous exercise. It was found that 25 g of whey protein powder consumed as a beverage was effective in helping muscles to recover when taken after exercise. (9)

The rich amino acid content of whey protein means that it can help prevent loss of muscle associated with aging. One study found that whey protein stimulates muscle growth in older men when taken after a meal. Whey protein was more effective than casein protein or casein hydrolysate at helping to improve muscle mass in the elderly. (10)

Some studies indicate that taking 25-30 grams of high-quality whey protein daily can help prevent sarcopenia (muscle loss associated with aging). (11)

Learn about effective ways to help get rid of muscle soreness after exercising without using anti-inflammatories.

Whey Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Because It Keeps You Feeling Fuller for Longer

Taking whey protein powder can help you lose weight because it helps to increase feelings of satiety.

If you are trying to lose weight then the best protein shakes can help increase energy expenditure and keep your feeling full. Research has shown that whey protein increases feelings of fullness better than fat or carbohydrates. A high protein diet can also assist in building lean muscle mass. (12, 13)

One randomized controlled trial found that protein shakes for women help reduce body weight and body fat. (14)

When it comes to protein shakes for weight loss, a double-blind randomized controlled trial found that whey protein suppresses the hunger hormone “ghrelin” better than soy protein. Participants took 28 g of protein in shakes twice a day for weight loss. (15)

The presence of amino acids in whey protein also assists with weight loss because they help reduce belly fat. One clinical trial found that taking 37.5 grams of whey protein concentrate after exercising resulted in an increase of belly fat loss. (16)

37 grams of whey protein powder contains approximately 27 grams of protein which is about 50% of your RDI and only 135 calories. (17)

If you suffer from belly fat, you can find how to lose stubborn belly fat for good without counting calories in my ultimate e-book guide Blast Your Belly Fat.

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Whey Protein Shakes May Help Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Another reason why whey protein powder is good for you is that it helps to protect the health of your heart.

Whey protein drinks help protect your cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure. A clinical trial on adults found that supplementing the diet with whey protein helps to lower both diastolic and systolic blood pressure. Participants consumed beverages containing 28 grams of whey powder twice a day. After 2 weeks, there was a marked improvement in blood pressure readings. (18)

Other studies have shown that milk proteins such as whey powder also help to lower blood fat levels which helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. (19)

Find out how to keep your heart healthy and reduce your blood pressure without resorting to medication.

Whey Protein Helps Strengthen Your Immune System

Having a whey protein shake every day can also help to provide your body with antioxidants that boost your immunity.

One study found that whey protein contains compounds with free radical scavenging activity. Hydrolyzed whey protein and amino acids act as antioxidants. Whey protein added to chocolate flavored milk increased the antioxidant activity by up to 42%. (20)

Other studies have shown that whey protein concentrate can help to protect against some immune-related disorders. For example, whey protein supplementation can help to reduce the effects of oxidative stress on the body. (21)

Psoriasis is chronic autoimmune disease causing thick skin, dry scales and red patches. One study showed that taking 20 grams of whey protein isolate helped to improve the symptoms of psoriasis. (21)

If you frequently suffer from infections, you should try some of these 10 hacks to boost your immunity almost instantly. You can also strengthen your immune system with these herbs and supplements.

Whey Protein Can Help Reduce Inflammation

Taking whey protein powder that is packed with amino acids can help to lower inflammatory responses in your body.

Although short-term inflammation helps to get rid of infection, chronic inflammation has been linked to diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

One lab trial found that whey protein contains compounds that induce short-term inflammation that assists in wound healing. Researchers found that whey supplements increased normal inflammatory responses. This resulted in shortening the time for wounds to heal in diabetic subjects. (22)

A meta-analysis of many studies into the effects of whey protein on inflammation found that whey protein supplements have a statistically significant effect in lowering certain inflammatory markers. (23)

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Along with taking whey supplements, do you know what other foods help reduce inflammation? Knowing what to eat and what not to eat if you have arthritis can help to quickly improve your quality of life.

Whey Protein is Good for You if You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

The presence of essential amino acids in whey protein powder can help to relieve symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The journal Nutrients reported in 2017 that getting adequate amounts of protein can help to repair the mucosal lining in your gut. Trials have shown that whey protein supplements can help to improve the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The trial found that protein in the form of supplements was better than from red meat in treating inflammatory bowel disease. (24)

A clinical trial involving adult males found that whey protein helped to improve gastrointestinal health. Whey protein contains the amino acid glutamine which helps to improve conditions in the intestinal tract. The whey protein supplementation helped to relieve symptoms of Crohn’s disease. (25)

Greasy stool that is the result of inflammatory bowel disorder is just one of the signs that your digestive system doesn’t work properly.

Whey Protein Can Assist in Managing Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms

Amino acids in whey protein powder also seem to help in controlling some of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

One trial found that taking whey supplements at breakfast and lunchtime helped to improve insulin response. Researchers found that whey helped to lower blood glucose levels and stimulate insulin release. (26)

The World Journal of Diabetes reports that whey protein shakes may be good to treat type 2 diabetes. For example, whey protein slows gastric emptying which helps food to be digested better. Also, whey helps to suppress appetite and lower postprandial glycemia (a high rise in blood sugar after a meal). (27)

Find out how to prepare okra to help treat type 2 diabetes and manage its symptoms, or consume these foods to control type 2 diabetes.

Regularly Taking Whey Protein May Help Lower Cholesterol

One of the beneficial effects that regularly taking whey protein powder in a beverage can have is lowering levels of cholesterol.

Trials involving rats have found that milk whey proteins help to lower liver cholesterol. (28) Other studies have shown that whey protein helps to reduce complications associated with obesity, including lowering LDL cholesterol in a 12-week period. (29)

However, some studies have not found that to be the case. The International Journal of Obesity reported that whey protein can help to lose weight more effectively than a low-fat diet. However, there were no differences in levels of cholesterol between a diet supplemented with whey protein shakes and a low-fat diet. (30)

Learn about other ways of lowering your cholesterol naturally and what foods you should eat to prevent clogged arteries.

Dosage and Side Effects of Whey Protein

The recommended daily allowance of whey protein powder is 1–2 scoops (around 25–50 grams) usually after workouts. But it’s also recommended to read the serving instructions on the packaging of your supplement.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, taking whey protein supplement in the form of protein shakes is generally safe. The only dangers and adverse effects that may be experienced from whey protein products are if you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy products. (31)

How to Make Your Own Whey

If you’ve ever noticed a clear, sometimes slightly milky layer on top of your yogurt, then you have already made your own whey! Although protein shakes are really convenient, you can opt to make your own whey by separating the whey from products like natural yogurt or kefir.

All you need to produce your own whey is some cheese cloth, a strainer and naturally fermented milk products.

As an example you can make whey from good quality (and preferably organic) yogurt.

Set a large strainer over a bowl with a clean cheese cloth. Pour in the yogurt. Cover and let stand at room temperature for several hours, until the yogurt is thick like Greek yogurt. The whey will run into the bowl and the milk solids will stay in the strainer.

Whey has a long shelf life and can last up to 6 months in the refrigerator

Whey Protein Powder – Ideas for Consumption

The most common ways to consume whey protein powder is in a liquid form. Most people put it in a shaker cup, add water, shake, and you have a portable drink to revitalize your muscles and energy. Some people put it in a blender with milk, fruits, greens and nut butter.

But whey powder isn’t only for liquids – you can add whey protein to many homemade bakes and other dishes with countless recipes available for making your own, protein rich, delicious food. You can add it to a variety of dishes, such as muffins and cupcakes, burgers and lasagna, dips, doughnuts and more!

Where to Get Whey Protein

You can buy a whey protein powder at your local health store, online or at your supermarket, but try to opt for a raw organic whey protein from the milk of grass-fed cows like this USDA certified organic whey.

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7 Responses to Whey Protein: Nutrition, Proven Benefits, Concentrate vs Isolate vs Hydrolysate (Science Based)

  1. My says:

    Why not just consume the yoghurt or the kefir, then, on a daily basis? Much easier. Why separate it. Why not blend the yoghurt or kefir straight into the smoothies, bake-offs or dishes?

    • Jenny says:

      Both yogurt and whey provide protein. Which type you choose depends on your personal preference, your goals, your caloric needs, convenience, cost etc. For example: Whey powders offer a concentrated form of milk protein, which has more protein than a cup of yogurt, or some people use it for building muscle after weight training. Also some people are lactose intolerant or don’t like the taste of kefir, so whey protein isolate can offer them a good solution.

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