The FDA has defined whey protein isolate as a milk product that is at least 90% protein. Compare that to the minimum protein content of just 25% which is required for whey protein concentrate. Whole cow’s milk is about 25% whey proteins and up to 80% casein. Protein powder and other products that include 100% whey protein isolate also contain less lactose than those that include protein concentrate or a blend of whey protein sources.
Lactose is the natural sugar contained in milk, and many people are lactose intolerant. Those who suffer from this intolerance can often consume products that use pure whey protein isolate, but they may experience severe allergic reactions to similar products that use whey concentrate. This is simply a matter of the amount of lactose in the product.
Protein powders and other protein bars that use 100% whey protein isolate are considered higher quality than those that use whey concentrate. These products often cost a bit more than others, but they may also provide a pure source of low-lactose protein to help you lose weight, gain weight or boost your lean muscle mass.
How Is Whey Protein Isolate Made?
Whey protein isolate is created when cow’s milk is processed into cheese. The milk is infused with enzymes that force the different natural components of the milk to separate from one another. One of those natural components is the curd, and that is what is used to make cheese.
As the curd is processed into cheese, a protein-rich liquid is left behind as a byproduct. This is whey, and it is dried out to create the protein powder used in many supplements. Protein powders and bars that use protein concentrate use powder that is created from this liquid without further processing. The amount of protein contained in whey concentrate varies. It must contain at least 25% protein, but in some cases it may contain more than 80% protein.
When the whey liquid is further processed isolate the protein, protein isolate is created. Since the protein is filtered away from the rest of the liquid, the final product is much higher in protein. It will be at least 90% protein due to the removal of other natural parts of the liquid whey.
When you see the term “micro-filtered whey protein,” the reference is to a process that makes use of a micro-filter to create pure whey protein powder. This may make the final product easier to digest, but remember, whey protein in general is easy for the body to digest.
Benefits of 100% Whey Protein Isolate
There are many other types of protein supplements on the market today, including soy protein powder, casein protein powder, and a variety of vegetarian options such as hemp and pea protein powder. Yet, powders made from pure whey protein isolate remain the top sellers in today’s market. This is because it is a superior form of protein that comes with many benefits:
- Complete protein source (contains all essential amino acids)
- Low lactose content
- Easily digested
- Naturally contains Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
- Assists with protein synthesis
Since 100% whey protein isolate is easily digested by the body and contains a lot of protein and BCAAs, it is the preferred after-workout shake option for weightlifters and bodybuilders. It helps the muscles recover from the intensity of a workout and build back up stronger than before.
Other Uses for Whey Protein Supplements
Protein supplements that use pure whey protein isolate can be used even if you don’t lift heavy weights or have a weight-gain goal. Here are some ideas that will show you how versatile a whey supplement can be:
- Mix one scoop of pure whey protein powder into your morning coffee. It will jumpstart your metabolism while helping you feel fuller until lunchtime or your first snack.
- Keep a whey protein bar with you at all times so that you have a healthy snack or meal option on hand. You never know when circumstances will stop you from finding a healthy meal packed with protein.
- Consume whey protein shakes between meals to increase your daily protein intake. You can combine your shake with fresh fruits or vegetables to create a well-balanced meal replacement or filling snack.
- Learn to make whey protein pancakes, cookies and other delicious snacks. This allows you to increase your protein intake while consuming real foods. It also breaks up the monotony of consuming shakes and protein bars all the time.
- Make protein-rich smoothies that even your children will enjoy. Many parents boost their children’s protein intake by slipping powdered supplements into fruity smoothies that taste like treats.
Once you start cooking with protein powder, you will see how many uses there are for this type of supplement. You can consume protein-rich foods such as chicken and eggs, but protein shakes and bars are far more convenient. This is especially true if you have a high protein goal in order to boost muscle or weight gain. It is difficult to take in a lot of protein when you have to consume large plates of food each day. Shakes and bars allow you to get the protein you need without feeling bloated and stuffed.
100% whey protein supplements are also great for weight loss goals. You can enrich a shake with fruit and leafy greens to create a healthy meal replacement on busy days. You can keep protein bars on hand to prevent a visit to the vending machine. While you still need to consume healthy meals, protein supplements it much easier to stick with a restricted-calorie diet in the long term.
While whey protein isolate products may cost a bit more than those that use whey concentrate, they are higher in quality and will help you maximize results as you strive for your health and fitness goals. You can buy whey protein powder in a variety of flavors, but make sure you read labels to ensure that the product you select contains 100% whey isolate rather than concentrates and other forms of whey protein.