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Whey Protein Isolate vs. Concentrate: What's the Difference?

by Mara Welty May 31, 2024 4 min read

 Whey Protein Isolate vs. Concentrate

Whey protein is a dairy-based protein that’s gained widespread popularity in the fitness and nutrition community due to its excellent amino acid profile and rapid absorption by the body.

Derived from the liquid portion of milk that separates during cheese production, whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for muscle protein synthesis and overall human health. The fact that it's a complete protein makes it an invaluable resource for muscle building, recovery and overall wellness.

That said, there are several different types of whey proteins available on the market today. In this article, we’re exploring the distinction between whey protein isolate vs concentrate.

The Basics

Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate, or WPC, is a form of whey protein that has beneficial bioactive compounds and limited lactose and fats. Typically, this type of whey protein supplement contains anywhere from 34 to 80% protein.

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey protein isolate, or WPI, is a form of whey protein that’s highly refined, with a removal of lactose, fats and carbohydrates. This type of protein contains roughly 90% protein.

Processing Methods

Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate is processed under ultrafiltration (UF). During this process, the milk is put under pressure as it flows through microporous membranes that separate the lactose, salts and water. These particles fall through the membranes, leaving behind whey proteins, fat globules and suspended solids.

Then, a process called diafiltration (DF) occurs. The process aims to increase pure protein levels by further filtering out the membrane-permeable substances.

From there, the remaining substance is cooled to four degrees Celsius and stored until it can be dried. In some cases, manufacturers may also pasteurize the whey to rid the batch of microorganisms and spores.

What remains is whey protein, alongside fats and carbohydrates.

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey protein isolate has a higher protein content than WPC — that is, equal to or more than 90%. As such, these products are popular additives to sports nutrition supplements.

To manufacture whey protein isolate, manufacturers use a process called exchange chromatography. In this process, whey protein ions are separated from other components. In addition to highly concentrated whey protein, what remains is lactose, fats and ash.

Nutritional Profiles

Whey Protein Concentrate

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), whey protein concentrate is a dry ingredient that’s available in two forms:

  • WPC34 – This form contains 34 to 36% protein and 48 to 52% lactose.
  • WPC80 – This form ontains 80 to 82% protein and 4 to 8% lactose.

This animal-based protein is nutrient-dense and used in many supplements to improve texture, flavor and color. It can also help to stabilize dry mixes and extend their shelf life. That said, the nutritional profiles of WPC34 and WPC80 are relatively the same:

  • Water – WPC34, 3.93; WPC80, 4.11
  • Energy (kcal) – WPC34, 369; WPC80, 412
  • Protein (g) – WPC34, 34.36; WPC80, 80
  • Total lipid (g) – WPC34, 3.93; WPC80, 6.60
  • Carbohydrate – WPC34, 50.80; WPC80, 5.31

Neither form of WPC contains fiber nor sugars. They are, however, rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Additionally, WPC80 does not contain vitamins; however, some are present in WPC34. These include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin A

Whey protein concentrate also contains more of the beneficial bioactive compounds found naturally in whey, such as immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and growth factors to support immune function and tissue growth.

Whey Protein Isolate

Conversely, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) asserts that 100 grams of whey protein isolate contains roughly:

  • 89.29 grams protein
  • 393 calories
  • 1.79 grams total lipid
  • 3.57 grams carbohydrates
  • 432 mg calcium
  • 554 mg potassium
  • 162 mg sodium
  • 36 mg cholesterol

Best Uses

Whey Protein Concentrate

Overall, whey protein concentrate is extremely versatile and suitable for a wide range of consumers and health goals. Its balanced nutritional profile makes it an ideal option for people looking to support their health and fitness goals through muscle growth and assisted muscle recovery.

Its bioactive compounds (immunoglobulins and lactoferrin) can also help to support overall health and wellness.

That said, it’s important to note that whey protein concentrate has a moderate protein content and slightly higher carbohydrate and fat levels compared to isolate. This makes it a wonderful choice for people looking to increase their calorie intake or consume a more well-rounded macronutrient profile.

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey protein isolate is prized for its purity and efficiency, making it a preferred option for athletes and bodybuilders.

Whey protein isolate is also particularly well-suited for individuals with specific dietary restrictions or goals. Its high protein content and minimal carbohydrates and fats make it an ideal choice for those following low-carb, low-fat or calorie-restricted diets. Additionally, whey protein isolate is virtually lactose-free, making it suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance or sensitivity.

It’s also known for its rapid absorption, which makes it a viable option for those looking to enhance their workouts and post-workout recoveries by way of replenishing muscles with the protein’s essential amino acids.

Discover Whey Protein By INVIGOR8

Ultimately, all forms of whey protein deliver benefits to those looking to support their health and fitness journeys. Whey protein concentrate is a versatile option, offering a balanced nutritional profile with a moderate protein content. On the other hand, whey protein isolate shines with its exceptional purity and higher protein content.

If you’re looking for a whey protein powder that prioritizes the good stuff, look no further than INVIGOR8.

Our All-In-One Organic Superfoods Powder excels in grass-fed whey protein content, containing 20 grams per serving. It combines whey isolate and whey concentrate for a protein formulation that supports healthy body composition and satiety. But that’s not all it touts.

The Superfood Shake also combines vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron, alongside eight nutrient complexes that help to support endurance, muscle mass, nutrient absorption, immune function, vision and concentration. For those looking for diverse flavors, we have that, too. Choose from Triple Chocolate Brownie, Himalayan Salted Caramel, Natural Strawberry and French Vanilla.

With weight loss support from INVIGOR8, you don’t have to make any sacrifices, because we don’t cut corners and neither should you.

Sources:

  1. Science Direct. Whey Protein Concentrate
  2. Science Direct. Whey Protein Isolate
  3. USAID. Whey Protein Concentrate Commodity Fact Sheet
  4. USDA. [HISTORICAL RECORD]: WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE PROTEIN POWDER

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

The INVIGOR8 Weight-Loss Family

Our weight-loss products all work great on their own, but they work even better together! Try our Superfood Shake in combination with our Collagen Peptides or Burner Shake to promote healthy weight loss.

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