After several years in the supplement industry I have had numerous amounts of people and even friends ask for advice on whey protein. Many people have asked what is it, should I be taking whey protein, and ask what does it actually do? Considering all these questions and desire to understand whey protein we have put together this blog to help explain whey protein and how it’s made, what types there are, and when and how you should be using it to support your fitness journey.
As simple as it sounds whey protein starts off as cow’s milk. Once the milk has been gathered and pasteurised at the dairy farm it is then ready to be transported to a cheese factory for processing. The milk begins a secondary pasteurisation process by where it is boiled to approx. 70-80 degrees Celsius. This is to ensure the milk is free from any harmful bacteria.
As the process continues specialised enzymes are added to milk which then separates the milk into two different liquids, casein and whey. At this point the remaining milk obtained is 20% whey and 80% casein. What we are left with is a casein liquid that will be further processed to make cottage cheese, variants of cheese and casein powder.
The remaining milk liquid we are left with is mainly whey, fats and cards. This liquid will go through an additional process whereby additional enzymes are added, and another pasteurisation process begins in separating the fats and carbohydrates which are extracted leaving us with pure whey.
An interesting fact is that approx. 327 litres of raw milk whey will produce a 5lb or 2.2 kilo jar of protein powder that you will buy online or in store.
Let’s get back to finishing up our protein powder. Now that we have a pure protein whey liquid it is then placed into a drying unit that pushes hot and cold air through the unit to dry the water out, separating the solids from the liquid. We are then left with a pure protein powder.
Lastly, the powder extract is then mixed with flavours and is ready to be jarred and sent for retail.
WPI – Whey protein Isolate, WPC – Whey protein concentrate, & Hydrolysate
If you search online or head into a supplement store you will encounter protein powders that are WPI (Whey protein isolate) in nature, or protein powder products that are a blend of both WPI and WPC (Whey protein concentrate), you will also encounter Hydrolystate formulas.
What’s the difference?
There are three primary forms of whey proteins, and their immunomodulatory effects vary enormously.
Hands down, the best thing about whey protein is that it contains a variety of proteins that put a big hurt on viruses and bacteria.
These proteins are called immunoglobulins and you may already have a healthy supply coursing through your veins. If, however, your immune system is compromised because of disease or poor nutrition, supplemental immunoglobulins might do you some good.
The trouble is, these valuable immunoglobulins pretty much exist only in whey concentrate, which is the cheapest and least processed form of whey.
Whey concentrate has higher levels of fat, cholesterol, and lactose and it contains the lowest percentage of protein of any of the types of whey, but it’s definitely rich in immunoglobulins IgGI, IgG2a, IgG2b, and IgG3.
While having more protein and lower levels of fat and cholesterol than concentrates, whey isolate also has lower levels of immunoglobulins, too. Isolates are more expensive than concentrates because they’re more processed and they’re, well, more isolated, i.e., more concentrated.
This is the most expensive type of whey and it consists of proteins that are pre-digested and partially hydrolyzed so they can be more easily metabolized.
Hydrolysate shave virtually no fat or cholesterol, but likewise they’re devoid of all those juicy immunoglobulins. These hydrolysates are highly prized by baby food manufacturers because this lack of bioactive compounds makes them less allergenic than other forms of protein.
Micellar Casein & Calcium Caseinate
Whey and Casein are dairy proteins found in milk. Casein is made from curds as in ‘curds and whey’. Whey is considered a fast protein, because it is rapidly digested in as little as an hour, whereas casein is a slow protein that is digested over several hours. The differences between Micellar Casein and Calcium Caseinate can at a basic level be compared with the differences between WPC and WPI. Micellar Casein is less denatured, or processed, and has lower levels of protein. Calcium Caseinate on the other hand has been refined to a higher level of purity making it popular with people who wish to minimise fats and carbs in their diet. As a slower release protein, Casein proteins are popular as a night-time pre-sleep supplement which will reduce muscle breakdown and promote growth whilst sleeping.
If after reading the above you are not sure which whey is right for you. Then we would recommend WPC if you want an economical protein which offers more of the growth and health stimulating properties. Or choose WPI if you are looking for a fast-acting protein to consume pre and/or post workout as it is higher in protein and lower in fat and lactose levels. WPI is also more suitable if you are lactose sensitive but be aware it does contain 1-2% lactose in most cases.