Should You Switch to Whey Isolate?

Whether you’ve been taking whey protein for years or are new to this popular supplement, at some point you may find yourself questioning whether you should be taking whey protein concentrate or if you should switch to an isolate. 

Both supplements have their perks but it’s their differences that can help you determine if you should make the switch. Let’s take a deeper dive

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

The biggest differences between whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate are a result of the way they are processed. 

For example, whey concentrate undergoes several steps for the whey protein to be extracted from cow’s milk which is then dried to form the concentrated powder. Whey protein concentrate is roughly 80% protein and 20% carbohydrates and fats [1].

Whey protein isolate undergoes further processing to increase the protein concentration to 90% and reduce the carbohydrates and fats to only 10% [1]. 

Aside from the different concentrations of macronutrients, the amino acid profile of both whey protein concentrate and isolate are identical as they both come from the same protein source. 

Because of the higher ratio of protein in whey protein isolate, it tends to be more costly than whey protein concentrate. It also contains less lactose and may be more suitable for those who are lactose intolerant [2].  

Which One is Better for Muscle Growth?

The big question when it comes to which whey protein is best is the benefits it provides. 

When it comes to whey protein concentrate versus isolate, they offer very similar benefits towards muscle growth. In fact, studies have shown that taking either type will lead to increases in muscle mass and strength when combined with regular resistance training [3].

There are currently no strong studies that support the use of one over the other however, whey protein isolate is a lot lower in carbohydrates and fat, as well as lactose, which may make it a better choice for some. Others may reach for whey protein concentrate as a more budget-friendly option.

Additionally, whey protein concentrate can be taken at a slightly larger dose to account for a higher protein content if needed.

It is important to note that many supplements contain a blend of both whey protein concentrate and isolate so if you are preferring one over the other be sure to read your supplement labels carefully.

Which One is Better for Overall Health?

Both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate are associated with benefits towards increasing lean body mass and strength. Whey protein is quick digesting and convenient to use in either form. 

When it comes to which one is better for general health, it’s not a matter of concentrate versus isolate but rather the quality of the supplement itself. The difference between the two is minimal and not enough to constitute being healthier than the other.

Instead, it’s more important for overall health to choose a high-quality whey protein concentrate or isolate supplement that does not contain added fluff, artificial ingredients or added sugars. Look for trusted brands and avoid ingredients that include limited research, such as many herbal additives. 

Which is More Bioavailable?

While both are made from quick-digesting whey protein, whey protein concentrate tends to be more bioavailable than whey protein isolate. Because of this, some prefer to stick with concentrate for their after-workout refuel but choosing an isolate won’t negate your hard work either. 

Who Should Take Whey Concentrate?

If you are already taking whey protein isolate and like it, there’s no need to switch as the benefits to either are about the same. 

You may consider taking whey protein isolate if you are looking for a budget-friendly form of protein but still want to get all the muscle-building benefits, particularly for those who enjoy taking their protein post-workout as it is absorbed quicker than whey protein isolate. 

This product also works well for those who don’t have any issues with digesting lactose and are likely getting other high-quality sources of protein in their diet already.

Who Should Switch to Whey Isolate? 

If you are taking a whey protein concentrate, you may consider switching to an isolate if you find you have low tolerance to your whey protein concentrate due to a lactose sensitivity. You may also benefit from switching to an isolate if you struggle to get adequate protein sources through your diet as whey protein isolate contains a higher dose of protein compared to carbohydrates and fats. 

Additionally, whey protein isolate tends to be more soluble in water, therefore it mixes a little better into liquids compared to whey protein concentrate for a smoother product. While it’s a small issue for some, it can make a difference to make the switch to enjoy your protein more.