One would think that buying protein powder would be a pretty simple, straightforward process. It is not. Not only are there all sorts of different sources available – whey, casein, pea, soy, hemp, and so on – but these proteins can all be processed in a variety of ways.
The most popular and common protein, for example, is whey which is generally available in one of two different forms: concentrate or isolate. To help you pick the best protein for you, let's take a closer look at whey isolate and how it compares to the concentrate option.
Where It All Begins
All whey starts its life in essentially the same way: as the liquid portion of milk. Technically speaking, this is “whey concentrate.” It is the whey separated from the milk solids – casein – and is about 80 percent protein.
But some companies don't stop there. The whey concentrate is then processed even further, removing other components – which we'll discuss in greater detail later – and creating a product that is slightly higher in protein. Generally, whey isolates contain about 90 percent protein. At first glance, it might seem like whey protein isolate is the better choice thanks to its higher protein offering. Is it, though?
What's Left Behind
In order to increase the concentration of protein, makers of whey isolate remove a large amount of fat and sugars – including lactose. This also reduces the overall calorie count of the resulting supplement, while lowering the risk for individuals who deal with lactose intolerance.
Here's the problem, though: not everything that was removed during that processing should have been removed. There are plenty of highly beneficial substances that naturally occur in whey concentrate that many people – focused on the muscle-related uses of the supplement – do not consider.
Among the more noteworthy substances found in whey that are removed from isolates are lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, glycomacropeptides, and serum albumin. These compounds are vital for healthy immune function, nutrient transportation, regulating blood pressure and many other important aspects of your overall health.
This also ignores the fact that several of the fats found in whey are actually beneficial forms of the oft-vilified macronutrient, such as conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs) which has been associated improved metabolic health and a decreased risk of various conditions.
The Bottom Line
So, while whey isolate does have more protein, it comes at a pretty significant cost. First, the whey is heavily processed – which is in stark contrast to whey concentrate which can be made simply by heating milk. Perhaps more importantly, though, whey isolate delivers that (slightly) higher protein concentration at the cost of general health.
It's also worth noting that, thanks to the extra time and money that manufacturers have to invest in creating whey protein isolate, it typically costs much more. In reality, then, you are left with a protein supplement that offers only limited benefits at a higher cost and is far removed from its natural state.
Naked Whey is a gently-processed whey protein concentrate that contains all the factors listed above with none of the “extras” like sweeteners or added flavors.