Estimated reading time: 12mins
What’s the right whey for me?
If you’re serious about your nutrition, training and recovery, there’s no doubt you’re serious about your supplements. Whether you’re building muscle, losing weight or needing to recover rapidly from a hard workout, protein is your weapon of choice.
Protein builds, repairs and protects lean muscle, making it a critical component of anyone’s fitness goals.
But with such a diverse array of choice, it can be overwhelming to find the right protein for you.
Most people looking to supplement protein in their diet will turn to whey, normally in the form of a powder mixed with water. It’s the most popular choice, and for good reason.
Whey is the most nutritionally-complete protein, packed with all the amino acids you need and it’s excellent value for money. When you’re training hard, you want to recover well and see the results of your work, and whey protein is one of the best ways to maximise your effort in the gym.
Once you start looking at the right protein supplement for you, you’ll find there’s also plenty of choice within whey supplements. The two most prominent are Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) and Whey Protein Isolate (WPI).
That difference between WPC and WPI is what we’re taking a deep dive into today.
Quick summary: WPC vs WPI
Both Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) and Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) are made from whey, the thin, high-protein liquid left over from the process of converting milk into cheese. This is processed into powder and, depending on they way its refined, is either WPC or WPI.
- The best value-for-money protein supplement
- Has low levels of lactose and should be well tolerated by most people.
- Contains complete amino acids
- Contains fat-soluble vitamins
- High protein content (80%)
Myths about WPI and WPC
So now we know they come from the same source - a few myths can easily be busted!
- WPI and WPC are both rapidly absorbing proteins (many people falsely claim WPC is slow digesting)
- Both WPI and WPC are great to consume directly after training.
- Both are low in fats and carbohydrates too!
First up: what is whey?
Whey is a product of cows’ milk which is separated out from the whole milk in the production process of different dairy products, such as butter, cheese and yoghurt. Whole milk is made up of about 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein.
Both of these dairy proteins contain all of the amino acids your body needs but whey protein is more quickly digested by the body – exactly what you need after a hard workout to promote recovery and muscle growth.
In separating milk to make cheese or yoghurt, cheesewrights or yoghurt producers want the thicker part of the milk – the curds. The leftover, lighter liquid is the whey protein.
Whey powder is most commonly made from whey leftover from the cheese-making process – approximately 10 litres of whey is produced in association with 1kg of cheese.
What makes whey so good?
Simply put, whey protein powder is:
- Readily available
- Contains all the amino acids you need for recovery
- Easily absorbed by the body
- Appealing in taste and texture
- Convenient – the powder is stable, doesn’t need refrigeration, and mixes easily with water as soon as you’re ready to consume it.
The science of whey protein
Research from the University of Toronto in 2017 found protein after resistance training is “essential for muscle protein synthesis and net protein balance, both of which are required to support hypertrophy with training”. Put simply, protein is vital for anyone who is looking to increase their muscle size through resistance and weight training.
This research, from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, also found taking protein rich with the amino acid leucine – which whey is rich in – makes the most of muscles synthesising protein. Taking a protein supplement after working out is most important for people who train at night, given that their bodies would usually be absent of protein overnight while they slept. The results speak for themselves.
“Post-exercise/pre-bedtime protein ingestion for evening exercisers may also translate into greater increases in muscle strength and hypertrophy with chronic training and protein consumption,” the research said.
“Whey protein ingestion can enhance muscle performance, as observed through the beneficial effects of maximal isometric force and anaerobic mean power, as early as 10 hours into recovery. Moreover, we report beneficial effects of whey protein supplementation that extend up to 24 hours into recovery with improvements in repetitions to failure, peak aerobic power, and maximal strength; these findings are consistent with the beneficial effects of milk-protein consumption over similar recovery periods.
Their study found whey protein was superior to plant-based protein (like pea, soy or hemp protein) for recovery and muscle development because whey has the complete range of amino acids needed for post-workout recovery.
“Given that impaired strength is a hallmark of muscle damage, the protein supplement may have facilitated a more rapid restoration of muscle function through a greater remodeling of the force- generating myofibrillar protein pool.”
This university study recommended whey protein should be consumed as part of a training regime to increase training results and speed up recovery. And, remember, if you train at night because you prefer it, or it’s the only time you can fit in your workout, it’s even more important to complement your nutrition plan with a whey-protein supplement.
“Individuals who train at night due to preference and/or lifestyle may be particularly sensitive to nutrition interventions given that muscle and whole body protein balance is negative during the overnight period in the absence of dietary protein,” the University of Toronto researchers say.
“Milk-based protein supplementation immediately after a bout of damaging exercise (ie maximal lengthening contractions) has been shown to attenuate decrements in muscle strength and repeated sprints 24 to 72 hours after exercise… Collectively, our results suggest that whey protein ingestion after evening exercise and the following morning may improve muscle reconditioning following exercise, and may be advantageous for those aiming to enhance the recovery of force generation and maintain training quality.”
In short, whey protein is what you need to recover faster so you can work out again, maintaining the high quality of your workouts and making the most of your time in the gym.
For more information about Whey and other protein sources, check out this 2004 study titled: Protein - Which is Best? as it goes into great detail and evaluated numerous sources of protein, including WPC and WPI.
Whey’s role in weight loss
From the science lab to the sports field, most experts are supportive of whey as a nutritionally-complete protein source. Marie Spano M.S, a US-sports nutritionist who works with the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA, the Braves in the Major League Baseball, and the Falcons in the NFL, said she loves whey protein, not only for its ability to help “pack muscle weight on already big guys” but also for its key in weight loss.
“If you are losing weight you lose a combination of muscle and fat (and sometimes a tiny bit of bone tissue depending on your initial weight). In order to preserve your muscle tissue as you lose weight, it is imperative that you eat enough high quality protein to prevent or minimize muscle tissue loss (your metabolically active tissue as it burns more calories at rest than fat),” she writes in her blog.
Whey protein also increases the release of leptin, the hormone that sates your appetite, she added.
“In addition to preserving muscle, protein is the most filling macronutrient (the three macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrate). And, studies show that whey protein increases the release of hormones that send those ‘I’m full’ signals to your brain telling you to stop eating.”
"Many ways with whey protein powder"
One of the quickest and easiest ways to enjoy your protein powder of choice is mixed with water in a shaker, but you can also think beyond the drink. Foods like yoghurt, porridge or cereal act as great vehicles for protein powder and will give a protein-packed boost to your food – remember to add water as needed to help mix it into the foods.
Whey enhances your workout. Whey doesn’t replace your workout
Remember, while whey is a solid protein source, whey alone won’t build muscle. Mike Roussell, Ph.D, of The Meta Shred Diet, says while the amino acid Leucine in whey protein will “turn on” muscle building in the cells, you still have to put in the hard yards in the gym, back yard, or wherever you work out, to build muscle.
It’s a reminder that you need to be eating more calories than you’re burning with your workouts and consuming enough protein – Dr Roussell recommends 2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) powder – a great way to start
If you’re just starting out with protein supplements and have no intolerances to dairy products or lactose, then Whey Protein Concentrate offers excellent value for money.
Bulk Nutrients WPC is naturally rich in amino acids, particularly Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) which are important for optimal optimum muscle growth. It’s also derived from the same type of cheese production for each batch which gives it a premium flavour profile.
HWPC also contains the most protein for your money and has a more complete nutritional profile – that is, a blend of protein, fats and carbohydrates – due to the fact it hasn’t been processed as significantly as whey protein isolate.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) powder – a more carefully-refined protein powder
As it’s the most highly refined version of whey protein, Whey Protein Isolate has the highest level of protein compared to its WPC counterpart, and a host of other advantages that may work for certain people with certain health needs or very specific goals.
WPI is a better choice for people trying to reduce carbohydrates and fat intake as it’s been processed to have less of these macronutrients whilst maximising protein content.
Containing only traces of lactose, it is easily digestible and can be enjoyed by those with sensitive stomachs or who are lactose intolerant.
WPI has high levels of BCAAs and essential amino acids, with a thorough spread of conditional and non-conditional amino acids.
Bulk Nutrients WPI is sourced from grass-fed, hormone-free dairy cows. It’s ultra-high in protein and easily mixed with water for a smooth, satisfying way to replenish protein after a workout.
However, some nutritionists suggest adding a spoon of nut butter when consuming Whey Protein Isolate (add it to your blender or eat the nut butter separately) – as WPI has almost all of the carbohydrate removed and most of the fats, you could be missing out on some of the fat-soluble vitamins.
Protein in its purest form
So, which whey is right for you?
The science is clear: when you’re working out, whey protein will help you recover faster and increase your muscle growth when it’s consumed along with a healthy diet.
The low-down on Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) is that it’s the best value for money protein supplement with low levels of lactose. It contains fat-soluble vitamins and has a well rounded amino acid profile.
The low-down on Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is that it’s a better choice for those who are lactose intolerant. Compared to WPC it’s lower in fats and carbs while boasting a higher protein content due to it being more highly refined.
Whatever your goal, whey is the way
Whether your goal is…
- Muscle growth
- Post-workout recovery
- Weight loss
Whey protein is one of the key ingredients to your success. Remember, whey protein contains all of the amino acids you need to ensure you’re maximising the results of your hard work.
Any whey you choose, Bulk Nutrients has the best range of high-quality WPC and WPI.
Our whey is only sourced from grass-fed dairy cows, so you can be confident you’re getting high-quality whey with no fillers or additives.
It’s protein the way nature intended.
Our products are packed and shipped from beautiful, clean and green Tasmania, and we’re proud to offer a large range of delicious flavours so you’re sure to find the whey which makes your post-gym supplement feel like a decadent cheat-day shake.
Want to try a sample of WPC or WPI?
Order your free sample today!
Hoffman, J. and Falvo, M., 2004. Protein - Which is Best?. International Society of Sports Nutrition Symposium, [online] 3(3), pp.118-130. Available at: Protein - Which is Best?.
Spano, M., 2011. [Blog] Lose Weight with Whey, Available at: Lose Weight with Whey [Blog].
West, D., Abou Sawan, S., Mazzulla, M., Williamson, E. and Moore, D., 2017. Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. Nutrients, [online] 9(7), p.735. Available at: Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study.