What is Whey Protein Isolate?

You will be hard-pressed to find a weightlifter or bodybuilder that doesn’t consume some sort of  protein supplement to help reach their dietary goals for muscle building. Whey protein is the most common protein supplement on the market. Its easy availability, macronutrient profile, amino acid contents, and pleasant texture make it a crowd favorite among athletes.

What is Whey Protein Isolate Powder?

Whey protein isolate powder is created during a distillation process where milk is separated into two parts: whey and casein. In fact, whey was often considered a wasteful byproduct when curdling milk to create cheese. The ingestion of this “byproduct” from cheesemakers can be traced back as far as ancient Greece, where those interested in medical studies could be found recommending drinking the liquid to increase immunity and energy levels. [1]

These days, this liquid is dissolved away to leave behind just the powder which is rich in protein, amino acids, and other micronutrients. This powder can be found on market shelves in unflavored and flavored varieties of all types, with average servings containing between 30 and 60 grams of protein each.

Does Whey Protein Isolate Have Lactose?

Because of the extraction methods when separating casein from whey when breaking down dairy milk, lactose is always included in a whey protein. In fact, it has the highest lactose ratios compared to any other foods. 

If lactose concerns your diet, such as a food allergy, or if your body is prone to inflammation, you can consider trying hydrolyzed whey protein or a beef protein. You’ll get nearly identical benefits without an upset stomach.

Is Whey Protein Isolate Good for You?

Whey protein is one of the safest and best-researched fitness supplements on the market. It is not linked to any significant side effects or risks when consuming it, even on a daily basis over a long period of time.

Some athletes with sensitive stomachs may worry about inflammatory side effects like bloating or even acne, this is particularly prevalent in those that are sensitive to lactose. If this is a possibility for you, consider taking only half of a serving in the beginning to monitor how your body responds to the intake of whey.

Benefits of Whey Protein Isolate

The most commonly referenced benefit of whey protein isolate is how quickly it digests. Of the dozens of protein sources on the market (like beef, hemp, collagen, pea, casein, and many more) it is the fastest digesting. 

This is great news for strength athletes like bodybuilders who are constantly making microtears in their muscle tissue during their intense weightlifting sessions. When just mixed with water, a whey protein isolate shake can quickly get to work helping to repair that muscle tissue when ingested post-workout.

The other most noteworthy benefit is the robust amino acid profile. Amino acids are micronutrients found in protein sources that assist with critical bodily functions like tissue repair, ATP production, protein synthesis, metabolism balancing, and much more.

Alongside these great health benefits, whey also offers many soft benefits. It is available in just about any flavor profile that could be desired, it doesn’t break down when cooked (making it great for baking treats like protein pancakes or muffins). 

Because it is a milk derivative it dissolves completely in water making it a favorable option for those with picky palates. A supplement that is enjoyable to ingest means the athlete is less likely to skip servings and therefore miss out on the benefits.

Is Whey Isolate the Best Protein?

Whey protein is an incredible supplement to add to your arsenal. It is affordable, widely available, pleasant to consume with no gritty texture, and provides numerous nutritional benefits. [2]

Because of its prevalence on the market, it can also be found in innumerable flavors which can be great for the athlete that is consuming protein shakes daily and wants to add some variety to their diet. This is particularly favorable for athletes that are eating at a caloric deficit and may be missing sweet treats elsewhere in their diet.

Whether or not it is the best protein for you as an individual will depend on your goals and dietary preferences.

Whey Protein Isolate vs. Concentrate

Whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate are quite similar, with only a few main differences:

  • Whey protein concentrate is less processed than whey protein isolate
  • Whey protein concentrate has higher carbohydrate and lactose levels
  • Whey protein isolate has more protein per gram 
  • Whey concentrate is often less expensive since it is less laborious to create

When comparing which protein will have the best effect on an athlete’s body, the differences between these two proteins will be negligible for the majority of consumers. For an athlete that is most concerned with the level that their foods or supplements are processed, they might gravitate toward whey concentrate. For those most concerned about protein levels per serving, they will prefer to find a suitable isolate supplement.

Whey Protein Isolate vs. Hydrolyzed Whey Protein

Hydrolyzed whey protein takes whey protein isolate and distills it down even further. Through the application of heat or enzymes, the hydrolyzation process removes all excess carbohydrates, sugars, fats, and even lactose content. This process is also the equivalent of a pre-digestion process, giving the ability for the body to begin processing it even more quickly than standard whey.

Despite these many improvements to the nutritional profile, some bodybuilders and strength athletes don’t find the benefits to outweigh the cost. Namely, many companies offering hydrolyzed whey products use acids during the hydrolyzation process and some find these acids cause an inflammatory response (despite the absence of lactose). Some also prefer their supplements to be as unprocessed as possible and find the slight improvements not to be worth pursuing.


Whey protein isolate is the highest-selling supplement on the market today, and it’s for good reason. Between the macro and micronutrient benefits and ease of use, it is a wonderful supplement to keep in the cabinet to fill in nutritional gaps and supplement a protein-heavy diet. While it won’t replace whole foods on a plate, it is the perfect accessory to them.

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