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Whey Protein Vs. Whey Isolate

author image Ryan Haas
Writing professionally since 2005, Ryan Haas specializes in sports, politics and music. His work has appeared in "The Journal-Standard," SKNVibes and trackalerts. Haas holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of Illinois.
Whey Protein Vs. Whey Isolate
A scoopful of whey protein in large pile of whey. Photo Credit: deymos/iStock/Getty Images

Whey protein is one of the best types of proteins you can consume for muscle building because it contains essential and branched-chain amino acids. By consuming whey protein before or after your workout, you can raise the amount of amino acids available in your body for the muscle growth process, also known as muscle protein synthesis. Because whey protein is available in different forms, including whey protein isolate, it is important that you understand the health benefits of each form and what type of whey protein is best for you.

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Sources of Whey

Whey protein is a part of milk products; more specifically, it is the tansluscent liquid that you can see when the curd, or casein protein, is removed to make cheese. According to exercise physiologist Fabio Comana of the National Association of Sports Medicine, whey protein has one of the best protein ratings in terms of amino acid composition and digestibility. You can obtain whey protein by drinking milk or purchasing it in powder form. Whey protein isolate is created by filtering whey protein through a microfilter to remove the lactose and ash in the product.

Nutritional Difference

The primary difference between whey protein and its isolate form is the amount of protein, lactose and fat present. Whey protein powder contains anywhere from 11 to 14.5 percent protein, 63 to 75 percent lactose and 1 to 1.5 percent milk fat, according to registered dietitian Marjorie Geiser. Comparatively, whey protein isolate is over 90 percent protein and contains roughly 0.5 percent of lactose and milk fat. Whey isolate is especially beneficial for you if you are lactose intolerant and can not digest the lactose in whey protein.


You can use all whey protein products, whether they are natural or supplemental, in the same way. According to Comana, eating approximately 6 grams of essential amino acids along with 35 grams of carbohydrates immediately before you exercise will optimize your muscle protein synthesis to as much as 200 percent above resting level.

Regardless of which whey protein form you use, ensure that you do not exceed a daily intake of more than 1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight daily. In his review of protein intake research, Raymond Zimmer of the University College of Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine states that excess protein in the body will result in you excreting the amino acids and taxing your kidneys with increased nitrogen. Therefore, you should only take supplements like whey protein powder and isolate if your diet is lacking in protein already.

Most Beneficial Form

Whether you should use whey protein or whey protein isolate in your diet depends on your needs. One benefit of whey protein is the presence of lactose, which is a type of sugar that contains the carbohydrate glucose. Jay R. Hoffman, Ph.D., states in his article “Protein Intake: Effect of Timing” that some research points to carbohydrates increasing the amount of amino acids your muscles can absorb. Glucose will also keep your energy level high during and after your workout. Though whey protein isolate does not have significant lactose, many people still prefer it for its high protein concentration. You can add carbohydrates to your whey protein isolate by mixing it with food such as fruit juice and cottage cheese.

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