Types of Whey Protein Part 1

Written by Gemma, 28 April 2017

Types of Whey Protein Part 1

It can be hard to choose a whey protein, especially when there are so many different brands and different types of whey protein to choose from. In part one of this series, we look at what makes each whey protein type different from the other. But first, why is whey protein so popular?

Whey protein is the biggest player in the supplement industry. The simple reason is that whey protein has an amino acid profile that most closely meets the needs of the average human when compared to other available types of protein. Whey Protein is relatively easy to flavour, making it pleasant to drink for the average individual. The high branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content makes whey protein effective for maintaining and/or increasing muscle mass. Lastly, whey protein is a cost-effective way to ensure the protein needs of athletes and bodybuilders are met when comparing it to high protein foods such as chicken or salmon.

So that’s why whey protein is a staple in most athlete’s supplement regime, but what protein should you buy?

Types of Whey Protein

The three different types of whey protein are most commonly Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), Hydrolysed Whey Protein or a Whey Protein Blend which is a mixture of the different types.

Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is the most basic and best value type of whey protein. This is because it requires the least amount of processing from the raw material stage through to the finished product. WPC typically contains the most lactose and fat and therefore the lowest protein concentration. The typical whey protein concentrates on the market these days usually contain between 70-75g of protein for every 100g of protein powder.

Whey Protein Isolate

In contrast with concentrate, whey protein isolate contains the highest concentration of protein out of the different types of whey protein. As it is higher in protein, it is lower in lactose and fat. This makes WPI a great choice for athletes and body builders who may have digestive issues with WPC due to the lactose content, and/or are conscious of their daily fat intake. To achieve the higher level of protein, WPI undergoes additional extraction and purification steps. Naturally, because WPI has a higher protein content and goes through further processing, it costs more than whey protein concentrates or blends.

Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Hydrolysed whey protein is the most unique type of protein. Hydrolysed whey protein undergoes the same steps as a concentrate or isolate, but then one key additional step is added. The protein is subjected to a special enzyme, which partially breaks the protein down. The extent to which the protein is broken down is determined by what type(s) and/or combination of digestive enzymes are used. The most highly refined whey hydrolysates are broken down into very small fragments. Generally, the higher the degree of hydrolysis, the more expensive the hydrolysate protein will be.

Blended Whey Protein

Whey Protein Blends typically contain a mix of the three common types of whey protein mentioned above. The ratio of the different proteins will dictate the cost of the product. For example, products that contain a blend of concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate (in that order) will most likely be cheaper than a blend of isolate, concentrate, hydrolysate (in that order). As hydrolysate is the most expensive of the whey proteins, it usually has the lowest concentration in a blended whey protein.

Choosing a Whey Protein Powder

There are many different factors that influence an individual’s decision to choose one whey protein over another. For some, value is the most important factor, and they will choose a whey protein that is currently on special or has a low cost per serve. Others will want to know more about how the protein works, what ingredients are included and which one is likely to work better for them. In part two we will look more closely at how to choose which type of whey protein to buy.

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    Rebecca Willet, 12 May 2021

    Protein. It’s been a buzzword in the fitness industry for a long time. Speak to any gym junkie about what supplements they take, and you’re almost guaranteed to hear protein powder at the top of the list. But, there’s so much conflicting information about health and fitness supplements. Why do we need protein and when should we take it? Why are there so many types of protein powders and what are they for? It’s overwhelming - and trust us, we get it. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to protein. If you’re starting a fitness journey or if you’re keen to learn more about what protein can do for your progress in the gym - keep reading, ‘cause we’ve got you covered. What is protein? Okay, let’s get down to the basics. Protein is a macronutrient, just like fats and carbohydrates. This means the body needs to consume large quantities of protein throughout the day, in order to function effectively and efficiently. Proteins are commonly described as the ‘building blocks of the body because they’re a part of everything. From our hair, skin and nails, to our muscles, bones and cartilage - we’d be a big blob of goo without them! Our bodies have trillions of cells, and each cell has thousands of proteins inside it, telling the cell what to do and making sure it does a good job of it, too. Did you know? Proteins aren’t just inside human beings. They’re in all living things, from viruses and bacteria to insects and plants - we’re all made of proteins. What is a protein made of? Now, you might be wondering, if we’re all made of proteins - what are proteins made of? - (We hope you’re comfy, ‘cause this is where we start getting into the real science stuff). Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in total and these little guys are made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulphur. Amino acids can be split up into 9 essential amino acids (amino that can’t be produced naturally and must be absorbed from food) and 11 non-essential amino acids (amino that is made by the body naturally). Amino acids are powerful, organic compounds that work together to keep you fit, healthy and strong. They’re involved in regulating all sorts of biological functions and processes, like your mood, sleep, energy, muscle repair, muscle growth and immunity. We’ve put together a little breakdown of all the amino acids in the human body and their specific functions. Essential amino acids Histidine - immunity, digestion, sexual function and sleep cycles Isoleucine - metabolism, immunity and energy Leucine - muscle repair, muscle growth, wound-healing and blood sugar levels Valine - muscle growth and energy Lysine - hormone regulation, immunity, energy and elasticity of the skin Methionine - metabolism and detoxification Phenylalanine - involved in the production of dopamine and other amino acids Threonine - metabolism, immunity and elasticity of the skin Tryptophan - involved in the production of serotonin which regulates, appetite, mood and sleep. Non-essential amino acids Alanine - immunity and energy Arginine - blood flow and circulation Asparagine - used in protein synthesis Aspartic Acidhormone regulation, muscle growth and energy Cysteine - immunity, energy and detoxification Glutamic Acid - learning and memory Glutamine - intestinal health and tissue repair Glycine - muscle growth and hormone regulation Proline - wound-healing, immunity and detoxification Serine - involved in the production of other amino acids Tyrosine - attention, energy, focus and mood. How much protein should you consume daily? Our macronutrient requirements differ from person to person depending on all sorts of factors, such as our height, age, gender, general health, and how active we are throughout the day. However, the average recommended daily intake of protein for women in New Zealand is 46g and about 64g for men. Alternatively, it can be calculated by body weight - anywhere between 0.5 and 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight, will do the trick. But, there are exceptions to the rule. Protein requirements are usually higher for professional athletes, pregnant women, growing teenagers and people recovering from injury and illness such as cancer, as the body is working a lot harder to repair and grow. What are the benefits of protein? We simply can’t stress enough how important it is to get plenty of protein in your diet, to feel, look and perform to the best of your ability, day-in and day-out. And if you’re physically active, trying to lose fat or build muscle, it’s even more important that you get plenty of protein in your diet - but, we’ll get into that later. Just in case you’re still not convinced, we’ve put together a few reasons why protein is incredibly beneficial to the body - let’s take a look! Increased muscle mass and strength Do you know that feeling the day after an intense workout when your muscles seem to scream in pain with every movement? Yeah, those nasty aches are a sign of muscle protein synthesis. During training, your muscle fibres break down and become temporarily damaged from the physical stress your body is put through, whilst exercising and weight-training - this is called catabolism. Now, that might sound scary, but in fact, it’s completely necessary for your muscles to get any bigger than they were before. So, fuelling your body with protein after a workout, helps your body to replenish its protein levels, back to where they should be. When this happens, your muscles use the protein to repair and regenerate, resulting in muscle gain and this is called anabolism. Makes sense, right? Research shows that as long as you consume a protein-rich meal immediately after a workout, your muscles will grow in strength and size a little bit more, every time you workout. On the flip side, if you don’t consume enough protein in the following 24 hours after a workout, your muscles will struggle to heal and repair and they may begin to deteriorate. This means a slower time to recover, risk of losing muscle and potentially suffering from an injury - yikes. Reduced appetite, hunger and cravings Protein keeps you satiated. That means it’ll keep you satisfied after a big meal and feeling fuller for longer, compared to most other food sources. According to research, increasing your intake of protein to 25% of your daily calorie intake can reduce cravings by a whopping 60%. This is great for anyone who struggles with late-night snacking or sugar cravings throughout the day - try replacing some of the carbs and fats on your plate with extra protein, and feel the difference. Improved muscle retention If you’re trying to lose weight and in a calorie deficit (consuming fewer calories than you’re expending as energy) or involved in a lot of cardio training, believe it or not, you’re at risk of losing muscle, too. However, studies have found that consuming enough protein each day will ensure your muscles stay preserved, whilst you work hard to shed those few extra kilos - woo-hoo! Boosted metabolism and fat-loss High-protein foods are known for having thermogenic properties. Food is considered thermogenic, when the body burns more calories digesting it, than the number of calories within the food itself. You know how people say that eating a stick of celery burns off more calories than what’s in it? Well, it’s true. Thermogenic foods have negative calories because they generate heat during digestion and help to burn off fatty cells in the body - crazy right!? Research shows that eating more protein may encourage fat loss by boosting your metabolism and helping your body become more efficient at using food for fuel, in the long term. Speedier recovery after injury Like we keep reminding you, the primary role of protein in the body is to rebuild and repair muscle, bone and organ tissue. So, it makes sense that research tells us to up our protein intake after an injury, whilst we’re in rest mode. Plus, protein also helps to strengthen the immune system, so no matter what’s holding you back - protein will give you the helping hand you need to step-up your game. Good for your bones Studies have shown that as people age, our bones become fragile, thin, and prone to breaking. Protein works to strengthen the bones and improve overall bone density, which may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Low blood pressure Research also proves that protein works to reduce insulin levels in the body, and over time, can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. That means protein consumption may reduce your risk of heart attacks, diabetes, stroke and kidney disease, pretty impressive, huh? What foods are high in protein? No matter what your dietary requirements are - if you’re vegan, a flexitarian, on a ketogenic diet, or if you enjoy intermittent fasting, protein is needed by everyone. But, you’re probably thinking - if it’s so important to eat protein, then what foods should I be including in my diet? Well, don’t worry, there are heaps of protein-packed foods that’ll help you bump-up your protein intake throughout the day - just keep reading. What animal-based foods are high in protein? Animal products are particularlyhigh in protein. This makes them more appealing to athletes, as you can consume less of them, to get the same nutritional value as plant-based foods. However, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, this isn’t an option for you - so, feel free to skip this part and head to the plant-based section, instead. We recommend opting for organic, grass-fed and pasteurised meat and dairy products, to avoid any of the nasties that can be found in animal products. Processed meats such as deli meats (ham, salami and pepperoni), beef jerky, bacon and sausages can be high in protein, but research has proven they’re also full of trans fats, additives, artificial flavours, growth hormones and harsh chemicals - and we don’t want that. White meats / 24g of protein per serving such as chicken and turkey breast, however, avoid the dark cuts of meat like wings, drumsticks and skin as they’re high in fat Fish / 23g of protein per serving such as salmon and tuna are also high in healthy fats like omega-3 for improved heart health Shrimp and prawns / 25g of protein per serving are low in fat, we recommend buying frozen for better value Lean beef / 22 g of protein per serving -  also high in b-vitamins and zinc Lean pork / 21g of protein per serving remember to trim off any fat before cooking and grill or broil to reduce your calorie intake Egg whites / 26g of protein per cup are a low-calorie alternative to using whole eggs in cooking and baking, plus you can buy chilled egg whites from the supermarket to save on waste Low-fat cottage cheese / 14g of protein per serving also a great low-calorie snack, filled with probiotics Low-fat Greek yoghurt / 23g of protein per serving is much higher in protein compared to regular yoghurt Low-fat milk / 8g of protein per cup - also high in protein. What plant-based foods are high in protein? There's a common myth that plant-based diets are low in protein. This was especially thought of in the fitness industry - for many years, animal products were deemed the best and only source of protein. But, this simply, isn’t true. When eliminating an entire food group from your diet, there’s no doubt about it, your body will have limited access to the nutrients it needs. However, research has proven that plant-based diets are just as effective at providing athletes with the nutritional support needed to repair, build and strengthen their muscles when undergoing rigorous training, so long as you’re consuming enough high-protein, plant-based foods, of course. Take a look at some of our favourite plant-based, high-protein foods: Tofu and edamame beans / 12g of protein per serving are sourced from soya beans and are popular substitutes for meat products - they’re also high in calcium and iron Peanuts / 26g of protein per serving - also high in healthy fats for improved heart health Almonds / 6g of protein per serving - also high in vitamin E for protection from free radicals Spirulina/ 8g of protein per tablespoon is made from algae and is also rich in vitamins and minerals - usually comes in a powdered form and can be added to smoothies or sprinkled over food Quinoa / 8g of protein per cup - also filled with iron and fibre Hummus/ 12g of protein per cup - also a great source of fibre to support regular bowel movements Hempseed / 6g of protein per serving comes from the cannabis plant and is also full of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron - best sprinkled on smoothies, muesli and salads Oats / 6g of protein per cup are perfect for breakfast or can be added into baking for an extra boost of protein Nutritional yeast / 9g of protein per serving has a cheesy, nutty flavour and can be sprinkled on top of mashed potatoes, pasta or popcorn - also super-high in b vitamins Most green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, peas and kale also contain protein. What’s the difference between animal-based protein and plant-based protein? Now, remember when we told you that protein is made of amino acids and amino acids are in charge of all sorts of important functions in the body? Well, we’re going to dive a little bit deeper, so that you can understand the real difference between animal and plant proteins. Like we mentioned earlier, animal products have a much higher protein content compared to plant products, but not only that, they also have what’s called, a complete profile of amino acids. Studies show that animal products contain all 9 of the essential amino acids your body needs to extract from food - remember, the ones the body can’t produce naturally. Plant products, on the other hand, contain different variations of amino acids, however, they usually lack one or two essential amino acids and therefore - plant protein is considered incomplete. According to research, this doesn’t mean plant protein isn’t effective, you just need to eat a variety of plant foods to get the right nutrients you need. There are loads of supplementary proteins (plant proteins which, when eaten together, create a complete amino acid profile) such as rice and black beans, hummus and pita bread or whole-wheat bread and peanut butter. So, as long as you’re pairing up the right plant-based foods, you’ll be able to achieve the same results as somebody with a diet consisting of meat and dairy products. And, the same principle is applied when making plant-based protein supplements. Manufacturers combine protein from different plant-based sources to provide you with a perfect blend of all 9 essential amino acids - but, hold that thought. We’re about to get into the nitty-gritty of protein supplements - so, make sure you stick around. What are protein supplements? Protein shakes are fast, easy and super-tasty plus, they can be pretty affordable, too. Protein supplements usually contain about 20-25 grams of protein per serving and they’re a great way to hit your macronutrient requirements, without having to consume large amounts of food throughout the day. Protein supplements usually come in a powdered form and can be added to smoothies or made into a shake by simply adding water or milk. Perfect for anybody on a weight-loss journey - you can have a protein shake as a complete meal replacement with added ingredients such as spinach, fruit, chia seeds and honey. Protein shakes are also ideal for athletes who are trying to bulk up and want to add in extra sources of protein throughout the day. Throw in some healthy, calorie-dense ingredients like nut butter, avocado, low-fat greek yoghurt, oats and flax-seed oil for added mass gain. You can also add protein powder into homemade bliss balls, sprinkle it on baked fruit, or into pancakes and cake mixture, for a delicious and creative way to get your protein intake up. Protein powders come in typical ‘milkshake’ flavours such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry but most brands these days, come out with all sorts of unique-tasting flavours like cake batter, cereal milk, s’mores, mocha and cookies ‘n cream - um, yum!? You can also get protein bars, which are super-convenient for throwing in your gym bag, car or office desk for a protein-hit on-the-go. Protein bars come in all sorts of mouth-watering flavours, that are guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth. Who should take protein supplements? Protein supplements are ideal for all active individuals - no matter what exercise you’re involved in, whether it be weight-lifting or endurance activities such as sprinting, cycling, swimming and circuit training. Sports scientists have found that people who exercise for at least 30 minutes four times per week, may need to eat up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight - that’s double the average NZ recommended daily intake. If you’re looking for more ways to get protein into your diet, we highly recommend that you check out incorporating a protein supplement into your diet. When should I take protein supplements? According to research, there are different reasons for taking protein supplements at different times of the day. As mentioned earlier, protein is needed immediately after exercising to help with recovery. So, it’s usually best to have a shake within 30 minutes of a workout - this is called the anabolic window. It’s also super-important that you consume protein when you first wake up in the morning, as the speed of muscle protein breakdown increases overnight. So, to reduce the risk of losing muscle, you need to have a decent serving of protein with breakfast. And, you can also consume protein shakes anytime throughout the day as a high-protein, nutritious snack. We recommend spreading your protein consumption throughout the day and having a serving of protein with each meal, or every three hours. Why might you ask? Well, if the body gets too much of anything, it’ll start to process the unwanted nutrients as waste. So, if you’re consuming too much protein in one sitting, the body will simply pass those extra amino acids through your urine, clever, huh? On the other hand, studies have also found that the body may choose to store excess protein as fat, which isn’t helpful at all, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. In a nutshell, it’s best to stick to your recommended daily intake of protein - it isn’t necessary to consume massive amounts of protein, because your body will only use what it needs, anyway. What protein powder is right for me? Most protein powders on the market are made from milk - as a by-product of the cheese-making process, it’s relatively cheap and easy to make. The protein content in milk is approximately made up of 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. Whilst the milk is heated, enzymes are added to the milk, causing the casein to thicken and separate from the whey. Both are then dried up, turned into powder and sold to supplement companies to turn into marketable products. Pretty simple, huh? Now, if you’re an expert, you’re likely to know the differences and benefits of whey protein and casein protein. But, for anyone feeling a little bit confused, keep reading - ‘cause we’re about to break them down, just for you. Whey protein You know that watery layer that sometimes sits on top of yoghurt if it’s been left a while? Yeah, that stuff is called whey. There are so many benefits to whey, which is why it’s a global best-seller in the supplement industry. But, what we like the most, is that whey protein has high bioavailability, compared to most protein powders. That means it's easily and quickly absorbed by the intestines - making it the perfect pairing for post-workout consumption to enable recovery. Whey protein comes in three forms: Whey protein concentrate usually contains about 80% protein, it also contains lactose and fat, which makes it the best-tasting form of whey protein Whey protein isolate has a much higher concentration of protein (around 90%), however, be mindful, as it can be pricey Whey protein hydrolysateis a pre-digested protein, which makes it ideal for people with sensitive stomachs or conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Casein protein Casein is the primary form of protein found in milk. However, it’s much slower to digest, compared to whey (it can sometimes take up to 6 hours to fully digest in the body!) - this is known as a time-release protein. Casein’s also much higher in calcium. We recommend having casein protein right before bed, as the amino acids are released slowly whilst you sleep. It’ll also help to fuel your body as you go without food for so long overnight - bonus! Plant-based protein Plant-Based Protein Powders such as pea protein, soy protein and rice protein are an excellent option for vegans, vegetarians or anyone with an allergy to dairy products. The only downside to plant-based protein powders is that they’re renowned for having a slightly grittier texture, compared to milk-based proteins. We’re not sure why this is, but we can only assume it’s because they’re made from plants. And, plants aren’t exactly known for being smooth and creamy, are they? However, sports supplement brands are working constantly to come up with new-and-improved formulas - and trust us, plant-based protein has come a long way from what it used to be, that’s for sure. We’re finding that more and more people are opting for plant-based protein to help fuel their workouts and recovery - and we think that’s great! As we all know, the dairy industry can be pretty destructive to the environment, and making a conscious effort to reduce your intake of dairy products is a big help to save our planet. Egg white protein Egg white protein is a great alternative to dairy-based protein powder, plus, it’s also super high in protein. Egg whites are naturally low in calories and are perfect for vegetarians, anyone with lactose intolerance or on a paleo diet. Conclusion So, we hope this article has helped you learn a thing or two about protein. We’re not saying load-up on a ridiculous amount of protein so that you’re only eating chicken breasts and egg whites for breakfast, lunch and dinner - but making sure you’re getting a serving of protein with each meal, will go a long way in helping you recover properly and bounce-back after a tough workout. It’s pretty easy to slack off with nutrition, but that’s our job - to remind you how important it is to take care of yourself, from the inside out, to see effective results in the gym. We recommend trialling different protein powders to figure out which one is best for you and your specific health and fitness goals, or simply contact us - we’d be more than happy to give you some advice. Key takeaways Protein is a macronutrient, which means we need to consume lots of it to survive Proteins are the ‘building blocks of muscle, bone, cartilage, hair, skin and nails They’re made of amino acids, which are responsible for many critical functions in the body such as immunity, muscle repair, energy and metabolism Men have higher protein requirements than women Protein consumption has many benefits, such as increased muscle mass, strength, muscle retention, reduced appetite and cravings, boosted metabolism, fat loss, speedier recovery after injury, reduced risk of osteoporosis and low blood pressure It’s best to stick to eating organic, grass-fed, pasteurised animal products as a source of protein (to avoid the added nasty stuff!) Plant proteins aren’t complete - which means, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you need to consume the right foods to get the same results as somebody on a meat-eating diet Protein supplements are a convenient, low-cost and tasty way to up your intake. We’d love to hear from you. What are your favourite high-protein meals and recipes? Share them below, so that we can give them a go!

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