Whey protein powder is a popular supplement, which contains whey protein – the most nutritious and highest quality protein available. Whey protein is comprised of protein molecules that are isolated or filtered from whey, the liquid material left over when milk coagulates during the process of cheese production.
To understand what whey protein really is let’s first investigate milk and the process through which whey protein is obtained. Milk is made up of three components:
1. Water (87.3 percent)
2. Milk fats (3.9 percent)
3. Non-fat solids (8.8 percent)
Milk proteins, 80 percent of which are casein and 20 percent whey protein, are part of the non-fat solids that make up a mere 8.8 percent of milk. When certain substances are added into the milk, such as enzymes (typically rennet), acids, or salts (calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, or gypsum), it causes the caseins to tangle into solids, or curds. The remaining liquid is the whey, and it contains only whey protein. This liquid is then processed to remove water, fat and other substances, resulting in whey protein powder. Additional processing helps achieve short amino acid chains or smaller peptides that are more easily absorbed into the body.
Bodybuilding magazines and supplement marketers may try to confuse you with seemingly big terms, such as “concentrate”, “isolate”, “microfiltration” and “cross microfiltration”, when describing their products. But such terms should not fool you into spending your hard-earned cash on products that may not give you the desired results. Undertaking due diligence as well as researching different products can be very handy when shopping for whey protein powder.
Here is an overview of the common terms you’re most likely to find on protein powder supplement containers:
Whey, Egg, or Soy “CONCENTRATE”
Protein concentrate is the most common and cheapest form of protein. It’s obtained via filtration, high-heat drying, or acid extraction – processes that reduce the original source into a more concentrated form.
Although protein concentrates are very affordable, they come with other substances, such as fat, lactose, and other impurities, that are “concentrated” with them. A typical concentrate will have 60-70 percent protein by weight. When buying your whey protein powder, you should check the protein ratio. Whey protein concentrates with a high protein ratio offer the best value for money.
Whey or Soy Protein “ISOLATES”
Protein isolates are obtained from their primary sources via extraction process or a wash. The wash can be water, alcohol, or ionization, which separates the protein from fats, carbohydrates and other unwanted substances. Most manufacturers use the water method, especially in the production of soy isolates – as it’s the cheapest and offers better results. Ionization method is quite similar to that used in the production of soft water. Protein isolates contain 90 percent protein by weight.
Microfiltration and Cross Microfiltration
These two terms simply refer to the additional filtration processes that are used to refine and remove impurities from the concentrated protein.
This is a protein purification or separation method that takes advantage of the nature of charge (which can be neutral, positive, or negative) in molecules to remove unwanted substances and impurities form the source.
Hydrolysis means splitting amino acid chains that make up protein sources by adding water molecules. The resulting, smaller amino acid chains are known as peptides, and are absorbed into the body more quickly than regular protein.