What is whey protein explained in easy & simplified way

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Rohit Jadhav Founder - M2PROTEINS

This article explains some important aspects of whey proteins and their manufacturing. We are not going to go too much into technical details but will try to explain things using simple terminology. Although whey protein manufacturing today is a highly sophisticated and complicated process yielding high purity protein, we will stick with the basics.


A. What is Whey Protein?


Simply put whey protein is a protein obtained from milk. Milk contains around 4% protein, which is composed of casein (milk protein) and whey protein. Whey part of that protein is further separated and purified to what we know as Whey Proteins.

Whey protein is the most nutritionally valuable protein available, it is used as a protein source in sports nutrition, clinical nutrition, and infant nutrition. Whey has one of the fastest rates of absorption and bioavailability depending on type which makes it ideal for most of the supplements.

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Learn what is whey protein & types of whey protein

B. Types of Whey Protein


1. Whey Protein Concentrate : Whey Protein concentrate is the first type of Whey Protein. It contains 25-80% protein depending on the purity. For sports supplement mostly 80% whey protein concentrate is used and for other purposes such as clinical and infant nutrition protein with lower concentration is used.

Whey protein concentrate contains various levels of fats, carbs, and lactose depending on the concentration of proteins. Protein concentrate with lower concentration or purity has a higher amount of carbs, fats, and lactose and vice versa. People with lactose intolerance or who cannot digest dairy very well can consider the other two types of protein.

Whey Protein concentrate is usually manufactured using the ion-exchange or ultrafiltration method. It is usually cheaper as compared to the other two types of Proteins.

Whey Protein Concentrate tastes like a dairy product and makes an excellent thick shake when mixed with water or milk.

2. Whey Protein Isolate- Whey Protein Isolate is the choice of proteins of numerous bodybuilders, athletes, and heavy lifters. Whey Protein Isolate contains no less than 90% of proteins with very little carbs, fats, and lactose. It is also a perfect choice for people with lactose intolerance.

Whey Protein Isolate also has a higher rate of absorption due to a lower amount of carbs, fats, and lactose which may interfere with the absorption. Also, it provides the highest amount of protein per serving.

Whey Protein Isolate is usually manufactured using a microfiltration method to achieve a higher degree of purity.


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Whey Protein Isolate is somewhat bland in taste due to the lower amount of lactose, it also has less thickness as compared to the whey protein concentrate.

3. Whey Protein Hydrolysate : It is the most expensive type of whey protein. Whey protein hydrolysate is partially hydrolyzed or digested using enzymes, so the rate of absorption in the body is considerably faster than the other two forms.

The degree of hydrolysis determines how fast the protein is absorbed in the body. It tastes a little different than the other two forms and needs more flavor and sweeteners to mask the bland taste.

Whey Protein hydrolysate is the protein of choice for professional bodybuilders and athletes who are preparing for an upcoming competition.


Whey Protein Types

Summary: Whey protein concentrate is ideal for beginners, tastes good, and has other required macros as well. Whey Protein Isolate is ideal for lactose intolerant people, advanced bodybuilders, have a lower amount of fats, carbs, and lactose. Whey protein Hydrolysate has a faster rate of abruption, tastes bland, and has the highest price of all.

C.Properties of whey proteins-In this section we will look at various functional properties of protein apart from nutrition.

  1. Foaming – foaming is one of the most important functional properties of proteins. Whey protein-based foaming agents are widely used in bakery and dairy products to replace egg white. Whey proteins form excellent foam when shaken due to its surface properties. The more soluble proteins are, the higher amount of foam is generated. Partially denatured, heat-treated whey proteins have the poor foam-forming ability.
  2.  Emulsification – Whey proteins are used as emulsifying agents in various formulations. They are used to improve solubility and to emulsify various ingredients that will not mix otherwise. Whey proteins are also used to improve the thickness of formulations. The emulsifying property of whey proteins is largely dependent on the solubility of whey proteins.
  3. Water solubility Solubility of whey proteins decreases with an increase in temperature. Whey proteins are treated at higher temperature denature or unfold resulting in decreased solubility.



D. Evaluation of protein

  1. Protein efficiency ratio :The protein efficiency ratio (PER) determines the effectiveness of a protein through the measurement of animal growth. This technique requires feeding rats a test protein and then measuring the weight gain in grams per gram of protein consumed. Any value above 2.7 is excellent.
  2. Biological value-The biological value measures protein quality by calculating the nitrogen used for tissue formation divided by the nitrogen absorbed from food. This product is multiplied by 100 and expressed as a percentage of nitrogen utilized.The biological value provides a measurement of how efficient the body utilizes protein consumed in the diet. Food with high biological value means a higher supply of amino acids.
  3. Protein Digestibility corrected amino acid score-This is one of the most widely used methods for the determination of protein quality.

In this method content of essential amino acid of the test, protein is presented as a percentage of the content of the same amino acid in a reference amino acid profile.


E. Is whey protein safe?
Whey protein is safe to consume, it has been approved by both FSSAI and USFDA as a food ingredient. Whey proteins have years of history of usage and sound research around its safety.Research on safety of whey proteins suggest that when consumed by healthy individual whey protein does not have any adverse impact on health. Although whey protein can cause few minor
side effects such as bloating, upset stomach. These minor side effects can be easily addressed by using higher purity protein or switching to non-dairy sources of protein.

Whey is a trustworthy, reliable and qualitatively better source of protein, it can help achieve fitness goals when used in conjunction with good exercise routine or it can be used to supplement our diet with high quality proteins.

References for above article







Effects of Protein Intake on Renal Function and on the Development of Renal Disease Mackenzie Walser

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