What Whey Protein Isolate Is Made Of
Whey protein isolate has taken the athletic world by storm and we can see why! This supplement is a great source of pure protein, providing all nine essential amino acids with limited amounts of carbs and fats. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better muscle builder, but whey protein isolate offers many more benefits beyond just bulking up.
Thinking about adding whey protein isolate to your diet? Let us give you the scoop on a few important things first. Here are our answers to six of the most commonly asked whey protein powder questions.
What is whey protein isolate made from?
Whey protein isolate is actually a by-product of cheesemaking. Whey protein begins its life as milk (usually cow’s milk). Enzymes, heat or other catalysts are added to the milk to curdle it, which forces the liquids and the solids to separate. The solids (casein – another protein powder option) are skimmed from the top, leaving the liquid whey behind. The liquid whey undergoes processing to ensure that it contains the maximum protein content. It is then dried into a powder and packaged up for consumer use.
There are three different forms of whey protein: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Whey protein concentrate contains up to 80% protein as well as carbs and fats, while hydrolysate is a partially digested form of whey that makes absorption easier and faster. Whey protein isolate undergoes more processing than other forms of whey powder and therefore offers a higher concentration of protein (usually around 90%) as well as fewer carbs and less fat.
Whey protein isolate is also unique in that the refinement process helps to remove more lactase. The overall result? A protein powder that has more pure protein than most other offerings on the market.
Is whey hard to digest?
There are many people who struggle to digest lactose, which might make them wary of whey proteins. The truth is, most adults aren’t fabulous at digesting lactose – but that doesn’t really matter because whey protein isolate contains such a minuscule amount, it likely won’t affect you.
While those who suffer from lactose intolerance may still be able to consume whey protein powder (especially whey protein isolate, which contains less than 1% of lactose), it’s important to listen to your body and stop using whey protein isolate if you experience adverse side effects including bloating, gas and diarrhoea.
For those who are not lactose intolerant, whey protein is one of the more easily digestible protein powders. It is also quickly digested, which makes it great for those who want a boost of energy after a workout.
Is whey protein dairy-free?
Because it is made from milk, whey protein isolate and other whey protein powders are not considered dairy-free. They do contain some lactose. However, it’s important to note that whey protein powder isolate actually contains a minuscule amount of lactose. This particular form of whey protein contains approximately 90% protein and has less lactose than other forms (whey concentrate and whey hydrolysate).
Thanks to the low levels of lactose, you might still be able to use whey protein isolate powders even if you have mild lactose intolerance or lactose sensitivity. Be sure to consult your medical provider if you’re worried. If you experience uncomfortable gas, bloating, nausea, cramping, headache or stomach pains while using whey protein isolate, it may be best to stop consuming whey protein and try a different source of protein as your supplement.
Is whey protein gluten-free?
Pure whey powder, being derived from milk, is completely gluten-free.
But that doesn’t mean it stays that way. When you’re perusing the supplement aisle, be sure to keep a close eye on the labels before committing to a brand. Manufacturers will often add flavourings, sweeteners or other additives that may contain gluten.
Manufacturers may add different protein powders to whey protein powder to create a mixture. Make sure that yours doesn’t contain any wheat, barley or rye powders if you’re on a gluten-free diet.
Additionally, if you have a gluten allergy or are trying to stay away from gluten, be on the lookout for additives such as glutamine, malt sugars, starches and more. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t recognise an ingredient, take a moment to research it to ensure you’re getting the product you expect.
Is whey protein vegan-friendly?
Unfortunately, no form of whey protein powder is considered vegan, including whey protein isolate. Because milk is an animal product, whey (which comes from milk) is not an option for you if you’re following a vegan diet.
But don’t worry! If you’re looking for vegan-friendly alternatives to whey, there are plenty of plant-based protein powders that you can try. Combinations of pea, rice, soy, hemp and other vegan proteins can work just as well as whey protein powders.
Can whey protein powder cause hair loss?
Many people assume that protein-rich diets make your hair healthier – and they’re usually right.
That’s not the case for whey protein isolate, though. In a study done by hair transplant surgeon and dermatologist Dr. Larry Shapiro, it was found that whey protein isolate may exaggerate or accelerate hair loss, especially in men.
Unlike other protein powders and even other whey protein powders, whey protein isolate contains high levels of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). While these amino acids may boost muscle growth and help you achieve better performance during your workouts, they also increase testosterone, which your body then breaks down into the hormone DHT. Why does this matter? Because DHT is known to cause hair loss and baldness.
So, if you’re consuming more whey protein isolate than your body needs, you may be putting yourself at risk for some hair loss. This can usually be mitigated or avoided by switching to a different form of protein, even another form of whey protein.
Whey Protein Isolate and You
While it’s true that whey protein isolate may not be the right protein supplement for everyone, it still has a lot to offer. Now that you know a little more about whey – from how it’s made to what diets it may be right for – you can decide if it’s the right supplement for you.