Most supplement companies offer both whey and whey isolate protein powders. Both are great options however they each come with their own pros and cons. Certain people do better with an isolate whereas others do fine with a basic whey. If you want to know the difference between the two, keep reading. You’ll learn the difference between the two powders and which option is best for you!
How Is It Made?
Both whey and whey isolate come from the same place. The primary difference is in the manufacturing process. Whey is the opaque yellow fluid that remains when making cheese. It dries into a powder which is later combined with sweetener and flavourings. Supplement companies package it up, add their logos and boom, it’s ready for sale. Whey isolate takes a bit longer to produce because there are more steps involved. In order to go from whey to isolate, the powder undergoes further processing to remove the non-protein components like fat and lactose. Essentially the unnecessary extras get filtered out. What remains is a much more concentrated source of protein which can be absorbed by the body faster than a standard whey.
Due to the removal of fats, carbs and lactose, whey isolates have a lower calorie content than other powders. This is ideal for those trying to shred or anyone who would prefer to spend their calories elsewhere. NZProtein vanilla whey for example contains 412 calories per 100g whereas our vanilla isolate has 386. It might not seem like a big difference but it does add up in the long run for those serious about their calories. Whey isolates are great if you’re looking for a straight source of protein without any added extra macronutrients. Most people easily hit their daily quota for carbs and fats but may struggle to get sufficient protein. If this is you, an isolate would be a great supplement to add to your current regime.
Typically, both powders mix well with liquids. Isolate tends to be on the thinner side compared to whey however this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people prefer a shake that isn’t too dense. Many brands add thickeners to their whey isolate powders to modify the texture. This is why they can sometimes get a bit frothier when you blend them up. The added ingredients like xanthan gum cause it to have a foamier consistency. NZProtein isolate doesn’t have any added extras. We keep the ingredient list as short as possible so you get all of the good stuff and none of the unnecessaries. The texture of our isolate is light and fluffy whereas our whey is more creamy. Both options are full of flavour, very tasty and combine well with just water.
One huge benefit of a whey isolate is that it’s very easy to digest. Although all whey is incredibly bioavailable, isolates get absorbed by the body even quicker. This is ideal for those who need a concentrated hit of protein straight after a workout and also for those who are lactose intolerant. Whey isolate protein goes through a filtering process that removes the majority of the lactose. This makes it a perfect product for those who struggle to digest dairy. Just because your tummy doesn’t get on well with whey, it doesn’t mean you have to get a plant based protein (although we do sell some good ones). Try a one off sample size before committing to a whole kilo. If you enjoy it without experiencing any symptoms then a whey isolate is the one for you.
The hamartia of whey protein isolate is the price. Unfortunately, the extra filtering during the manufacturing process makes it more costly to produce. As they say, time is money. The extra benefits of isolate don’t come free of charge. If you’re on a budget and able to tolerate lactose, then a standard whey will be absolutely fine. The benefits are still numerous and a few more calories isn’t anything to worry about. However if you have the funds and don’t mind forking out a little bit extra, go for the whey protein isolate. Your individual circumstances and goals will decide which option is best for you.
The final difference between whey and isolate are the flavour options available. There is typically more demand for whey protein due to the fact that it’s cheaper. Manufacturers therefore offer a wider range of flavour options because they are more likely to sell. Obviously you will always be able to get a basic chocolate or vanilla regardless of whether it is whey or whey isolate. But if you’re looking for funkier flavours like chocolate peanut or pineapple cake, these are only available with whey. Additionally, the flavours can vary depending on their ability to bind with the product. Sometimes a flavouring that mixes well with isolate doesn’t agree with whey. This is why we sell a strawberry yoghurt flavour isolate but not a strawberry yoghurt whey. The flavouring mix doesn’t combine as well with the whey and the final product tastes different. Flavouring is a difficult process that requires a lot of trial and error. Your favourite flavour whey just might not be possible in isolate form.
The perfect protein for you will depend on your budget, goals, taste preferences and dietary needs. Trying to reduce your calorie consumption or don’t digest dairy well? Go for the isolate! Trying to save money and still make gains? Whey is the one for you. Bear in mind that there are many other powders on the market such as pea, hemp, faba bean and more. If you’re not a big fan of whey, get a plant based one instead. There are so many benefits to a good protein supplement. Try them all and find what works.
Written by Lauren Carruthers.