Which protein to choose? Whey concentrate, isolate or hydrolyzate? 

When choosing protein, it is important to consider mostly your fitness goal, whether you are trying to gain muscle mass or the opposite, to reduce fat and at the same time, to maintain muscle mass. In order to choose the right type of whey protein according to your fitness goals, you need to know the composition of the product. The quick look at the label on the package and table of the nutrition facts, can help you when choosing the most suitable whey protein for you. The content of the product along with the process decide about the quality of protein and its price. Find out how to decide the right way when choosing protein in order not to be misled by good marketing and to get wishful results as soon as possible.

The composition of whey protein

The composition of whey protein

Whey protein is made of milk. Milk proteins, whey protein and casein contain the needed amount of amino acids for the right functioning of the body. [3]

Whey, as a side product when processing cheese, was for a long time considered as the waste material. Today, it is the basic source of quickly to absorb and digest proteins. Its composition and unique features were favored by manufacturers and users also because it belongs to the best selling proteins in the world.

The difference between individual protein types lies in how amino acids unite into specific peptides. Amino acids in whey protein produce bioactive peptides such as lactoglobulina, alpha-lactalbumin, BSA Bovine Serum Albumin, immunoglobulines, glycomacropeptides and lacroperidoxidasis. [4]

In comparison to other supplements, the peptides of whey protein have tendency to participate on the immunity support. [1] The detailed composition of amino acids in the whey protein can be found in the table. 

Amino acids (cm)
The amount in whey protein
Isoleucine49,7 – 57,3 mg/g
Leucine79,8 – 106,6 mg/g
Valine18,4 – 59,3 mg/g
Lysine76,1 – 88,1 mg/g
Methionine and cysteine79,7 mg/g
Phenylalanine and tyrosine58,2 mg/g
Threonine61,1 – 67,7 mg/g
Tryptophan17,3 mg/g
Histidin7,8 – 18,7 mg/g
Alanine42,1 – 55,5 mg/g
Arginine22,0 – 27,1 mg/g
Glutamine141,4 – 158,4 mg/g
Glycine13,8 – 53,2 mg/g
Proline46,7 – 66,6 mg/g
Serine38,8 – 53 mg/g
Aspartic acid94,1 mg/g

The effects of whey protein

In general, whey protein belongs to the category of daily and quickly to absorb proteins which are ideal for consumption in the morning, before and after training. Besides the interesting benefits for sportsmen, it has many health benefits.

Positive effect of whey protein are [5 – 21]:

  • it enables muscle growth – it provides the storage of proteins needed for building the muscle mass after training
  • has anabolic effects – increases the hormone release such as insulin
  • it supports synthesis of muscle proteins
  • quickly to absorb
  • easy for digestion
  • it secures regeneration of damaged muscle
  • it reduces fat and maintains the muscle mass
  • it helps to reduce LDL cholesterol
  • it increases the needed HDL cholesterol 
  • it is used at diabetes treatment
  • it can help to lower blood pressure
  • it reduces stress and depression symptoms
  • it boost immunity
The composition of whey protein

The forms of whey processing

Protein, as we know it and buy it, is already technologically adjusted whey. The whey passes processes which gradually eliminate contaminants, fat and carbohydrates in it. There are many types of processes which differ in the form of whey processing and in financial demands.

Whey is processed by form of [1]:

  • filtration
  • microfiltration
  • ultrafiltration
  • ion exchange
  • hydrolyze

Whey protein types

By different production processes, there are individual whey protein types. We know:

Let’s look at the differences in individual types of whey protein. 

You might be interested in these products:

Whey protein concentrate (WPC)

Whey concentrate is the least processed form of protein and it contains about 35 – 89 % of protein. [2] The rest of it is composed of lactose, fats, minerals, carbohydrates and water. [23] It is considered as the least quality type of whey protein but the most tasty. Its taste is influenced mostly by the sugar and fat content, that’s why it is suitable for those who don’t have to watch every gram or at gaining mass when higher fat and sugar proportion can support the muscle growth.

It is not suitable supplement of proteins for people with lactose intolerance or for people with digestion problems. It starts to absorb after hour, while the body digests it after two hours. It is made by filtration process during which whey is being dried at high temperatures and the redundant sugar, fats and lactose is removed from it. By this form, the product with smaller biological value and denatured proteins is made which is reflected in its good price.

We distinguish several types of whey concentrate according to filtration quality, such as WPC34, WPC75, WPC80, WPC88. The numbers determine the percentage protein proportion in the product. The best selling type is WPC80 with 80 % protein proportion.

Composition: 35 – 89 % protein, lactose, fats, sugars, minerals, water

Process: by filtration process

Suitable for: people at mass gaining

Benefits: delicious taste, low price

Disadvantages: contains lactose, not easy to digest

Whey protein concentrate (WPC)

Whey Protein Isolate  (WPI)

Whey isolate is the purest form of whey protein. It contains more than 90% of protein. [2] The high protein proportion is narrowly associated to minimum or no lactose content. At the same time, it has low fat and carbohydrate proportion. Thanks to its composition, whey protein isolate is suitable for people with lactose intolerance. It is recommended also for people who are trying to reduce fat and at the same time, to protect and regenerate muscles after hard training. [24]

It is made by ion exchange or microfiltration. At the ion exchange, the electric energy, acids and alkalis are used. With the help of electric charge, the individual protein components are extracted from whey. It is more simple process financially which aim is partly denatured protein powder – isolate. [1] 

The result of microfiltration is quality whey protein which has higher biological value and the body can use it better and more quickly. Microfiltration happens at low temperatures, low pressure and normal pH. The manufacturers use the process of cross- flow microfiltration the most. By the means of ceramic filters, the whey eliminates contaminants in it. This process belongs to more difficult ones and it influences the resulting price of protein. [1]

Composition: more than 90% of protein, minimum fats and lactose

Process: process of ion exchange or microfiltration

Suitable: at fat reduction, before competition

Benefits: better quality, absorbable, solubility

Disadvantages: higher price in contrast to whey concentrate

Whey Protein Isolate  (WPI)

Whey Protein Hydrolyzed (WPH)

Whey hydrolyzed contains enzymatically pre-digested amino acids. Thanks to them, it absorbs extremely quicklya few minutes after consumption. [25] Its protein proportion is higher than 90%, while lactose and fats are under 1%. It is made by hydrolyzed process which can reduce allergic potential of whey and milk protein. The long chains of proteins are divided into smaller ones and easy to digest ones by this process. Hydrolyzed can even partly improve solubility and digestibility of protein. [26]

In the study, which compared the effects of hydrolyzed whey protein in contrast to hydrolyzed casein, whey protein was significantly leading to the increase of muscle protein synthesis during 8 hours after dose of 20 grams within older individuals. [27]

Another study compared whey hydrolyzed and whey isolate. The specialists tested the performance of people at the beginning and then after six hours. They found that group which had used hydrolyzed whey protein more quickly, acquired power and regenerated muscles. [31]

Hydrolyzed whey protein belongs to the most quality proteins on the market which is reflected in its price. It is the part of infant nutrition and part of many sport or medicine supplements. We recommend it to those who want to gain muscle mass quickly. It is an ideal choice in the gaining mass diet and you can use it as quick source of proteins in the morning after waking up, before and after training. 

Composition: 80 – 90 % protein, fat and lactose 0,5 – 8 %

Process: by hydrolyze process

Suitable for: quick supply of proteins during the day

Benefits: the most quality whey protein, the immediate absorbability and high availability

Disadvantages: higher price and bitter taste

Multicomponent proteins

Multicomponent protein is the mixture of whey proteins, the hydrolyzed, concentrate and isolate in various proportions. Among its pluses, there belongs good solubility. It is ideal for quick protein supply during the day. You can get it in good price but it can be more difficult to digest. Its effects and price are dependent upon proportion of individual types of whey protein in composition, that’s why you should carefully read the composition on the package when buying multicomponent protein.

You will find the basic differences among the individual protein types in the table [1]:

Production process
Whey concentrate(WPC)35 – 89 %4 – 52 %1,9 %Filtration
Whey isolate (WPI)90 – 95 %0,5 – 1 %0,5 – 1 %Microfiltration / Ion exchange
Hydrolyzed whey protein WPH)80 – 90 %0,5 – 10 %0,5 – 8 %Hydrolyze

The deciding factors when buying protein are quality and price. You can compare the individual protein supplements placed in order from 1st to 4th place in the table.

According to qualityAccording to price
1st placeWhey hydrolyzed WPHWhey concentrate WPC
2nd placeWhey isolate WPIMulticomponent whey protein
3rd placeMulticomponent whey proteinWhey isolate WPI
4th placeWhey concentrate WPCWhey hydrolyzed WPH

Protein absorbability

Whey proteins belong to the most quickly absorbable proteins on the market. Their digestion starts in the stomach and continue through the small intestine. The digestion process can last longer in case when whey protein is mixed with milk or combined with casein. [29]

When comparing the individual whey protein types and their speed of absorption, the definite winner is hydrolyzed whey protein. Thanks to composition of pre-digested proteins, it can be absorbed in one hour. Whey isolate and concentrate start to absorb hour after consumption, while isolate is digested one hour by the body and concentrate is digested for about two hours[30]

The choice of protein according to the fitness goal

If you can’t decide which type of whey protein is the most suitable for you, have a look at the table and choose on the basis of the goal you want to achieve. 

Whey concentrate (WPC)
Whey isolate  (WPI)
Hydrolyzed whey protein (WPH)
To gain muscle mass* *
To reduce fat *
Lactose intolerance **
The most quick to absorb *
Why take protein supplement when losing weight?

The recommended dose of whey proteins

  1. If you sport actively and at the same time, you want to burn fat but to maintain muscle mass, you should use 1,5 – 2,2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
  2. If you exercise or try to reduce body fat, you should consume 1,0 – 1,5 g of protein per kilogram.
  3. If you have seating job, don’t sport, you can receive 0,8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

You can get to know more about the right timing of proteins and their most effective using in the article “When and how much of protein to receive for achieving maximum results?”

It is important to mention that using whey protein doesn’t damage liver and kidneys within healthy people. [28] If you are suffering with liver disorder or you have problems with kidneys, consult a doctor before using protein.

It is important to mention that using whey protein doesn’t damage liver and kidneys within healthy people. [28] If you are suffering with liver disorder or you have problems with kidneys, consult a doctor before using protein.


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[3] Robert R. Wolfe - Update on protein intake: impotance of milk proteins for health status of the elderly - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4597363/

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[5] Pal S, Ellis V - The chronic effects of whey proteins on blood pressure, vascular function, and inflammatory markers in overweight individuals. -– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19893505

[6] Kawase M, Hashimoto H, Hosoda M, Morita H, Hosono A - Effect of administration of fermented milk containing whey protein concentrate to rats and healthy men on serum lipids and blood pressure. -– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10714858

[7] Jakubowicz D Froy O - Biochemical and metabolic mechanisms by which dietary whey protein may combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22995389

[8] Markus CR, Olivier B, Panhuycen GE, Van Der Gigten J, Alles MS, Tuiten A, Westenberg HG, Fekkes D, Koppechaar HF, de Haan EE - The bovine protein alpha-lactalbumin increases the plasma ratio of tryptophan to the other large neutral amino acids, and in vulnerable subjects raises brain serotonin activity, reduces cortisol concentration, and improves mood under stress. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837296

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[10] HKent KD, Harper WJ, Bomser JA - Effect of whey protein isolate on intracellular glutathione and oxidant-induce cell death in human prostate epithelial cells. -– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12537959

[11] McIntosh GH - Colon cancer: dietary modifications required for a balanced protective diet. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8234216]

[12] Bounous G - Whey protein concentrate (WPC) and glutathione modulation in cancer treatment. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11205219

[13] Watanabe A, Okada K, Shimizu Y, Wakabayashi H, Higuchi K, Niiya K, Kuwabara Y, Yasuyama T, Ito H, Tsukishiro T, Kondoh Y, Emi N, Kohri H - Nutritional therapy of chronic hepatitis by whey protein (non-heated) - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11508322

[14] Okada S, Tanaka K, Sato T, Ueno H, Saito S, Okusaka T, Sato K, Yamamoto S, Kakizoe T - Dose-response trial of latoferrin in patients with chronic hepatitis C. -– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12359061

[15] Tanaka K, Ikeda M, Nozaki A, Kato N, Tsuda H, Saito S, Sekihara H - Lactoferrin inhibits hepatitis C virus viremia in patients with chronic hepatitis C. a pilot study. -– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10363572

[16] Aoe S, Toba Y, Yamamura J, Kawakami H, Yahiro M, Kumegawa M, Itabashi A, Takada Y - Controlled trial of the effects of milk basic protein (MDP) supplementation on bone metabolism in healthy adult women. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11388472

[17] Aoe S, Toba Y, Yamamura J, Kawakami H, Yahiro M, Kumegawa M, Itabashi A, Takada Y - Controlled trial of the effects of milk basic protein (MDP) supplementation on bone metabolism in healthy adult women. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11388472

[18] Bounous G, Baruchel S? Falutz J, Gold P. - Whey proteins as a food supplement in HIV-seropostive individuals. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8365048

[19] Micke P, Beeh KM, Schlaak JF, Buhl R. - Oral supplementation with whey proteins increases plasma glutathione levels of HIV-infected patients. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11168457

[20] D´Antona G, Ragni M, Cardile A? Tedesco L, Dossena M, Bruttini F? Caliaro F, Corsetti G, Bottinelli R, Carruba MO, Valerio A, Nisloli E - Branched-chain amino acid supplementation promotes survival and supports cardiac and skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis in middle-aged mice. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20889128

[21] Krissy Kendall - Your expert guide to whey protein - – https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/your-expert-guide-to-whey-protein.html

[22] Whey protein types - – http://wheyproteininstitute.org/facts/wheyproteintypes

[23] Whey protein Concentrate VS Isolate - – https://www.theproteinworks.com/thelockerroom/whey-protein-concentrate-vs-whey-protein-isolate/

[24] Potier M, Tomé D - Comparison of difestibility and quality of intact proteins with their respective hydrolysates. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18727562

[25] Sindayikengera S, Xia WS - Nutritional evaluation of caseins and whey proteins and their hydrolysates from Protamex. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16421963

[26] Penning B, Boirie Y, Senden JM, Gijsen AP, Kuipers H, van Loon LJ - Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21367943

[27] Can eating too much protein be bad for you? - – https://examine.com/nutrition/can-eating-too-much-protein-be-bad-for-you/

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[29] Helen Kollias - Protein supplements - Is protein absorption the problem? -– https://www.precisionnutrition.com/rr-whey-too-much

[30] Buckley JD, Thomson RL, Coates AM, Howe PR, DeNichilo MO, Rowney MK - Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. - – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18768358