The Best Whey Protein Powders… How do you Know?

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Ayn De Castro and LeAura Alderson

Whey, the Powerful Protein

No longer exclusively for bodybuilders, whey protein has found its way into training drinks for athletes as well as the average exerciser’s post workout protein shakes.

However, as we plunge deeper and become more involved with working out and building muscles, it has become apparent that choosing whey protein isn’t that simple after all. We find ourselves surrounded with an overwhelming selection of choices and questions.

“What type of whey protein should I choose? Is this one better than the other? Is whey protein even good for me? Which are the best whey protein powders?

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Image from weheartit.com

The confusion comes because some experts are avid proponents of whey protein isolates, and others are staunch advocates for pure undenatured, (the least processed) whey protein from grass fed pasture cows.

We wanted to learn more, so we dug deeper and are sharing our finds here to help you make the best decision for you. Please share your discoveries with us, because from our research, it’s clear that no one has all the answers. We’re all learning, and…

…we’re all on a journey toward better.

Which Whey?

The supplement and protein powder industry in general is a giant maze of good, bad, and impotent products with varying degrees of benefit, from negative to positive to no effect. This is due to industrial processing at high heats, rendering active ingredients useless, as well as to poor quality of ingredients to start, such as non-organic milk from antibiotic riddled cows living in crowded conditions.

How do we find our way through the maze? The best way we know is to start with organic ingredients and in the case of whey, to choose the least processed, made from the milk of free-roaming, grass fed cows.

Whey is the gold standard of protein.

Whey is used as a protein supplement, and when kept at its purest and unprocessed state, provides the most nutrition, antioxidants, and amino acids in one supplement.

Yet bodybuilders and top bodybuilding sites typically recommend whey isolates, which tend to be highly processed in order to extract the protein. How is it that some experts denounce all but pure, unprocessed whey, while others recommend the highest processed varities?

We think it has something to do with newer science pitted against old systems that no longer serve, but which have vast amounts of industry investment. Large vehicles (organizations of any kind), by very nature, move slowly. Change is happening, but it’s happening slowly. In the meantime, you can take your health reins into your own hands by staying informed.

Let’s dig deeper.

What Exactly is Whey?

Whey protein is the protein in the watery portion of raw milk that separates from the solids—the curd—as a byproduct of cheesemaking. Whey contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and 5% lactose. For years it was considered a waste product and just disposed. Today, it’s a “by-product” and its use is big business.

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Toward our education, it’s important to understand the difference between the primary types of whey powders.

Is Whey Protein even good for me?

There is no doubt that the protein fraction found in whey is, in fact, good for you. It is an important composition of each cell in our body, protein is responsible for the body’s structure and muscle tone. In fact, whey is one of the richest source of BCAAs, which include three amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine; all are absolutely critical in muscle growth.

The problems is that with some whey powders on the market the risks actually outweigh the benefits. Before whey was popular, it was considered a waste product (now a by-product) of cheese production, and was routinely dumped. Over the years, huge dairy companies started to recognize that the whey from milk is gaining popularity and initiated selling whey in bulks to supplement companies. They’ve put up factories to purify and concentrate whey powders to be distributed to its clients.

 

POWERFUL PROTEINS FOR BUILDING MUSCLE

5 Types of Whey Protein

We’ll elaborate on these in a minute, but first, a brief summary on each type of whey protein:

  1. WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE (WPC) – When the water and casein* is removed from the whey, the result is a lower fat and cholesterol content and higher levels of bioactive compounds, ranging at 29%–89% protein by weight.
  2. WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE (WPI) – Also known as Denatured Whey, is further processed from whey concentrate, where removed and are generally considered almost lactose and cholesterol free — they are typically at least 90% protein. Wikipedia
  3. WHEY PROTEIN HYDROLYSATE (WPH) – is predigested for faster absorption rate, however that rate is minimally faster, and the resultant taste is more bitter, which means products containing whey hydrolysate are often sweetened to mask the flavor.
  4. UNDENATURED WHEY PROTEIN – is extracted by cold-membrane filtration, and processed in such a way that harmful organisms are destroyed, but the heat sensitive amino acids that make it bioactive, called branched chain amino acids, are not harmed.
  5. NATIVE WHEY – Produced as both concentrates and isolates, native whey is the highest protein form of whey protein extracted from skim milk instead of by-product of cheese production. However, there is question by some as to the assimilability of the protein without the accompanying fats for digestibility.

*Casein – the main protein present in milk.

Whey Protein & Processing In 60 Seconds

More on the Top 3 Whey Powders in Use Today

1. Whey Protein Concentrate

After undenatured whey, concentrates are typically branded as the most cost-effective whey variety, because they don’t require as much processing compared to isolates. The slightly processed concentrate contains a little less fat and lactose than non-processed, and with high levels of bioactive compounds. Whey concentrates typically contain 90% protein.

 

2. Whey Protein Isolates

One of the more popular wheys in use, many bodybuilders seek this out and swear by it.

Excerpt interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola and health expert, Ori Hofmekler on Mercola.com

There are a number of whey products on the market, but unfortunately many of them will not give you the health benefits associated with high-quality whey.

Most commercial whey products are derived from pasteurized dairy and are processed with heat and acid. Many are also artificially sweetened. All of these factors render them completely useless from a health perspective.

Whey isolate is one such inferior product, because when you remove the fat, you actually remove important components of its immunological properties, such as phospholipids, phosphatidylserine and cortisol.

Additionally, all of the IgG immunoglobulins, which are an excellent source of glutamine and cysteine, are also bound to the fat globule. Fat provides not just calories. In fact, most food rich in healthful fat, including nuts, seeds, chia and almonds are carriers of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and phytosterols.

Dairy also contains lipoic acid, which is a carrier of enzymes and immunoglobulin.

Therefore, if you take the fat out you’re left with a clearly inferior whey protein.

“I’m totally against whey isolate,” Ori says. “I think it’s just the wrong whey.  Mercola.com

 

From Muscle and Fitness Editors:

“To be considered a great whey protein the product MUST list whey protein isolate or hydrolyzed whey protein isolate as the very first ingredient. That’s because whey protein isolates are the purest form of protein you can get, with some being more than 90% protein. And “hydrolyzed whey protein isolate” means that that high-quality whey has been pre-digested into smaller protein fragments for even faster digestion than regular whey isolate.” MuscleAndFitness.com

The Negatives on Whey Protein Isolates:
  • The processing causes significant loss of bioactive compounds.
  • The protein is not as assimilable as undenatured whey.
  • Typically costs more due to added cost of processing.
  • If it’s not organic from grass fed cows, the whey quality and content is compromised
The Positives of Whey Protein Isolates
  • Higher protein content
  • Shorter, more digestible short-chain proteins, assimilates more quickly*

*Some dispute the assimilability of the highly process proteins.

If you decide on Isolate, we recommend NutraBio 100% Whey Protein Isolate, as the purest form, free of the harmful sugar, sucralose and soy often found in other brands.
If you decide on Isolate, we recommend NutraBio 100% Whey Protein Isolate, as the purest form, free of the harmful sugar, sucralose and soy often found in other brands.

Generally, the more any food is processed, the less of the original nutritional value is retained.

The process of isolating the proteins from the fat and lactose, creates a more concentrated protein, which is why it is typically recommended for bodybuilding. However, those against whey isolates say that the separation or isolation process renders that protein less accessible by the body, making whey protein isolates, less useful, yet more expensive.

3. Hydrolized Whey

As the name implies, whey proteins are predigested and partially hydrolyzed, which breaks down long chain proteins into shorter peptide chains which are more readily absorbed. Because it is already predigested, it is metabolized by the body faster, hence, used more efficiently. Hydrolyzed Whey has slightly higher levels of lactose and fat than whey concentrate and a protein content of 80-90%.

RESEARCH on Hydrolized Whey, from Examine.com

In instances where a faster protein source is desired (perhaps pre-fuel for fasted training, or protein synthesis in the elderly), then a hydrolyzed whey protein may confer additional benefits when compared to a whey concentrate. They have either equal health benefits, or hydrolysate may confer less (or at least different) health benefits due to breaking of large peptides prior to digestion.

One study that gave participants Whey Isolate or Whey Hydrolysate and tested performance at baseline and then 6 hours later noted that only the Hydrolysate group recovered power in such a short time frame, although no differences existed in muscle soreness. Protein in general appears to enhance recovery, but most studies are done on subsequent days; this suggests Hydrolyzed Whey may be of benefit to two-a-day workouts. 

Now we can see why bodybuilders tend to favor whey isolate. Also, for anyone with lactose sensitivity, from bodybuilders to infants, “the process of hydrolyzation can reduce the allergic potential of whey and milk protein, due to removing allergenic epitopes.” “Hydrolysis, even partially, can improve the solubility and improve in vitro digestibility.” 

So Which Whey did You Say?

Now that you know the kinds of whey, you’re better qualified to judge which is best for you. But before you can come up with any conclusions, consider what you want most from your whey protein.

How to Choose

  • If you only like the protein in whey or if you’re lactose intolerant, then go for whey isolates.
  • If you like a little bit of fat and lactose and still more than 90% of protein, choose whey concentrates.
  • If you have trouble digesting food and supplements, hydrolyzed whey protein is the way to go.
  • If you like your whey all-natural, you can find a 100% organic whey protein from grass-fed cows online or your local health store.
  • If you don’t like processed whey too much, then steer clear of whey isolates for good.
  • If you worry that your whey protein came from a GMO cow’s milk, try native whey and organic whey proteins (either isolate or concentrate).
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Image from thebullvine.com

What’s so wrong about these types of whey powders is that the purification and filtration process renders the proteins “denatured” which makes the amino acids are less accessible and harder to absorb. Not to mention that the product is absolutely devoid of nutritional co-factors such as alkalizing minerals, vitamins, and lipids. All of which can play a very important role in absorbing the protein in whey. This so called“whey powder” is a far cry from the natural whey protein which has a great advantage of rapid absorption and digestion among its many qualities.

And there’s the undisputed risk of purchasing whey protein from genetically modified cows. For you to be able to get as much nutrients as you can get from your whey powder, you must certify that the whey you’re getting is from a grass-fed, organic cow’s milk. The lesser it is processed, the better. This leads us to the question:

Our Top 4 Favorites

Which are your favorites?

If you’re looking for non-GMO whey powder from grass fed farm-raised cattle, these are our favorite go-to whey protein powders.

Raw Organic Whey – USDA Certified Organic Whey Protein, 12oz

Organic whey protein that’s soy and gluten free, Naked Whey is also from a 100% organic, grass-fed whey protein without artificial flavorings and those pesky growth hormones that can do more harm than good. What’s refreshing about this product is that the cattle are naturally raised from small dairy farms to ensure the best, cleanest quality of whey protein.

 

Defense Nutrition

An all-natural protein shake, Warrior Whey is made from protein concentrate. Although it has absolutely no artificial additives, it has a naturally sweet and creamy flavor and comes in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry goodness. Warrior whey is designed for rapid muscle absorption but with with no soy, no gluten, no sugar, no hormones, and no pesticides.

Naked Whey

Image from cdn.shopify.com
This is in our pantry.
LeAura Alderson, 100% Naked Whey, Power Blocks
My Trainer Fitness founder, LeAura Alderson, trying out 100% Naked Whey and Power Blocks.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 9.25.33 PM

IsaPro contains 18 grams of high-quality, undenatured whey protein concentrate. Available in Vanilla and NEW Chocolate.

Why are Top Sites Recommending—and Selling—the Worst Whey Proteins?

Dr. Michael Colgan, is a world-renowned research scientist, leading expert in the inhibition of aging, has a poignant perspective when he says:

“It’s true that the milk industry didn’t know of these problems until recent science uncovered them. But it is expensive to change your technology, and its not happening in this economy. Undenatured whey protein is extracted by cold-membrane filtration. It costs more, but it’s the only whey to go.”

On the other hand, Bodybuilding.com says:

Modern filtering technology has improved dramatically in the past decade allowing companies to separate some of the highly bioactive peptides from whey, such as lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase.

Over the past few decades, whey protein powders have evolved several generations from low-grade concentrates to very high-grade concentrates and isolates. Bodybuilding.com

 

Our Take?

Since experts disagree, we recommend you absorb the arguments on both sides, go with what makes the most sense to you, then test it on yourself. If you’re inclined to think that one is better than the other, then use it. Monitor your progress as objectively as possible, then test the other for a month (or a canister’s worth), if you want to, and journal your progress there.

Observe your energy, digestion, muscle and strength gains, and your performance during and after workouts. Ultimately, what might be perfect for your training buddy—or spouse—may not be the best for you. Our best results come from a blend of education and experience. See yourself as a virtual test tube and lab. Read and absorb the experts, but listen to your intuition and your body above all else.

Educate, experiment, observe, assess.

Let us know your thoughts and experience. We will be glad to add relevant information to this article or shout it out on our Facebook page.

Editor’s Note: If you’re a big proponent of soy and find this article troubling, you may be right. You have to do your own investigation and we’ve provided more information in another article to address that.((http://mytrainerfitness.com/male-testosterone/))

RESOURCES

ARTICLES:
Best and Worst Whey Protein, MuscleAndFitness.com
Protein Powder Types
, ProteinPowder.net
Protein Powder, Bad for Your Health? NoFinishLineBlog.com
Undenatured Whey, Immune-Health-Solutions-For-You.com
The Whey it is, Bodybuilding.com
Whey, with Dr. Joseph Mercola and Ori Hofmekler on Mercola.com
Whey Concentrate vs Isolate, BuiltLean.com by Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT
Whey Protein Concentrate, Isagenix.com by Dr. Michael, Colgan
Whey Protein Studies, Exam.com
Whey Protein Types, WheyOfLife.org
Whey Protein, Wikipedia
Best and Worst Whey Protein, according to MuscleAndFitness.com, (however, other sources disagree)

PRODUCTS:
IsaPro Whey Protein, by Isagenix
Warrior Whey, by Defense Nutrition
Naked Whey, on Amazon

Editor’s Note: We may receive affiliate commissions—at no charge to you—if you click through our product links. This pocket change helps support this site.

 

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