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Maintaining your gym progress is hard. We all know that you have to give it all you have for maximum results, consistent training schedules hitting it 5+ times a week, a dose of pre-workout before, and hopefully a scoop of recovery protein afterwards.
It’s generally accepted that a higher protein intake results in promoting more lean muscle mass. However, there’s always a decision to make when buying the most basic protein…whey protein isolate (WPI) or whey protein concentrate (WPC)? What are they, what are their individual strengths, and most importantly, how can they help you achieve your gym goals?
So, what does protein actually do to your body? Protein is just a combination of amino acids, which together are known as peptides. Furthermore, Nitrogen is a chemical that is essential for strong, quality muscle growth. Aaaaand, as amino acids are without a doubt the primary source of Nitrogen in the body, they’re pretty essential to keep the body running!
Well how much of it do you need to take to expect results? When you’re hitting the gym consistently looking to put on some serious mass, you should be taking around 2g of protein for every kilo of your own bodyweight. Intuitively, the more frequently and the harder you work out, the more protein you will need to take for a successful recovery.
Now if you’re freaking out about how much food you would need to consume just to try and reach those levels, relax! That’s why we’re here! Protein powder for the win!
That brings us back to the very first question, WPC or WPI? What are they, and how can they help you?
Whey protein has been the dominant form of protein in the supplement and health industry for the last 40 years. This is because it is very bioavailable (our body can use it easily) and has a very good amino acid profile i.e. it provides the right kind of protein to promote recovery and growth. This is true for both whey isolate and whey concentrate, so what’s the difference? The difference lies in the filtration and extraction process. Isolate is refined to a greater degree than concentrate. This results in the three major differences between WPI and WPC.
Due to its greater refinement WPI has a high protein percentage, lower carbohydrate percentage and lower fat percentage. Typically pure WPI will be over 90% protein by weight. WPC usually sits around the 75-80% protein mark. This means if you’re trying to keep your calories down and you want a protein source with fewer carbs and fats you should opt for the WPI.
Because WPI is more refined, it also means that the rate at which your body absorbs the protein is lowered. Whey isolate will usually digest and begin being utilised by your body within 30 minutes. Whey concentrate will take between 2-4hrs. This means if absorption speed is important to you, such as post workout, you should be using a WPI. However, if you are using the protein throughout the day to increase your overall intake then WPC would suit you just fine.
Because whey concentrate is not as filtered as whey isolate, there are some impurities that occur in much higher concentrations. Three of these are Lactoferrin (supports good bacteria growth), Immunoglobulins (help immune function and destroys bad bacteria) and Lactose (can cause digestion issues). As you can see, these impurities have the ability to be positive or negative depending on who you are as an individual.
You need to choose a protein that will suit all your personal needs. If you’re using a protein post workout, are dieting very hard or are lactose intolerant, then WPI is the clear winner. Alternatively, if you’re using a protein primarily throughout the day then WPC does work out to be a slightly more cost effective option. Now that you have this information all there is left to do is knuckle down, train your ass off, do your meal prep and get some gains!