Whey protein is one of the most popular protein powders on the planet - and for good reason - it's one of the best!
If you've looked into whey protein before you'd have probably noticed that there are two main types: WPI (Whey Protein Isolate) & WPC (Whey Protein Concentrate).
So ... what's the difference?
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- What is Whey Protein Powder?
- What Is Whey Protein Isolate? (WPI)
- What Is Whey Protein Concentrate? (WPC)
- What is the Difference Between WPI and WPC?
- WPI vs WPC: Which One Should You Choose?
- Where To Buy WPI & WPC?
What is Whey Protein Powder?
Whey protein powder, aside from being the most popular protein supplement in the fitness and bodybuilding world, is a protein powder made from dehydrating whey from milk.
In cheese-making (or actually, in producing nearly any dairy product), there is a slightly yellowish, cloudy, milky liquid that is a byproduct of the process. This liquid can also be seen when you buy sour cream, for example, on the top of the actual cream before you mix it up. That is liquid whey.
Casein is the other type of protein found in milk, but that is not as popular as whey. It is less readily absorbed and has fewer amino acids in it, making it somewhat less efficient for muscle recovery and building.
On the other hand, whey can be easily digested and absorbed, and it also contains a lot of essential amino acids that are the building blocks of muscle.
The quick absorption, together with the high protein and amino acid content, makes whey protein the leading protein product in the fitness industry.
What Is Whey Protein Isolate? (WPI)
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is a form of whey protein that is refined to remove close to all of the natural lactose, milk fat and carbohydrates. It typically contains 90% protein, is fast-absorbing and generally suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.
What Is Whey Protein Concentrate? (WPC)
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) is less-refined than WPI and doesn't undergo the secondary micro-filtering step to remove the lactose, fats and carbohydrates. While it has less protein by weight (typically around 80%), it contains a suite of other macro-and micro-nutrients that may or may not be beneficial, depending on your individual goals.
What is the Difference Between WPI and WPC?
Let’s go through the key differences in detail, but before we do, check out this infographic to get a quick idea ‘at a glance’.
WPC and WPI begin life identically.
They are both derived as a dairy byproduct (whey) and as we've briefly mentioned above, it's the processing that splits them apart.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) is less refined while Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) undergoes an extra micro-filtration step.
The micro-filtration process is usually done by adding certain enzymes to the raw whey and heating it to a specific temperature so that the fats, carbohydrates and other compounds such as sugars (lactose) are filtered out.
The major difference between WPC vs WPI is that the extra filtration step from WPC to WPI concentrates the protein levels by removing most other compounds.
Whey concentrate protein is usually accepted at a minimum protein-density of around 70-75%, though the standard is approximately 80%, with the lower density products being the lower-quality alternatives.
On the other hand, Whey isolate protein products have to have a minimum of 90%. Here, the distinction is clear-cut since anything below this line is considered a higher-quality or more refined concentrate. Only above the 90% protein-line are products sold and manufactured under the name “isolate.”
Both WPC & WPI can be easily processed and absorbed by the body, however, the extra fats and carbs in WPC make it slower digesting. This difference is usually trivial for anyone who isn’t competing at the highest levels.
WPI vs WPC: Which One Is Better?
High-quality WPC or WPI are both great options for most peoples health and fitness aims, however, if you have quite specific and targeted goals in mind - one may be a better fit for you.
Read on below as we go through the main features you will need to consider:
By effectiveness, we mean how much will either protein powder help gym-goers achieve their body composition goals (usually weight loss and muscle building) or further their fitness journey.
For the vast majority of people, WPC is generally fine to reach any fitness goal, however, WPI does have the edge in certain ways.
WPI products have a higher protein percentage per scoop with very little carbs, fats, or other materials. This is great for those that are into bodybuilding and looking to put on more lean muscle mass.
For endurance athletes and those just looking improve overall health - WPC may be a better option as it provides everything you need for muscle growth, as well as healthy fats and carbohydrates that are essential to a healthy lifestyle.
Here, the debate is an easy one.
WPI has to be filtered through one more time, which means that the production of isolate products takes longer and is more detailed than that of a concentrate, which commands a higher price.
The price difference generally isn't insanely large but can be substantial, so if you're looking to save a bit of money and aren't training for a bodybuilding competition - WPC is the best budget-friendly option.
Taste & Texture
The difference in texture is generally very noticeable between WPI & WPC, and variation in taste if often up to the manufacturer.
The lactose content in WPC products causes the most prominent difference. The higher lactose content results in significantly more frothing when shaking up the protein drink and also in a thicker, milkier, and creamier texture altogether. Isolates are substantially more watery.
Taste-wise - it all depends on the flavour additions to the individual product. Manufacturers can now turn any raw, neutral-tasting protein powder into one of a million different flavours. As such, taste is all product-specific.
WPI vs WPC: Which One Should You Choose?
In the age-old whey protein isolate vs concentrate debate, you really need to consider your unique training goals and circumstances when making your choice.
Here are our thoughts when it comes to making a decision on buying whey protein powders:
WPC is a brilliant 'bang for your buck' protein powder.
It is more than suitable as a post-workout shake or daily add-in for the everyday athlete who is trying to get in shape or improve their general health.
With a protein content of around 80% and a complete amino acid profile, it is easily enough for anybody looking to easily increase their protein intake.
Personally, I prefer the texture of WPC and the added affordability is definitely a bonus.
WPI is one of the pinnacle supplements of bodybuilding and high-performance sports.
With a higher protein content of 90% or so, they are a key product for those focused on serious muscle protein synthesis.
Depending on your weight loss plan, the reduced carbs and fats may also be a benefit of WPI you need to consider.
If you happen to be lactose-intolerant or have digestion issues WPI will be a better option for you - and if you still find you have digestion issues with WPI, you will likely benefit from a high-quality vegan protein powder.
Where To Buy WPI & WPC?
I go between using both WPI & WPC depending on my training goals at the time, and as such, I've tried and tested countless blends and manufacturers over the years.
Nowadays, there is only one brand I use for both powders - and that's True Protein
True Protein is an Australian manufacturer that uses super high-quality whey from grass-fed dairy cows, living happily in New Zealand. NewZealand is widely regarded as producing some of the best whey protein in the world!
From texture and taste to the quality and completeness of the protein profile, these are the best WPI & WPC powders I've come across.
Hit the links below the banner to jump over and read more about them:
You can also get a closer look at both of these products in the videos below.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Whey Protein Is Best For Weight Loss?
WPI is considered by most to be the best protein for weight loss due to its higher protein content and minimal carbohydrates. Just remember - no matter what supplements you use, weight loss is a game taking in fewer calories than you are using.
What Whey Protein Is Best For Muscle Building?
It's hard to look past WPI if you're looking to build muscle. As such a high protein source, it provides bulk amounts of the essential amino acids required for muscle growth. Just make sure you are getting adequate fats and carbohydrates from your diet too.
When Is The Best Time To Take Whey Protein?
The best time to take protein for most people is 10 to 60 minutes post-workout, in what is known as the 'anabolic window'. This is when your body is most receptive to absorbing and utilising it.
As you can see, both WPI and WPC are excellent products for improving your physical fitness and general health.
For most of us, WPC is more than enough to help us hit our goals, but for those of us looking to get serious about boosting athletic performance, increasing lean muscle mass or losing weight - WPI can provide that extra 'edge'
When determining the best whey powder for you, you need to consider your unique goals and desired outcomes before pulling the trigger.
Hope this article has helped clarify a few points for you and given some guidance on which 'whey' to go ;)
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to shoot us an email.