It is becoming more and more common to see people using some type of nutritional supplement, either to take care of their health or to improve at a physical level, both in their body composition as well as in the recovery of the muscle. Today, we are going to talk about one of the most famous supplements that I am sure everyone has heard about: Whey Protein Isolate
Whey, the most Sold and Consumed Supplement
Nowadays, WHEY protein is the most sold supplement (along with Creatine) both within and outside the world of sport nutrition. Its fame its partly due to the fact that its benefits in terms of physical composition have been proven in some clinical essays.
What is Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)?
The term Whey Protein Isolate or its acronym WPI refers to the properties that this type of milk protein has as a protein source that can be used to meet the nutritional requirements of particularly active people, although they can be a great addition to any diet.
Whey protein isolate is made up of a 90-95% of pure protein. It is obtained by filtering the milk protein enough to eliminate most of the lactose, carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol.
It is known for providing a high percentage of proteins and for being almost free of undesirable elements, such as carbs (and consequently lactose), fats, and cholesterol. It is a fast Digestion and Absorption Source of Proteins.
In addition, it has an excellent aminogram, since it is made of Complete Proteins from animal sources, which means that it does not lack any amino acid. It provides an excellent dose of essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine (BCAA), leucine (BCAA), lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine (BCAA).
In this article, we will explore why Whey Protein Isolate has earned said fame
Additionally, Whey Protein Isolate provides adequate levels of cysteine which is the direct precursor form of the best antioxidant of our body: Glutathione. Its main function is to reduce the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals. These harmful molecules are the result of several factors, such as the exposure to certain environments (contaminants, excessive sunlight…) or by metabolic processes (metabolic waste…). The effect is amplified in the cell environment since they may attack adjacent cells, spreading this phenomenon to any tissue or organ from our system. Of course, the organism seeks to reduce this excess of free radicals at all times, but it is always advisable to maintain an optimal state of health through several strengthening mechanisms.
Finally, another remarkable feature of Whey Protein Isolate is its rich concentration of bioactive peptides, which provide significant benefits to strengthen our health, such as enhancing the immune system, improving the transport of iron, and working as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
WPI, or Whey Protein Isolate contributes to improving the quality of life from a nutritional point of view, since proteins are necessary to perform essential tasks such as improving the body composition, providing satiety, and increasing the consumption of amino acids.
Not only for SportspeopleEven though the consumption of WHEY is related to sportspeople, it has been observed that certain benefits can be used for clinical nutrition or even for those who do sport as a hobby. When we study the properties of said protein, we notice that even though it is insulinotropic (it releases a lot of insulin), it improves the sensitivity to said hormone on behalf of the tissues in the long term (1), which will result in a lower need of insulin.
The first thing we need to check in a protein supplement is its nutritional value. Obviously, we are interested in a high protein supply, something that most of the protein supplements meet without any issue.
As we can see, most supplements have over a 70% of protein (except for the WHEY by the brand FA). However, the amount of protein does not guarantee the quality of the product, since this is measured by the presence of certain amino acids (aminogram). In the following graphic, we will see the amount of BCAA’s (essential branched chain amino acids) from each protein.
How to compare protein
A while back, we decided to clarify the issue of the protein comparatives between the different brands, since it tends to cause certain controversy. The client must be give the maximum transparency, and obvious fact if this person decides to compare the long catalog of proteins in order to decide which one to choose. Sometimes the companies follow certain parameters which are not 100% objective and which do no specify the values according to a reliable information.
In the case of EVOLATE, which is a Whey Protein Isolate, the supply of BCAAs is quite close to 20g, which is superior to the rest of renowned proteins.
However, one of the reasons why the WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE is a bit rejected in the world of supplementation is its high cost when compared to other hyperproteic formulas.
As you could see in the previous graphic, most of the WPI (Whey Protein Isolate) in 2kg format costs more than 60€, however, the EVOLATE has a lower price than the rest, even though it has the same raw ingredient than the products by AMIX (Represented as red bars in the graphic)
The way to obtain said product is through CFM (Cross-Flow Microﬁltration), which allows to preserve the important substances that would be lost with other purification techniques, like the ionic exchange. This one, as its own name indicates, uses substances to exchange the ions to purify the whey protein. However, by using substances with an acid PH it will lose those fractions that can provide certain benefits.
What is the Composition of Whey Isolate CFM?Whey Protein is made by extracting the protein fractions from milk during the manufacturing of cheese. At the beginning, it was thought that this was a byproduct without relevance, but thanks to research it was discovered that it has an enormous potential and beneficial properties for health, as well as excellent nutritional value.
The α –Lactalbumin is a protein that is mainly found in breast milk, even though it has also been found in cow milk, but in lower amounts (2). Lactalbumin makes of beast milk an irreplaceable element for newborns, since it provides other benefits like the protection from pathogen bacteria.
This protein is used to provide essential amino acids, like tryptophan (3) which is a precursor of serotonin that helps to maintain proper levels of melatonin (a hormone related to the sleep-wake cycle). This means that a WHEY protein that is high in lactalbumin can improve the cognitive performance of certain groups of people who are susceptible to stress (4).
Immunoglobulins (IgG1m IgG2, IgA and IgM)
Immunoglobulins perform an anti-microbial task and they can neutralize toxins and viruses. Right now, there is important research being carried out to determine if it would be possible to use milk anti-bodies to prevent or treat microbial diseases or conditions in human beings.
The protein that is found in milk can help to transport substances of lipid origin, even though its evidence is not completely clear. (5)
The alpha-lactalbumin fraction makes up a 25% of the whey and its aminogram is very similar to that of breast milk.
It is a glycoprotein (a protein with a bound glucide) that helps with the absorption of iron and which has a bacteriostatic activity (it limits the growth of certain groups of bacteria) which is why it is related to an improved immune state (6). Let’s not forget that a bad intestinal flora is related to obesity problems (7), which increases the chances of suffering diabetes when it goes along an increased absorption of glucose (8).
As its own name indicates, we are dealing with a peptide that is obtained from the casein that has sugars in its structure. Its properties are the following (9):
- Reduction of the gastric secretion
- Anticariogenic effect (prevents caries)
- Inhibits the toxin of cholera
- Regulates the immune response
- Prevents the infection of the intestines
- It is related to a lower sensation of hunger
It contains a high percentage of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) which can stimulate the production of cholecystokinin (CCK), which is a peptide that is released after consuming food, producing a feeling of satiety. Recent research has proven that it has properties for the treatment of phenylketonuria.
It is one of the most important proteins that are found in the Isolate, since it helps the immune system to combat the invading microorganisms (11). The nutritional industry considered its potential to preserve certain foods, however, its high cost avoids said utilization.
Concentration of Lactoperoxidase (LPO) against anti-microbial activity
What are the different types of Whey?
There are three main types of Whey:
- Whey Protein Concentrate or WPC
- Whey Protein Isolate or WPI
- Whey Protein Hydrolyzate or WPH
The first and second type differ from the third in terms of their molecular structure, since WPH is “hydrolyzed”, which means that it has more peptides as a result of the hydrolysis process which will result in a faster absorption rate, since it has been partly “digested” already. Let’s not forget that our bodies absorb proteins precisely from peptides (once the digestion has taken place).
With regard to the differences between WPC and WPI, they can be summarized as follows:
- Percentage of proteins: WPI > WPC
- Percentage of protein fractions: WPI > WPC
- Percentage of other elements, such as carbs, fat, lactose, and impurities: WPI < WPC
- Ability to stimulate protein synthesis: WPI > WPC
Methods to obtain Whey Protein Isolate
Once the whey is extracted through the production of the cheese, it is subjected to several processes until its powder form reaches the shelves of sport nutrition stores.
First of all, any trace of cheese and pasteurization must be removed and then, the fat is removed through a centrifugal separation process. The resulting product is ready to be used in products such as WPC (Whey Protein Concentrate), or other similar products according to the needs of the consumers. The product will be treated with other methods in order to obtain a Whey Protein Isolate (WPI).
The following methods can be used to produce WPI:
- Ion Exchange
- Micro and/or ultra-filtration
- CFM or cross-flow microfiltration
The main difference between Filtration and Ion Exchange lies on the final composition of the protein. In the first case some fractions are not retrieved, which results in the loss of approximately one fifth of these important components.
The first method involves a protein separation through an electrical charge and two chemical agents: hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. The pH of the pre-treated whey is adjusted to around 3-3.5 and it is put in a resin tank where some of the proteins are absorbed. After removing the partially deproteinized whey from the tank, the protein content has its pH restored to a normal level by using sodium hydroxide. The pH of the resulting protein solution is adjusted, concentrated (by ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and/or vacuum evaporation) and dried through pulverization. Obviously, the use of chemicals will degrade sensitive fractions, glycomacropeptides, inmunoglobins, and alpha-lactalbumin in particular, and some amino acids are also denatured. This loss of active fractions is compensated by the obtention of a higher concentration of beta-lactoglobulin, which tends to be the most allergenic element. It is not the best method.
In the second method, the difference between “Micro and Ultra” has to do with the size of the membrane’s pores used for the filtration. Microfiltration uses high-tech ceramic membranes to filter the whey. Chemical agents are not used, so most of the biological fractions are intact. Ultrafiltration is a similar method to microfiltration, but it uses smaller pores and an increased pressure. Through the use of membrane filters, the undesired components (fat, lactose) are filtered out, based on the size of the particles and molecular structure. This process is much more beneficial than the previous one:
- It prevents protein denaturation
- It improves the aminogram
- Heat, high temperatures or chemical agents are not used to separate the proteins
What is CFM and why is it important?
CFM is the method used to produce the highest quality protein that is currently available. The only drawback is the cost, which can be twice or three times more expensive than those that have been previously mentioned.
This technique has been patented by Glanbia (one of the biggest companies in the world dedicated to the treatment of dairy products). The mechanism is similar to that used in micro or ultra-filtration, which results in a very high percentage of protein, more than 90% in the final product, with no fat or lactose, and leaving 100% of the bioactive peptides intact. Apart from the benefits of the filtration process, it also includes:
- The highest level of denatured protein, specially the fractions that enhance the immune system
- The highest percentage of calcium
- The lowest amount of sodium
Bioactive peptides in Whey Protein Isolate
Protein Isolate is an important source of nutrients in the diet, since it can provide us with high biological value proteins, which means that our bodies will absorb a high percentage of them, which is vital for the regeneration of tissue and other physiological tasks. Another interesting point with regard to this type of protein is that it is rich in biologically active peptides.
Biological peptides are protein fractions that produce a positive impact on human health in practically all of our systems:
What are the functions of Whey Protein Isolate?
The main task of WPI is to help us meet our Nutritional Requirements of proteins. However, this basic function is more important than what it seems, since it also involves other aspects:
- “Building Blocks”: protein consists on amino acid chains which are the elements that are used by the body to synthesize new muscle tissue. Apart from providing support to protein structures and a means of exchange in the “Protein Turnover”, amino acids are involved in other essential tasks within the organism like: supporting the production of hormones and enzymes, as well organs, skin, hair, nails, bones…
- Stimulation of protein synthesis: apart from providing the necessary elements to build muscle, WPI stimulates in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) due to the presence of the leucine amino acid, one of the BCAA’s. The leucine content of a protein source equals its anabolic capacity. There is a lot of Leucine in Whey Protein Isolate which sets the physiological mechanisms in motion to produce new proteins. This occurs through the activation of the mTOR pathway, which regulates the signalling of a series of complex operations that must take place.
- Fast Absorption Rate: this feature is specially important if we are looking for a product that will effectively supply amino acids to our bloodstream quickly, such as in a catabolic scenario (protein breakdown) during the workout. In this case, we are looking to reverse the situation and to get a positive response from the amino acids that are involved, or to put it simply: to reach a nitrogen balance.
Amount of Lactose in Whey Protein Isolate
The amount of lactose present in WPI is practically zero, and it is a product suitable for lactose-intolerant people.
Properties of Whey Protein Isolate
Helping with fat loss
WPI helps to control weight in low-calorie fat-loss diets. Thanks to the satiating effect of the protein, it tends to reduce the appetite between meals. The powder format is a versatile and effective way of adding this macronutrient to our diet.
Enhancing the immune system
As we have seen, the use of whey protein fractions can help to avoid protein breakdown and be useful to improve our health The presence of cysteine, which is the main precursor form of glutathione, enhances its antioxidant properties.
Of course, those who want to increase their lean muscle mass will be able to benefit from the properties of a high-quality whey protein. A successful approach would be to consume from 2 to 3 shakes daily in order to meet the usual requirements of the body. The high concentration of amino acids is remarkable, specially BCAAs, with leucine being the most important for the synthesis of proteins.
The benefits of Whey Protein Isolate
Anyone can take advantage of the nutritional support provided by WPI to improve their diet. It incorporates protein and essential nutrients in an easy and comfortable way to consume and it does not cause any stomach problems or allergies, like lactose intolerance.
We can also mention other important benefits for sportspeople: Physical Performance and Muscle Recovery.
WPI has a high percentage of BCAAs which have been studied as elements that help to reduce the muscle damage caused by physical activity dramatically, as well as physical wear and tear overall. Given that BCAAs are present in around one third of the skeletal muscle, they suffer a greater degree of breakdown when compared to other amino acids. Therefore, an extra supply will help to shorten the recovery phase. Additionally, the glutamine and precursor content will help to elevate the amount of this amino acid in the blood plasma, which is related to regeneration processes and it can also help to relieve the overtraining syndrome.
Why should we use Whey Protein Isolate?
The reason is simple and it has to do with the following conclusions and the fact that it is regarded as the “most optimal protein”:
- Lactose intolerance
- Digestibility: it does not cause any kind of stomach discomfort
- Objective: Definition or improvement of the body composition (losing fat and preserving muscle mass)
- Supply of Essential Amino Acids: specially BCAAs and Glutamine
- Strengthened Immune System: it provides protein fractions and Cysteine which is a precursor of Glutathione
How to consume and combine Whey Protein Isolate?
WPI can be used at any time of the day whenever we need a supply of proteins. However, there are certain times when it will be quite useful to use whey protein isolate, such as:
- On an empty stomach
- Before and/or after the workout
The amount of protein advised for each serving will depend on the goals of each person (objective, type, duration, frequency and intensity of workout) and also on their personal physical characteristics (weight and muscle mass percentage). We will also have to account for the amount of protein that is present in the product, in order to measure the total daily protein requirements properly.
Generally, the recommended dose moves between: 20 to 50 g of Whey Protein Isolate per serving.WPI can be combined with any type of Sport Nutrition Supplement:
- Other Protein Sources to create a sequential release formula and take advantage of the different stages of the amino acids discharge into the bloodstream, or protein synthesis pulses (MPS). Some of the proteins that we could use are Egg Albumin or Casein
- Amino acids, such as BCAA’s and Glutamine
- Carbohydrates, like Amylopectin
- Sport Performance enhancers, such as Creatine and/or Caffeine
- Nitric Oxide precursors, like Arginine and/or Citrulline Malate
- Hormone optimizers, such as Aspartic Acid
- Essential fatty acids, such as CLA and Omega-3
Whey Protein Isolate and Sportspeople
However, when we talk about its impact in sportspeople, the results are also satisfactory, specially if we talk about post-workout recovery. One of the most overlooked factors by athletes themselves is the hydration:
Our performance will drop with just a 4% of dehydration, increasing the cardiovascular stress (12), specially at a neuromuscular level (13). Consequently, it will increase the fatigue in almost a 12%. This hydration problem is going to affect mostly those athletes that perform strength training, since dehydration is one of the most common causes of injuries in tendons and joints.
It is no surprise that the protein ISOLATE provides benefits for the hydration since, as it has been seen in previous studies, milk is a drink that hydrates the same or more than commercial drinks (14,15). In my opinion, this can be due to the fact that the consumption of a post-workout WHEY protein increases the levels of albumin, which is a protein found in the blood plasma and which helps to maintain the cell hydration thanks to its effect on oncotic pressure(16).
How can we make the most of WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE?
As many of you already know, there are a lot of supplements that have synergistic effects, in other words, the effect of one or both supplements is enhanced, which is also the case of the protein ISOLATE.
Protein and Creatine
When we read studies of said protein combined with creatine and its effects at the level of body composition against carbohydrates (17) we get the following results:
As we can see, the group that combined the WHEY ISOLATE and CREATINE, lifted more weight than the group that only consumed carbs, partly due to the higher levels of creatine.
Levels of creatine in the muscles
Whey Protein Isolate to Recover
Even though it is true that a high consumption of carbs with creatine can result in higher gains of fat-free weight when compared to Whey Protein Isolate + Creatine, this is partly due to the muscle glycogen, and not to a higher muscle mass. This theory that I am proposing here comes from scientific evidence that shows how the carbohydrates have a worse potential for muscle recovery when compared to a high quality protein, like the ISOLATE (18).
Or even lower CK levels, which is a protein related to muscle damage. As we can see in the following graphic, the group that consumed WHEY protein had lower levels.
To sum up, we can see how they Evolate protein (Whey Protein Isolate) provides benefits beyond a high protein intake, which makes it one of the star products both at a sport level, as well as a health level.
- Dietary protein impact on glycemic control during weight loss.Layman DK1, Baum JI.
- Infant formulas with increased concentrations of α-lactalbumin.Eric L Lien
- The Importance of oc-Lactalbumin in Infant Nutrition.WILLI E. HEINE, PETER D. KLEIN AND PETER J. REEDS
- Whey protein rich in alpha-lactalbumin increases the ratio of plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids and improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable subjects.Markus CR1, Olivier B, de Haan EH.
- Invited Review: β-Lactoglobulin: Binding Properties,Structure, and Function. G. Kontopidis,1 C. Holt,2 and L. Sawyer1
- Lactoferrin: molecular structure and biological function.Lönnerdal B1, Iyer S.
- Impact of the Gut Microbiota on the Development of Obesity: Current Concepts.John K DiBaise MD1, Daniel N Frank PhD2 and Ruchi Mathur MD, FRCPC3
- Accelerated intestinal glucose absorption in morbidly obese humans – relationship to glucose transporters, incretin hormones and glycaemia.Nguyen NQ1, Debreceni TL, Bambrick JE, Chia B, Wishart J, Deane AM, Rayner CK, Horowitz M, Young RL.
- Chemical and functional properties of glycomacropeptide(GMP) and its role in the detection of cheese whey adulteration in milk: a review.Neelima & Rajan Sharma & Yudhishthir Singh Rajput & Bimlesh Mann
- Whey fermentation by thermophilic lactic acid bacteria: evolution of carbohydrates and protein content.Pescuma M1, Hébert EM, Mozzi F, Font de Valdez G.
- Dajanta, K., E. Chukeatirote and A. Apichartsrangkoon, 2008. Effect of lactoperoxidase system on keeping quality of raw cows milk in Thailand
- Skin temperature modifies the impact of hypohydration on aerobic performance. R. W. Kenefick, S. N. Cheuvront, L. J. Palombo, B. R. Ely, and M. N. Sawka
- The effects of hypohydration and fatigue on neuromuscular activation performance. Claire Minshull and Lewis James
- Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink.Shirreffs SM1, Watson P, Maughan RJ.
- Effect of milk protein addition to a carbohydrate-electrolyte rehydration solution ingested after exercise in the heat.James LJ1, Clayton D, Evans GH.
- Protein and carbohydrate supplementation after exercise increases plasma volume and albumin content in older and young men. Okazaki
- EFFECTS OF WHEY ISOLATE, CREATINE AND RESISTANCE TRAINING ON MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY Paul J. Cribb1, Andrew D. Williams2, Chris G. Stathis1, Michael F. Carey1 and Alan Hayes1.
- Whey protein isolate attenuates strength decline after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals Matthew B Cooke1,2†, Emma Rybalka1†, Christos G Stathis1†, Paul J Cribb1†, Alan Hayes1*†