1Whey & 3Whey: Which whey protein should you use?
With all of the different protein powders on the market, it’s easy to get confused about which one is right for you. Hell, we even have two different proteins, one isolate, and one blend!
Which one should you choose?
What's the best type of protein?
First things first. Which type of protein powder is best?
This answer is an easy one: Whey protein.
When it comes to stimulating muscle protein synthesis, no other protein has ever even come close to outperforming whey protein. Not soy, not casein, not even whole food sources like chicken or beef.
The only reason not to consume whey protein is if you are one of the few who have an allergy. If you are one of the unfortunate few, we’re sorry you can’t get these gains!
Just kidding, you actually just need to consume more protein to make up for the inefficiency of them vs. whey.
But there are three different types of whey protein. Here’s how to decide.
1. Whey Protein Concentrate: The Least Processed
Perhaps the most common form of whey protein is whey protein concentrate or WPC. WPC is 80% protein by weight, and it is less processed than other types of whey protein powders.
As far as the major nutrition factors go, WPC has a little more fat and a little more carbohydrate than an isolate, though not much. The difference is only 1-2 grams per serving assuming a typical serving size of 25-30 grams of protein.
WPC does have a few advantages, however. Because it is less processed, it maintains some immunoglobulins and other beneficial properties. Immunoglobulins in whey help build the immune system, resist sickness, and boost digestive health.
All whey proteins are fast digesting. Of the 3 major kinds, though, WPC is the slowest. Although this may sound like a “bad” thing, it’s really not that big of a deal.
WPC is still much more quickly absorbed than non-whey sources that we all know are anabolic proteins, such as chicken, fish, and beef.
2. Whey Protein Isolate: The Cleanest
Whey Protein Isolate, or WPI, is the cleanest of the whey protein variants. It goes through a little more processing to remove even more fat and protein, making it 90% protein by weight.
In a typical serving, WPI will have 0-1 gram each of carbs and fats. The remainder of protein powder’s volume ends up being some moisture despite being a dry powder, minerals (such as calcium), and “ash” – which is not what you think it is! Ash is anything not carbon-based, so even the minerals contribute to ash.
The advantage of WPI is the cleaner nutrition profile for more precise dieting. It is also faster digesting, making it more ideal for pre- or post-workout use than other proteins.
Not that there is any reason to suspect other whey proteins are less effective, more research is conducted using isolate than concentrate.
3. Whey Protein Hydrolysate: Easily Absorbed
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) is the most unique of the group. Hydrolysate can come from either WPC or WPI, so it can be 80-90% protein.
“Hydrolysate” means that the protein is already partially broken down, making it easier to digest, and accelerating the digestion and absorption process. Of the three types of whey, WPH is the fastest.
Part of the hydrolyzing process also frees important whey peptides. These peptides have been shown to activate lipolysis and thermogenesis on the genetic level.
In a study comparing 30g WPH to 30g WPC and an isocaloric carbohydrate control over 8 weeks, greater increases in lean mass were observed with both proteins, but only WPH produced a reduction in body fat mass.
Another study comparing 25g WPH to 25g intact protein found that WPH recovered muscle force production capacity in just 6 hours, but the intact protein took 24 hours to show signs of reversing muscle damage.
So, which protein do I use?
By now you’re probably already feeling like you’re leaning towards one form of whey or another.
- High-Performance Athletes: you probably need the ultra-clean profile of 1Whey™ WPI.
- Everyone Else: 3Whey™, with WPI, WPC, and WPH, the immunoglobulins and whey peptides may be more appealing.
If you’re going to be using protein primarily for pre- or post-workout use, 1Whey™ is your best bet for a quick spike in blood amino acid levels.
If you will be using the protein for a meal replacement as shakes or for high-protein baking, 3Whey™ is for you.
One thing is for sure. There is no wrong decision.
- Morr, C. V., & Ha, E. Y. W. (1993). Whey protein concentrates and isolates: processing and functional properties. Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, 33(6), 431-476.
- Lockwood, C. M., Roberts, M. D., Dalbo, V. J., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Kendall, K. L., Moon, J. R., & Stout, J. R. (2017). Effects of hydrolyzed whey versus other whey protein supplements on the physiological response to 8 weeks of resistance exercise in college-aged males. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 36(1), 16-27.
- Buckley, J. D., Thomson, R. L., Coates, A. M., Howe, P. R., DeNichilo, M. O., & Rowney, M. K. (2010). Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 13(1), 178-181
- Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., Kujbida, G. W., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of applied physiology, 107(3), 987-992.