Whey protein hydrolysate supplements.

Whey protein powders that contain hydrolysed whey or that are made up entirely of whey protein hydrolysate.

Product Pro Sources £/Serving Cals/Serving Price
1 Reflex Instant Whey
Instant Whey
80.00g WPC, WPI, WPH £0.92 194 kcal £41.75
2 Maximuscle Promax
81.00g WPI, WPH, WP £1.23 198 kcal £59.95
3 PHD Nutrition Pharma Whey HT+
[PHD Nutrition]
Pharma Whey HT+
74.00g WPC, WPI, WPH £1.10 205 kcal £46.20
4 MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore
Nitro-Tech Hardcore
75.00g WPC, WPI, WPH £1.27 208 kcal £42.99
Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Summary: An explanation of what hydrolysed whey is, what it's for, and if it's worth the extra money.

What is whey protein hydrolysate?

Whey protein hydrolysate or hydrolysed whey is whey protein that has been pre-digested or partly broken down before you consume it.

Therefore, because it has already been pre-digested for you, it means that it will be absorbed more quickly by your body than non-hydrolysed whey. You will most commonly find WPH in a whey blend along with WPC and WPI, but it is possible to buy WPH on its own.

However, hydrolysis is an expensive process so supplements containing whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) cost more.

Absorption rates.

  • Whey protein hydrolysate = 10 - 30 mins
  • Whey protein isolate = 30 - 60 mins
  • Whey protein concentrate = 60 - 90 mins

Again, if the whey protein is hydrolysed or "broken down" before hand your body won't need to do as much work to break it down itself, so the protein is absorbed at a faster rate.

Words like hydrolysed and hydrolysate can be spelt hydrolyzed and hydrolyzate, but that's the US version of the spelling. We don't like the letter Z in the UK so I'm going to use the UK spelling in this article.

What does "hydrolysed" mean?

Hydrolysed protein is protein that has been broken down into its component amino acids. source

Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids (the building blocks of protein). A protein can be made up from hundreds or thousands of these amino acids linked together. However, our body needs to break these long chains of amino acids up in to much smaller ones (3 amino acid chains or smaller) before they can be absorbed in the small intestine.

These links between the amino acids are known as peptide bonds. Basically, these peptide bonds are broken by adding water (H2O) to them, which is where the word "hydrolysed" comes in. Hydro is Greek for water.

Amino Acid Chain Diagram Think of protein as a chain of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. You body can't absorb long chains like this.
Amino Acid Hydrolysis Diagram Through hydrolysis, long chains of amino acids are broken down in to smaller ones that your body can absorb.
Peptide Bond Dehydration This animation shows the opposite of hydrolysis (dehydration), but if you play it backwards in your head you can see how water splits up these two amino acids. source
Hydro – A prefix that means: "water". source
Hydrolysis – The chemical breakdown of a compound due to reaction with water. source
Dehydration – A chemical reaction that involves the loss of water from the reacting molecule. source

Our body would do the work of breaking these long chains of amino acids itself, but if they have already been broken down in to tripeptides (3-chain amino acids) and dipeptides (2-chain amino acids) through hydrolysis beforehand then our body can just go ahead and absorb them without any extra effort.

It's a bit like your Mum cutting up your sausages for you before you have your dinner.

Concentrate vs. isolate vs. hydrolysate.

It's better to think of whey protein hydrolysate as "hydrolysed whey". Hydrolysate isn't like the third type of whey protein after concentrate and isolate.

  • Concentrate and isolate are all about how filtered the whey protein is (the removal of fat and lactose).
  • Hydrolysate is all about if the whey protein has been broken down before hand.

Both whey protein concentrate and isolate can be hydrolysed, so whey protein hydrolysate isn't a completely independent thing on its own.

Who/what is hydrolysed whey best for?

Hydrolysed whey protein is one of the fastest absorbing forms of protein around, so it's an excellent choice if you want to get protein in to your system quickly, such as post-workout.

However, because it is absorbed so fast it's not going to have any sustained release, so it's not ideal for any other time of the day. So whilst anyone can benefit from whey hydrolysate, it's not the best choice if you're only looking to buy one whey protein supplement for general use.

Having said that, although you can buy WPH on it's own you will usually find it in a lot of high-quality whey protein blends like Reflex Instant Whey (usually containing a combination of WPC, WPI and WPH). In that case WPH is a handy addition, rather than it simply being an overly-expensive whey supplement on its own.

A sole WPH supplement is only going to appeal to ultra-specific diets, and even then its benefits are debatable.

Is it worth it?

It's nice to see whey protein hydrolysate there in the list of ingredients in a whey blend, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get a whole bag of hydrolysed whey powder. On it's own it costs a lot more than it's worth.

You don't normally see tubs of WPH on it's own as it's usually in a whey blend. However, you can get a sack of WPH from MyProtein.com. Here's how MyProtein's Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) compares to their Impact Whey Isolate (WPI) and Impact Whey Protein (WPC) supplements.

MyProtein.com whey powders. Nutritional facts are per 100g of powder.
  Hydrolysed Whey Protein (WPH) Impact Whey Isolate (WPI) Impact Whey Protein (WPC)
Protein 85.00g 93.00g 78.67g
Cals/Serving 173 kcal 159 kcal 200 kcal
£/Serving £1.04 £0.72 £0.57

The slightly faster absorption rate may be beneficial post workout, but the advantages are going to be marginal at best. Just like it is with the choice between concentrate or isolate, there are far more important things to worry about – like how hard you train or the total number of grams of protein you're consuming a day.

A note about the taste.

Its rank - Ive mixed with milk, choc milk shake and pineapple juice. Nothing worked. its foul. I cant even drink a full portion.

MyProtein.com customer reviewing their Hydrolysed Whey Protein product.

Hydrolysed whey tastes bitter. Read any review about a pure whey protein hydrolysate powder and they'll tell you how bad the taste is. It's nowhere near as nice as a whey blend that contains WPC and WPI. You won't enjoy taking WPH.

Furthermore, the more hydrolysed the whey is the more bitter the taste. Supplement companies don't usually tell you the degree of hydrolysis unfortunately, but it does mean that in general the worse the taste the better the WPH powder.

Apparently, the degree of hydrolysis for WPH supplements can vary between 5% and 30%. Don't know what that means in relevant terms but I thought I'd throw it in there. Try Googling it for more information.

Useful links.

  • Hydrolysed whey protein guide – A really detailed and helpful guide to WPH without being overwhelming, and it has a clever diagram about types of whey/casein protein too. It's almost as awesome as the article you've just read.
  • Is whey hydrolysate worth it? – Not a ground-breaking forum thread, but it covers the "is it worth the extra money?" question nicely with a range of opinions.
  • The absorption of amino acids – A quick article on how proteins are broken down in to amino acids and polypeptides and then absorbed by the body. More biology than supplement-ology related.
  • Amino acids – A big massive article on amino acids. Not light reading at all. It's a good link if you're really interested in learning about everything to do with amino acids though for whatever reason.