Whey protein isolate powders.

List of whey supplements that are made up whey protein isolate as their main source of whey protein.

Product Pro Sources £/Serving Cals/Serving Price
1 Nutrisport Whey Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Isolate
86.00g WPI £0.79 187 kcal £16.99
2 Maximuscle Promax
81.00g WPI, WPH, WP £1.23 198 kcal £59.95
3 Gaspari IntraPro
69.00g WPI £1.00 250 kcal £38.99

Summary: This article explains what whey protein isolate is and if it's worth the extra money compared to whey protein concentrate.

What is whey isolate?

Whey protein isolate is a purer form of whey protein concentrate.

  • Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is the basic type of whey. It contains fat and lactose (milk sugar), and its protein content by weight can range from anywhere between 29% to 89% depending on how much it's filtered.
  • Whey protein isolate (WPI) is essentially whey protein concentrate that has been filtered even further. It contains little or no fat and lactose, and its protein content ranges from 90% to 95% by weight.

Therefore, if you're buying a tub of protein containing only whey protein isolate you should be getting a higher content of protein and fewer calories per 100g (due to there being less fat and lactose). You could think of it as being the premium type of whey.

Whey protein concentrate is manufactured initially through ultrafiltration. You can then get whey protein isolate through further refining processes such as cross-flow microfiltration (CFM) or the ion-exchange process (IE). Here's a quick article on the protein filtration processes.

Who/what is whey isolate best for?

Whey isolate is like an improved version of whey concentrate, so it sounds attractive for anyone looking for a quality source of whey protein. If you want to take a whey supplement then whey isolate is an option for anyone.

However, due to the fact that whey isolate has slightly has no lactose or fat, it's going to be most suited to those that are:

  • Lactose intolerant. There's virtually no lactose in whey isolate, so even those that are very sensitive to lactose shouldn't have a problem.
  • On a very strict diet. The absence of fat and lactose means that it's slightly lower in calories than whey concentrate, which is useful if you're super strict about your daily calorie intake.

Pros and cons.

The best way to highlight the pros and cons of whey protein isolate is to compare it to whey protein concentrate.

  Whey Protein Isolate Whey Protein Concentrate
Protein Higher protein (90% - 95%) Lower protein (29% - 89%)
Calories Lower calorie Higher calorie
Nutrition No lactose or fat Contains lactose and fat
Absorption 30 - 60 mins 60 - 90 mins
Taste Usually tastes worse Usually tastes better
Cost Costs more Costs less

Basically, with whey protein isolate you're paying extra for a more refined source of whey protein. Here are some more specific nutritional facts when comparing a whey concentrate (Impact Whey Protein) and a whey isolate (Impact Whey Isolate) from MyProtein.

MyProtein.com whey powders. Nutritional facts are per 100g of powder.
  Impact Whey Isolate (WPI) Impact Whey Protein (WPC)
Protein 93.00g 78.67g
Calories 370 kcal 393 kcal
Fat 1.00g 7.00g
Carbs 0.67g 6.00g
£/Serving £0.72 £0.57

Is it worth it?

Good question. The answer is between no and maybe.

It's not actually a resounding "yes" like you might think. So far whey isolate looks like the better version of whey concentrate – and it is – but there's not a hugely significant difference between the two.

It's not like whey concentrate is like Lidl's cheap 20p cola and whey isolate is proper Coca Cola. I guess you could think of it as choosing between normal minced beef and super-lean mince beef.

Furthermore, it's not as though a bit of extra fat is a bad thing. You need fat for a balanced diet anyway and the extra calories that come with it in a whey concentrate shake are virtually negligible.

With a strong brand of whey protein concentrate there isn't going to be a big difference between that and an isolate, but there will be a noticeable difference in price. Personally I wouldn't care. I don't think that the extra money is worth it for a minor difference. There are bigger things to worry about like your diet overall and your training. Buying isolate over concentrate is a micro-adjustment.

On the other hand, if you're lactose intolerant or have a lot of disposable income then pure whey isolate powders may be for you. Again, the decision is yours at the end of the day and there's no right or wrong answer.

Where can you find whey protein isolate?

Reflex Instant Whey Contains Whey Concentrate and Isolate Just like the majority of popular whey protein supplements, Reflex Instant Whey is a blend of concentrate and isolate.

90% of tubs of whey protein powder are actually a combination/blend of whey protein concentrate isolate. It's not like you've got "whey concentrate tubs" on one side and "whey isolate tubs" on the other side. It's not clear-cut like that. You can buy powders with just one individual type of whey if you look hard enough, but for the most part you'll find they're combinations of both.

This just goes to show that it isn't a one or the other decision. If you do want just a whey isolate however, you'll have to do a bit of searching. Check on the back of the tub or label and look at the ingredients. The types of protein included will be listed first, so look for one that just has "whey protein isolate" (or one that doesn't contain "whey protein concentrate").

Some whey supplement include isolate in the product name, but that doesn't always mean they're a pure isolate. Dymatize Elite Whey Protein Isolate for example contains both isolate and concentrate.

Useful links and videos.

This video summarizes concentrate vs. isolate nicely. Plus the guy is huge too so he can't possibly be wrong about anything to do with muscles.
  • Facts about whey protein – A bunch of relevant questions and answers about whey protein. How it's made, the different types, what it's best for and all that.
  • Complete guide to whey protein – An excellent all-in-one guide to whey protein. Covers everything around the manufacturing process without being too wordy.
  • Whey Protein Concentrate or Whey Protein Isolate? - Another good article that compares the manufacturing process and nutrition of whey concentrate and whey isolate. The formatting is a bit weird but the information is there.