Which Protein Powders Should I Choose | Concentrate Or Isolate?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all seen that one person at the gym who claims to know it all about protein. And we’ve all asked ourselves which protein powder should I use. It’s time for us mere mortals to fight back with some facts.

So What Are Protein Powders?

Protein powders are dietary supplements that consist of a high percentage of protein. They come in various forms, the three common ones being whey, soy, and casein. From these, you are most likely to have heard of whey protein, which is arguably the most popular of the three. This is mainly because of its strong amino acid content and the ability to be absorbed by the body, making it ideal for building muscle.

Whey protein is also considered to be ‘complete’, that is, containing all nine amino acids required for human dietary needs. Furthermore, many studies show that whey protein can help lose significant amounts of body fat as well as improve strength and gain muscle.

Now That We Know What They Are, Who Uses Them?

Regardless of your individual goals, it is important to get enough protein purely from a health perspective. The recommended daily intake of protein (in grams) for the average adult is considered to be 0.8 multiplied by your weight in kilograms.

However, this can change significantly, for example, those trying to gain muscle mass have to take up to about 1.7g per kilogram. While the daily required intake will vary based on your individual goals, protein powders simply act as a convenient and efficient way to reach that required amount. The important message to take from this is that anyone can take protein powders!

So What Are The Sources Of Protein?

We know how much protein we should be taking. We know what it is. So where do we get it from? Simple. Here are some examples that we can easily consume on a daily basis:

  • Dairy foods: Food items such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are considered to be high sources of protein as well as containing crucial amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
  •  White meat: Chicken and turkey are excellent forms of lean protein, with dark meat containing relatively higher amounts of fat. It is important to remember that most of the fat content comes from the skin, so cooking without the skin is an excellent idea.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, pistachios and cashews are a quick form of consuming protein as a snack or on the go.
  • Seafood: Fish and other types of seafood are good sources of protein, typically being low in fat. Salmon, for example, contains 46% protein as well as heart-healthy omega‐3 fatty acids.

Protein Shake

Types Of Protein Powders

A common mistake that many uninformed people make is that they paint protein powders with one broad brush. It is important to understand the different types as they have varying content of carbohydrates, protein and fats. This information is essential as it is the basis for our selected protein powder in relation to our individual goals. We are going to look at two forms of whey protein, namely whey concentrate and whey isolate and the difference between the two.

What Is Whey Concentrate?

Whey is the liquid portion of the milk that separates from the curd during the process of making cheese. Once you remove water and casein content from this bi‐product, you are left with whey protein concentrate (once it is left behind to dry). The percentage of protein varies from about 30% to about 80% and includes a variety of protein sub-fractions which are known to have health benefits. The predominant reason for whey concentrate being popular is due to it being cheaper compared to whey isolate.

What Is Whey Isolate?

The main difference between whey isolate and whey concentrate is that the former contains a higher percentage of protein (usually about 90%) and a lesser percentage of fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates and lactose. This happens due to it undergoing an additional process known as cross flow micro-filtration, which separates the protein from fats, cholesterol and lactose, resulting in a purer form of protein.

This extra process, resulting in the reduced fat and carbs content is why whey protein isolate is going to cost more.


Comparison Impact Whey Protein Impact Whey Isolate
Kcal (per 25g) 103 93
Fat (per 25g) 1.9 0.1
Carbs (per 25g) 1.0 0.6
Protein (per 25g) 21 23
Number of flavours available 51 22

Take home message

Take Home Message

Choosing between the two is simple as you only really have to look at a few key factors. If you are looking to control your calorie count and reduce carbs intake, whey isolate would be the perfect fit. Another reason why people would choose whey isolate is if they are lactose intolerant, as the extra filtration significantly reduces the lactose content. There is no doubt however that both products will help in muscle development, maintenance and growth.

Shayan Raza

Shayan Raza

Writer and expert

Shayan Raza is a fitness and sport enthusiast who writes about workouts and supplements. He represents his college football team and frequently carries out research regarding various supplements.