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What are Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)?
The term Whey Protein Isolate or its acronym WPI refer to the properties that this type of milk protein provides as a protein source to meet the nutritional requirements, especially of very active people, although they are a totally viable option for any nutritional plan.
It is known for providing a high percentage of proteins and for being almost free of unwanted elements, such as carbohydrates (and therefore lactose), fats and cholesterol. They are quick Digestion and Assimilation Proteins.
In addition, they have an excellent amino acid profile, since they are made of Complete Proteins from animal sources, and thus, are not lacking any amino acid. They provide a splendid dose of essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine (BCAA), leucine (BCAA), lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine (BCAA).
They also have high levels of Glutamic Acid, which is a precursor form of the L-glutamine conditionally essential amino acid. Its "conditional" feature is acquired in different circumstances. Even though our body is capable of synthesizing said amino acids in stressful situations, such as periods of high workload, or under a restrictive caloric regime in order to improve the body composition, there will be moments where its production may be compromised. Its external supply through WPI, can be crucial in the maintenance of muscle mass or the strengthening the immune system.
Additionally, Whey Protein Isolate has enough levels of cysteine, the direct precursor form of the best antioxidant of our bodies: Glutathione. Its main function is to reduce the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals. These unwanted 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 that forms 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 point of Whey Protein Isolate is its rich concentration of bioactive peptides, which have significant benefits in strengthening our health, such as enhancing the immune system, improving the transport of iron, and acting as a powerful anti-inflammatory element.
WPI, or Whey Protein Isolate contributes to improve the life quality from a nutritional point of view, since they are needed to complete essential tasks such as improving the composition of the body, providing satiety in the diet, and raising the consumption of amino acids.
Where do Whey Protein Isolates come from?
Whey Protein Isolates are made by extracting the protein fractions from milk during the manufacturing of cheese. At the beginning, it was thought that this was a subproduct of little importance, but through research it was found to be of great use for its enormous potential and beneficial properties for health, as well as its nutritional value.
What are the different types of whey or milk protein?
There are three main types of whey protein isolate:
The first and second type differ from the third in terms of their molecular structure, since WPH is "hydrolyzed", which means that it has large amounts of peptides as a result of the hydrolysis process and which provides a superior absorption rate, since it has been partly "digested" already. Remember, that our bodies absorb protein precisely from peptides (once it has been digested).
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 carbohydrates, fat, lactose, and impurities: WPI < WPC
Ability to stimulate the protein synthesis: WPI > WPC
Methods to obtain Whey Protein Isolate
Once the whey is extracted from the production of the cheese it is subjected to various processes until its powder form reaches the shelves of sports nutrition stores.
Firstly, any trace of cheese and the pasteurisation processes must be removed, after which the fat is removed through a centrifugal separation. The resulting product is then available 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 Protein Isolate (WPI).
The following methods can be used to produce WPI:
Micro and/or ultra-filtration
CFM or cross-flow microfiltration
The main difference between a Filtration process Vs an Ion Exchange lies on the final composition of the protein. In the first case some fractions are not retrieved, resulting in the loss of around one fifth of these important components.
The first method involves a protein separation through an electrical charge and the use of two chemical agents: hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. The pH of the pre-treated whey is adjusted to around 3-3.5 and put into a tank of resin where some of the proteins are absorbed. After removing the partially deproteinised whey from the tank, the desired protein content has its pH restored to a normal level by using sodium hydroxide. The pH of the resulting protein solution is adjusted as desired, it is concentrated (by ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and/or vacuum evaporation) and dried through pulverisation. 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. It is not the best method.
In the second case, 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 left intact. Ultrafiltration is a similar method to microfiltration, but uses smaller pores with increased pressure. Through the use of membrane filters, the unwanted 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 amino acid profile
Heat, high temperatures or chemical agents are not used for the separation of proteins
What is CFM and why is it important?
The CFM technique 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 method 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. Along with the benefits of the filtration process, it also includes:
The highest level of denatured protein, especially the fractions that enhance the immune system
The highest percentage of calcium
The least amount of sodium
Bioactive peptides in Whey Protein Isolates
The 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 Whey Protein Isolate fractions?
Lactoferrin (LF): enhances the absorption of the iron mineral, as well as improving its transportation. It also serves as an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial, which inhibits the growth of many bacteria such as yeast, fungi, parasitic protozoa, E. coli, HIV, herpesvirus and hepatitis C. It can help to stimulate the development of bacterial flora in the intestinal tract, as well as increase bone density.
Glycomacropeptide (GMP): is a peptide from casein with significant antimicrobial properties. It contains large quantities of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which can stimulate the production of cholecystokinin (CCK), a peptide that is released after consuming food, which provides a feeling of satiety. Recent research has found properties that are useful for the treatment of phenylketonuria.
Immunoglobulins (IgG1m IgG2, IgA and IgM): immunoglobulins proved that they have antimicrobial activity and that they can neutralise toxins and viruses. Major investigations are underway to determine the possible application of dairy antibodies for the prevention or treatment of diseases and microbial conditions in human beings.
Alpha-lactalbumin (Alpha-lac) and Beta lactoglobulin (Beta-lac): the alpha fraction represents a 25% of the total whey, while beta is 50%. Alpha provides a very similar aminogram to breast milk, while beta is in charge of the functional properties of whey, such as being water-soluble.
Lactoperoxidase (LP): this enzyme is present in milk and acts as a natural microbial agent with a potential use in dental products to reduce tooth decay. Adding LP to milk can prevent bacterial growth.
What are Whey Protein Isolates used for?
The main task of WPI is to help individuals to complete their Nutritional Requirements in terms of proteins. However, this basic function is more important than what it seems, since it also involves other concepts:
"Building Blocks" Intake: protein consists on amino acid chains which are the linking elements whose properties are used by the body as material for the synthesis of 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: supporting the production of hormones and enzymes, as well organs, skin, hair, nails, and bones.
Stimulation of the synthesis of proteins: apart from providing the necessary elements to build muscle, WPI stimulates the protein synthesis (MPS) due to the presence of the leucine amino acid, one of the BCAAs. The leucine content in a source of protein equals its anabolic capacity. There is a large amount of Leucine in Whey Protein Isolate which put physiological mechanisms in motion for the production of new proteins. This occurs through the activation of the mTOR pathway, which regulates the initiation of a series of complex operations that must take place.
Quick Absorption Rate: this feature is especially important whenever we are looking for a product that can rapidly and effectively supply amino acids to our bloodstream, 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: 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 that lactose-intolerant people can consume.
Properties of Whey Protein Isolate
Helps 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. It is a convenient and efficient way of providing this macronutrient to our diet, and it is available in powder.
Enhances the immune system
As we have seen, the use of whey protein fractions can help to avoid protein breakdown and be useful for the improvement of our health The presence of cysteine, as the main precursor form of glutathione, enhances its antioxidant properties.
Of course, those sportspeople 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 presence of high concentration of amino acids is remarkable, especially BCAAs, with leucine being the most important for the synthesis of proteins.
The benefits of Whey Protein Isolate
Anyone can take advantage of the nutrional support provided by WPI to improve their diet. It incorporates protein and essential nutrients in an easy and comfortable way to consume and which does not cause any stomach problems or allergies, such as lactose intolerance.
For sportspeople, we can also mention other important properties: Physical Performance and Muscle Recovery.
WPI has a high level of BCAAs, which have been investigated as elements helping to dramatically reduce the muscle damage caused by physical activity, as well as general wear and tear. Given that BCAAs are present in around one third of total skeletal muscle, they suffer a greater degree of breakdown when compared to other amino acids. An extra supply will therefore help to reduce 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 can also help to alleviate the overtraining syndrome.
Why consume Whey Protein Isolate?
The reasoning is as follows, and has to do with the fact that it is considered to be the "most optimal protein":
Digestibility: it does not cause any kind of stomach discomfort
Objective: Definition or improvement of the body composition (losing fat and maintaining muscle mass)
Intake of Essential Amino Acids: especially BCAAs and Glutamine
Strengthens the Immune System: Provides protein fractions and Cysteine as a Glutathione precursor.
How to consume and combine Whey Protein Isolate?
WPI can be used at any time of the day when a protein nutritional intake is necessary. However, there are certain times when using whey protein isolate is especially useful, such as:
On an empty stomach
Before and/or after training
The amount of protein recommended for each intake will depend on the goals of each person (objective, type, duration, frequency and intensity of workout) and also on their personal physical characeristics (bodyweight and muscle mass percentage). We will also have to account for the amount of protein that is present in the product, in order to correctly calculate the total daily protein requirements.
Generally, the recommendations range from: 20 to 50 g of Whey Protein Isolate per serving.
WPI can be combined with any type of Sports Nutrition Supplement:
Other Protein Sources to generate a sequential release and take advantage of the different stages of the release of amino acids into the bloodstream, or protein synthesis pulses (MPS). Among these proteins we could use Egg Albumin, Casein
Both share the same high-quality raw ingredients: IP-Glanbia 295 Provon. Evolate is available in two formats, 2 and 4kg, and in 8 incredible flavours. WPI 100% is available in 2 and 4kg bags with a neutral flavour, and it belongs to the HSN Raw line of products.
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