Whey Protein Isolate
The term Whey Protein Isolate or its acronym WPI refers to the properties that this type of milk protein has as a protein source that can be used to meet the nutritional requirements of particularly active people, although they can be a great addition to any diet.
It is known for providing a high percentage of proteins and for being almost free of undesirable elements, such as carbs (and consequently lactose), fats, and cholesterol. It is a fast Digestion and Assimilation Source of Proteins.
In addition, it has an excellent aminogram, since it is made of Complete Proteins from animal sources, which means that it does not lack any amino acid. It provides an excellent dose of essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine (BCAA), leucine (BCAA), lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine (BCAA).
It also has a high percentage of Glutamic Acid, which is a precursor form of the conditionally essential L-glutamine amino acid. Its "conditional" feature surfaces in different circumstances. Because, even though our body is capable of synthesizing this amino acid, there will be times when its production can be compromised, like stressful situations, such as periods of high workload, or under a restrictive caloric regime in order to improve our physical composition. Its external supply through WPI can be crucial for the maintenance of muscle mass or strengthening the immune system.
Table of contents
- What is Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)?
- How is Whey Protein Isolate made?
- What are the different types of Whey?
- Methods to obtain Whey Protein Isolate
- What is CFM and why is it important?
- Bioactive peptides in Whey Protein Isolate
- What are Whey Protein Isolate fractions?
- What are the functions of Whey Protein Isolate?
- Amount of Lactose in Whey Protein Isolate
- Properties of Whey Protein Isolate
- The benefits of Whey Protein Isolate
- Why should we use Whey Protein Isolate?
- How to consume and combine Whey Protein Isolate?
Additionally, Whey Protein Isolate provides adequate levels of cysteine which is the direct precursor form of the best antioxidant of our body: Glutathione. Its main function is to reduce the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals. These harmful 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 from 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 feature of Whey Protein Isolate is its rich concentration of bioactive peptides, which provide significant benefits to strengthen our health, such as enhancing the immune system, improving the transport of iron, and working as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
WPI, or Whey Protein Isolate contributes to improving the quality of life from a nutritional point of view, since proteins are necessary to perform essential tasks such as improving the body composition, providing satiety, and increasing the consumption of amino acids.
Whey Protein is made by extracting the protein fractions from milk during the manufacturing of cheese. At the beginning, it was thought that this was a byproduct without relevance, but thanks to research it was discovered that it has an enormous potential and beneficial properties for health, as well as excellent nutritional value.
There are three main types of Whey:
The first and second type differ from the third in terms of their molecular structure, since WPH is "hydrolyzed", which means that it has more peptides as a result of the hydrolysis process which will result in a faster absorption rate, since it has been partly "digested" already. Let's not forget that our bodies absorb proteins precisely from peptides (once the digestion has taken place).
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 carbs, fat, lactose, and impurities: WPI < WPC
- Ability to stimulate protein synthesis: WPI > WPC
Once the whey is extracted through the production of the cheese, it is subjected to several processes until its powder form reaches the shelves of sport nutrition stores.
Firstly, any trace of cheese and pasteurization must be removed and then, the fat is removed through a centrifugal separation process. The resulting product is ready 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 Whey Protein Isolate (WPI).
The following methods can be used to produce WPI:
- Ion Exchange
- Micro and/or ultra-filtration
- CFM or cross-flow microfiltration
The main difference between Filtration and Ion Exchange lies on the final composition of the protein. In the first case some fractions are not retrieved, which results in the loss of approximately one fifth of these important components.
The first method involves a protein separation through an electrical charge and two chemical agents: hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. The pH of the pre-treated whey is adjusted to around 3-3.5 and it is put in a resin tank where some of the proteins are absorbed. After removing the partially deproteinized whey from the tank, the protein content has its pH restored to a normal level by using sodium hydroxide. The pH of the resulting protein solution is adjusted, concentrated (by ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and/or vacuum evaporation) and dried through pulverization. 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 element. It is not the best method.
In the second method, 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 intact. Ultrafiltration is a similar method to microfiltration, but it uses smaller pores and an increased pressure. Through the use of membrane filters, the undesired 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 aminogram
- Heat, high temperatures or chemical agents are not used to separate the proteins
CFM 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. Apart from the benefits of the filtration process, it also includes:
- The highest level of denatured protein, specially the fractions that enhance the immune system
- The highest percentage of calcium
- The lowest amount of sodium
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:
- Lactoferrin (LF): enhances the absorption of iron, apart from improving its transportation. It also serves as an anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial agent 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 increasing bone density.
- Glycomacropeptide (GMP): is a peptide from casein with remarkable anti-microbial properties. It has a high percentage 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 also found some properties that are useful for the treatment of phenylketonuria.
- Immunoglobulins (IgG1m IgG2, IgA and IgM): immunoglobulins have an anti-microbial activity and they can neutralize toxins and viruses. Major research is underway to determine the possible use 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 whey, while beta is a 50%. Alpha provides a very similar aminogram to breast milk, while beta is responsible for 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.
The main task of WPI is to help individuals to meet their Nutritional Requirements of proteins. However, this basic function is more important than what it seems, since it also involves other issues:
- "Building Blocks": protein consists on amino acid chains which are the elements that are used by the body to synthesize 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 like: supporting the production of hormones and enzymes, as well organs, skin, hair, nails, and bones.
- Stimulation of protein synthesis: apart from providing the necessary elements to build muscle, WPI stimulates in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) due to the presence of the leucine amino acid, one of the BCAAs. The leucine content of a protein source equals its anabolic capacity. There is a lot of Leucine in Whey Protein Isolate which sets the physiological mechanisms in motion to produce new proteins. This occurs through the activation of the mTOR pathway, which regulates the signaling of a series of complex operations that must take place.
- Fast Absorption Rate: this feature is specially important if we are looking for a product that will effectively supply amino acids to our bloodstream quickly, 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: to reach a nitrogen balance.
The amount of lactose present in WPI is practically zero, and it is a product suitable for lactose-intolerant people.
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. The powder format is a versatile and effective way of adding this macronutrient to our diet.
As we have seen, the use of whey protein fractions can help to avoid protein breakdown and be useful to improve our health The presence of cysteine, which is the main precursor form of glutathione, enhances its antioxidant properties.
Of course, those 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 high concentration of amino acids is remarkable, specially BCAAs, with leucine being the most important for the synthesis of proteins.
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 it does not cause any stomach problems or allergies, like lactose intolerance.
We can also mention other important benefits for sportspeople: Physical Performance and Muscle Recovery.
WPI has a high percentage of BCAAs which have been studied as elements that help to reduce the muscle damage caused by physical activity dramatically, as well as physical wear and tear overall. Given that BCAAs are present in around one third of the skeletal muscle, they suffer a greater degree of breakdown when compared to other amino acids. Therefore, an extra supply will help to shorten 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 it can also help to relieve the overtraining syndrome.
The reason is simple and it has to do with the following conclusions and the fact that it is regarded as the "most optimal protein":
- Lactose intolerance
- Digestibility: it does not cause any kind of stomach discomfort
- Objective: Definition or improvement of the body composition (losing fat and preserving muscle mass)
- Supply of Essential Amino Acids: specially BCAAs and Glutamine
- Strengthened Immune System: it provides protein fractions and Cysteine which is a precursor of Glutathione
WPI can be used at any time of the day whenever we need a supply of proteins. However, there are certain times when it will be quite useful to use whey protein isolate, such as:
- On an empty stomach
- Before and/or after the workout
The amount of protein advised for each serving will depend on the goals of each person (objective, type, duration, frequency and intensity of workout) and also on their personal physical characeristics (weight and muscle mass percentage). We will also have to account for the amount of protein that is present in the product, in order to measure the total daily protein requirements properly.
Generally, the recommended dose moves between: 20 to 50 g of Whey Protein Isolate per serving.
WPI can be combined with any type of Sport Nutrition Supplement:
- Other Protein Sources to create a sequential release formula and take advantage of the different stages of the amino acids discharge into the bloodstream, or protein synthesis pulses (MPS). Some of the proteins that we could use are Egg Albumin or Casein
- Amino acids, such as BCAAs and Glutamine
- Carbohydrates, like Amylopectin
- Sport Performance enhancers, such as Creatine and/or Caffeine
- Nitric Oxide precursors, like Arginine and/or Citrulline Malate
- Hormone optimizers, such as Aspartic Acid
- Essential fatty acids, such as CLA and Omega-3