Are Whey Hydrolysate Proteins All They’re Made Out To Be?

What is Whey Protein Hydrolysate?

Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) is an isolated form of whey protein that has been partially digested. It is bovine derived, so we get it from cows milk the same as whey protein isolate (WPI). In fact, WPH is almost identical to WPI in the sense that it contains approx 90% protein by weight, meaning the fat and lactose content is negligible (around 1%). WPH is however comprised of smaller peptides, with some of the peptide bonds already broken apart meaning the digestion process is easier, potentially increasing the bodies absorptive capacity. WPH undergoes lots of processing (which in the supplement world isn’t necessarily a bad thing) in order to achieve it’s semi- elemental (partially digested) state. The whey protein is treated in acid conditions and high heat in order to isolate the protein. As a result of these purification processes the eventual protein count of Hydrolysed whey is between 90-95%...the same as WPI.

What’s the result of all that processing?

As mentioned above, ‘processing’ where supplements are concerned isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the additional purification steps that take place produces a powder that contains less fat, carbs (lactose), ash and mineral. Yes, a protein powder may actually contain ‘ash’, but rest assured this isn’t the regular crude ash you might get in a fireplace, but rather ash as a result of incineration. If any foodstuff combusts during processing it produces a certain amount of ash, and the rule of thumb is that WPH contains less of this so called ash, increasing the amount of protein per weight.

Taste implications

WPH is distinctly different to regular WPI and WPC when it comes to taste. The extra processing means it generally tastes more bitter compared to other proteins, consequently supplement manufacturers usually only use small amounts of it to increase the protein count but not at the expense of taste and palatability. It is therefore surprising that some companies are now releasing 100% hydrolysed proteins, meaning 100% of the protein used in the supplement is WPH…NOT that the protein is a 100% protein per se.

Should you use a Hydrolysate Protein?

Every protein has it’s pro’s and con’s, and WPH is no exception, so naturally there are a few things to consider if you’re thinking of opting for a WPH over an isolate or concentrate…

Pro’s

  • WPH delivers a higher percentage of protein than WPC
  • WPH is lower in carbs, fat, ash and minerals
  • WPH contains less lactose, meaning it may be suitable for people with lactose intolerance
  • The semi digested state of WPH improves absorption

Con’s

  • WPH is generally more expensive than both a whey concentrate and an isolate
  • WPH can be bitter to the taste
  • WPH is contains less Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) compared to a WPI because of the hydrolysis processes involved in its production
  • The nutrient content of WPH is almost identical to WPI, yet costs more money
  • Some people find the semi digested nature of WPH a too easy to digest, to the point where it causes stomach bloating (although this is rare)

To summarise…

Is WPH a good source of protein…absolutely it is. Is WPH the ‘best’ form of protein for athletes…arguably not, in part because of it’s cost, but mainly because it doesn’t deliver any more protein per gram compared to isolate, nor does it deliver more of the muscle promoting BCAAs (Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine)…in fact it provides less than WPI. Do I feel WPH warrants the inflated price tag…no I don’t, but do I feel that it’s useful as a way to increase the protein count of a WPC supplement…yes I do! So to conclude, should you buy some…it’s entirely your call, but I don’t see any reason to steer away from the trust Whey Protein Isolate.

References

Llewellyn, W. (2009). Sport supplement reference guide. CLA. FL: Molecular Nutrition. a

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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