Whey Protein Isolate vs Concentrate: Which Should You Buy?

Grace Gavilanes

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Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, there’s a very high chance you either know of or regularly supplement with a quality protein powder. 


Whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate are two of the most popular offerings. Despite their similar names, these products feature many differences.


While both are known to support muscle mass and satiety, someone looking for a high-protein powder to boost athletic performance may want to reach for whey protein isolate. On the other hand, someone who is looking for a more cost-effective protein supplement that supports muscle recovery may want to reach for its counterpart: whey protein concentrate. 


Let’s take a closer look at the nuances between whey protein concentrate and isolate—from their surprising taste and texture to their specific nutrient content. Keep reading for a deep dive, and learn which whey protein is best for you and your goals.

Whey Protein Concentrate Overview

Whey protein concentrate undergoes the least amount of processing. This leads to the final product having carbs and fats in addition to protein, as well as more calories. Concentrate is the 10-20% of protein that remains after whey protein is processed for the last time. 


Due to its minimal processing, concentrate is usually more cost-effective than isolate.

Whey Protein Isolate Overview

Whey protein isolate is the product of raw whey that undergoes multiple processing to garner a powdered protein-rich product, at around 80% of protein. It prioritizes this macronutrient over fat and carbs. 


Because isolate consists of a single source—rather than a blend of protein sources, which is often associated with concentrate—it is digested and absorbed faster.

Key Differences: Whey Protein Isolate vs Concentrate

Here’s the quick overview of how these two types of protein powders differ, which we’ll cover in more detail below:

Whey Isolate vs Concentrate Table

Protein Content


Whey protein isolate contains more protein per serving than whey protein concentrate. This discrepancy has everything to do with how each type of whey is processed. 


While isolate and concentrate both originate from cow’s milk—specifically the liquid that separates during cheesemaking—the majority of what comprises isolate is protein. Isolate undergoes additional filtering processes, such as cold and micro-processing filtration, to increase its protein content. On the flip side, concentrate contains all macronutrients—carbohydrates, fats, and protein.


Essential Amino Acids and BCAAs


Whey protein—including isolate and concentrate—is a complete protein. This means they contain all nine essential amino acids needed to carry out key tasks, like supporting muscle mass and strength. 


Wondering if you should add BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids, known to stimulate the building of protein in muscle) to your wellness routine? You can, but it’s not necessary. Since isolate and concentrate are complete protein sources, they already contain these essential nutrients.


Lactose Content


As dairy products, both isolate and concentrate contain some lactose. However, isolate contains less lactose than its counterpart because isolate undergoes a multi-step filtering process to enhance its protein content. Both are said to go easy on digestion, and are generally well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. 


Protein Density and Calories


Protein is the notable nutrient in whey protein isolate, which provides you with more protein per scoop. It also generally boasts fewer calories overall, which is due to the decreased levels of fats and carbs. 


Whey protein concentrate typically features less protein per scoop for the opposite reason: It boasts more carbs and fats than isolate does. These two macronutrients are also responsible for a slightly higher calorie count.


Taste and Mixability 


While concentrate is creamier in texture (thanks to its fat content) and more naturally milky in flavor, isolate is more soluble (mixes better) and has a lighter milky taste.


Cost


Whey protein isolate typically costs more than whey protein concentrate because isolate undergoes more processing to reach its final state: a high-protein powder that has less carb and fat content when compared to concentrate.

How Concentrate and Isolate Are Similar

As previously mentioned, isolate and concentrate are both derived from cow’s milk. Whey is the liquid part that separates during cheese production. It’s also the liquid that sits on the surface of a freshly opened cup of yogurt cup. 


Isolate and concentrate are both considered complete protein sources, and contain nine essential amino acids as well as BCAAs, which aids muscle growth and recovery. Isolate and concentrate are both found to be effective in age-related muscle loss.


Additionally, they’re both also low in lactose, making both generally tolerable options for those with lactose sensitivities. And when it comes to usage, the whey protein offerings are both versatile. Simply add your preferred whey protein powder to your smoothie, shake, or dessert recipe to increase your daily protein intake.

How to Choose The Right Option for You

When choosing your ideal whey protein, there are several factors to consider. Most importantly, get aligned with your health and fitness goals: 


  • If you’re looking for a whey protein source that offers more protein per serving and less lactose, you’ll likely prefer whey protein isolate.

  • If you’re being more mindful when it comes to spending, whey protein concentrate will likely be your best bet. 


Another vital component of any supplement search? Learning whether or not a product you had your eye on is independently tested and verified. When a product is third-party tested, this means it receives an unbiased review of its contents and undergoes rigorous testing to ensure each formula is safe, effective, and reliable. 


The same goes for certifications. If your chosen product is fully NSF- and Informed Sport-certified, you can rest assured that it’s safe and that the company adheres to strict testing and inspection standards.


In the case of Momentous Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate, this best seller supports muscle growth and strength, accelerates recovery when taken post-exercise, helps to strengthen your immune system, and promotes overall well-being. It also features ProHydrolase, a highly effective blend of protease enzymes designed to quickly and efficiently break down protein into its most bio-usable form. 


Momentous also stands out for its commitment to transparency, courtesy of third-party testing and sought-after certifications (both NSF and Informed Sport Certified) that ensure every one of the products is as safe and effective as can be. 

Grace Gavilanes

Grace Gavilanes

Grace Gavilanes is a writer-editor with over 10 years of experience in the wellness and lifestyle space. Her writing has been published in People, Well + Good, Glamour, Food & Wine, and more.