Whey Protein Isolate vs Concentrate: What is the difference?

For those familiar with the supplement industry, and protein powder supplementation more specifically, you’ve likely heard of Whey. If you haven’t, sorry to inform you but you’ve been living under a rock!

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    Jokes aside, whey protein powder is the most common, most popular, and most effective protein source on the market, and for reasons that we’ll discuss throughout this article, should be a welcomed addition to your daily supplement stack if it isn’t already.

    With that said, if you have been on the hunt for a quality whey protein supplement, you’ve likely come across two types of whey products: whey protein isolate, and whey protein concentrate.

    What are the differences? What does each mean? Is one better than the other, or are they just the same product, just manufactured differently? These are all valid questions, and they’re questions that will be answered throughout this article.

    The debate between which version of whey is best has been longstanding, however, today we plan to settle the score. But first, what is whey? Where does it come from? How is it made? And why is it so beneficial?

    Let’s get into it!

    What is Whey Protein?

    Derived from the milk of cows (or bovines), this protein-abundant powdered supplement is the most popular protein powder supplement on the market today, and for good reason.

    So, how is it made? In short, whey protein is a derivative of the making of cheese. Through a separation process dividing the liquid from the cheese curds, followed by a draining process that separates whey from the rest of the liquid. The final product, then, is whey protein!

    Because this process is multi-faceted, however, the result is the creation of two different variants of whey: isolate and concentrate.

    What’s the difference, you ask? While they are both similar in a number of ways, they also both differ nutritionally in several ways…

    Whey Protein Concentrate

    As mentioned above, both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate are a byproduct of the multi-step manufacturing process of whey as a whole. Whey concentrate, in particular, is the byproduct of the drying process of liquid whey once it has reached approximately 80% protein.

    Whey concentrate also contains carbohydrates, fats, and lactose, though in different amounts than the isolate variant.

    While whey protein concentrate is still a great protein source (after all, it’s still a derivative of the whey family), and it’s largely the more popular option on the market, this isn’t necessarily because of the quality.

    Instead, it’s primarily because of the lower cost, both to manufacture, and to purchase.

    Whey Protein Isolate

    Do you remember when we mentioned how concentrate is formed once liquid whey reaches 80% protein in the manufacturing process? Well, in order to develop the isolate variant of whey, further processing is required to reach an even higher ratio of protein.

    This, in short, is the primary differentiator between whey concentrate and whey isolate.

    Because of this additional filtration process, isolate contains fewer carbohydrates, fats, and lactose than whey concentrate and much higher protein contents than concentrate.

    Moreover, isolate is also thought to be a cleaner form of concentrate because of the additional processes that it undergoes. Among other things, this is thought to reduce the risk of heavy metal contamination.

    Benefits of Whey Protein

    At its most basic, without adequate protein intake, and high-quality protein at that, the human body lacks the ability to function at its optimal capacity. As we continue to emphasize time and time again, protein is the building blocks of our bodies, and without it, we’re simply shells of our potential.

    With that being said, if you’re seeking to consume adequate amounts of the highest quality of protein sources, whey protein is what you’re looking for. Not only is it incredible for building muscle and repairing damaged muscle tissue, but it’s great for our immune systems, promotes cell recovery, and acts as an appetite suppressant for those seeking weight loss as their primary goal.

    As you can tell, whey protein is highly beneficial, and it’s the reason so many, elite athletes and regular joe’s and Jane’s alike supplement with it.

    Below are the most common benefits of supplementing with whey protein powder:

    • Increases ROI During Exercise & Resistance Training
    • Improves Muscle Growth & Repair
    • Supports Weight Loss & Fat Loss
    • Speeds Up the Recovery Process After Rigorous Exercise

    Additional benefits not related to direct health and fitness performance results include:

    • Superior Source of Essential & Non-Essential Amino Acids
    • Complete High-Quality Protein Source
    • Reliable Source of Glutamine
    • Digestible and Highly Absorbable
    • Tastes Great!

    Now that you’re aware of the vast benefits that whey protein provides, you may be wondering whether or not there’s a distinct difference between the benefits from whey protein isolate and the benefits from whey protein concentrate…

    Is There a Difference in Benefits Between Isolate & Concentrate?

    While there are some potential subtle differences in benefits between the two, much more research on the matter needs to be done before conclusively stating any factual differences.

    Nevertheless, because isolate contains a higher protein ratio, with less fat, carbs, and calories to boot, you’re likely going to notice greater progress by supplementing with isolate than you are with concentrate.

    Note that these subtle differences, if any, are only going to be noticed in the long-term use of both. In any case, both whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate are solid options for those looking for high-quality protein powder supplementation sources.

    Summary of the Key Concentrate & Isolate Differences

    While the main distinctions between whey protein isolate and concentrate have already been discussed, in this section, you’ll be able to easily compare key differences of both in a streamlined, efficient manner.

    Following, we’ll provide you with a final verdict on this long-lasting debate… 


    23 GRAMS PER

    (90% by volume)

    18 GRAMS PER

    (80% by volume)



    (higher profit margins)


    As you can see, isolate contains a greater overall nutritional profile than its predecessor, concentrate. Not only does it contain fewer fats, carbs, and sugar, but it also contains minimal lactose (great for those with lactose intolerance), higher protein, and fewer calories.

    Wrapping Up

    All in all, both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate are effective and highly beneficial forms of whey protein. Although they undergo similar but different processes, it’s not yet conclusive whether or not one offers greater benefits than the other.

    To the average consumer, concentrate is likely going to be the more popular option. Not only does it provide similar benefits to that of isolate, but it’s also cheaper, both for the consumer and the company distributing it. From an economic perspective, companies are likely to market concentrate more than isolate because of the greater potential profit margin upon sale.

    This, however, does not depict the quality of concentrate in comparison to isolate.

    Lastly, based on the nutritional profile and nutritional profile alone, there’s no doubt that isolate provides greater value for your health. Not only does it contain less fat and carbohydrates, but it contains no sugar, no lactose, and is higher in protein and amino acids.

    In short, no matter what variant of whey protein you choose, you’re getting a high-quality source that can help you achieve and surpass your health and fitness goals.

    About The Author

    Michael Collins

    Michael Collins

    Michael is a gym enthusiast with experience that spans more than 20 years. He started his exhilarating journey of keeping fit in his late teens, and over the years, he has immensely grown to become a resourceful gem in matters of fitness.

    He has been writing for many years, focusing on answering all the questions you may have on nutrition, muscle building and fitness. Keeping fit and staying healthy is his main passion, and this is evidenced in the articles he writes in a simple and understandable language out of intensive reading and real-life experiences.