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What are Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)?

The term Whey Protein Isolate or its acronym WPI makes reference to the properties that this type of dairy protein provides as a protein source to complete the nutritional requirements, especially of very active people, although it is a totally viable option for any nutritional plan.

It is known for supplying a high percentage of proteins and for being low or almost free of undesired elements, such as carbohydrates (and therefore lactose), fats and cholestorol. They are rapid Digestion and Assimilation Proteins.

In addition, they have an excellent amino acid profile, given that they are composed of complete proteins from animal sources, and thus are not limited in 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 to the essential amino acid L-glutamine. The term "conditional" applies to different scenarios. Even though our body is capable of synthesising such amino acids in stressful situations, such as periods of high workload, or under a restrictive calorific regime with body composition improvement goals, there will be moments where its prooduction may be compromised. Its external supply through WPI, can be crucial in the maintenance of muscle mass or strengthening the immune system.

Additionally, whey protein isolate has suffcient levels of cysteine, the direct precursor of the best antioxidant in our bodies: Glutathione. Its main function is to reduce the oxidative damage that free radicals cause. These unwanted molecules are a result of various factors, such as exposure to certain environments (contaminants, excessive sunlight...) or through metabolic processes (metabolic waste...). The effect is amplified in the cellular environment, given that they may attack adjacent cells, spreading this phenomenon to any tissue or organ that in our system. Of course, the organism seeks to reduce this excess of free radicals at all times, but it is always avisable to maintain an optimal state of health through various fortifying mechanisms.

Finally, another highlight of whey protein isolate is its rich concentration of bioactive peptides, which have significant benefits in fortifying our health, such as strengthening the immune system, improving the transport of iron and a powerful anti-inflammatory action.

WPI, or whey protein isolate contributes to an improved quality of life from the nutritional standpoint, as they are needed to complete essential tasks such as improving body composition, satiety in the diet, and raising amino acids consumption.

Where does whey protein isolate come from?

Whey protein isolates are made by extracting extracting subtances from milk during the manufacture of cheese. It was originally thought that this was a byproduct of little importance, but through investigation it was found to be of great use for its enormous potential and beneficial properties for health and likewise for 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 molecular structure, since WPH is "hydrolysed", which means there are large quantity of peptides present as a result of the hydrolysis process and which therefore makes it a protein with a superior absorption rate, as it is partly "digested" already. Remember, that it is precisely from peptides that our bodies absorb protein (once they have been digested).

With regard to the differences between WPC and WPI, they can be summarised 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 protein synthesis: WPI > WPC

Methods for obtaining Whey Protein Isolate

Once the whey is extracted after the production of the cheese it is subjected to various processes until it finally arrives in the powder form that we see on the shelves of sports nutrition stores.

Firstly, any trace of cheese and the pasteurisation processes must be removed, after which the fat is removed by centrifugal separation. The resulting product is then available to be used in products such as WPC (whey protein concentrate or milk whey protein concentrate), or other similar products in accordance with the needs of the final consumers. A vital part of the process will of course be the extraction of the protein isolate itself (WPI).

The following methods can be used for the extraction of WPI:

  • Ion Exchange
  • Micro or ultra-filtration
  • CFM or cross-flow microfiltration

The main difference between filtering versus ionic exchange processes lies in the final composition of the protein, where in the first case some fractions are not retrieved, resulting in the loss of around one fifth of these important components.

In the first method, there is a separation of protein through 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 level returned to normal using sodium hydroxide. The pH of the resulting protein solution is adjusted as desired, concentrated (by ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and/or vacuum evaporation) and dried through pulverisation. Obviously, the use of chemicals will degrade sensitive fractions, glycomacropeptides, inmunoglobinas and alpha-lactalbumin in particular, and some amino acids are also denatured. This loss of active fractions is compensated for by obtaining a higher concentration of beta-lactoglobulin, which tends to be somewhat allergenic. It is not the best method overall.

In the second case, the difference between "Micro and Ultra" has to do with the pore size of the membrane used for 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 former:

  • 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 double or triple those previously mentioned.

This method has been patented by Glanbia (one of the foremost companies worldwide in the treatment of dairy products). The mechanism is similar to that used in micro or ultra-filtration, resulting in a very high percentage of protein, more than 90% in the end 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 those fractions that enhance the immune system
  • The highest percentage of calcium
  • The least amount of sodium

Bioactive peptides in Whey Protein Isolates

Isolated protein is an important source of nutrients in the diet, since it can provide us with high biological value proteins; meaning our bodies are able to absorb a high percentage of them, which is vital for tissue regeneration and other physiological tasks. Another point of interest 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 virtually all of our integrated systems:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Nervous
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Immune

What are Whey Protein Isolate fractions?

  • Lactoferrin (LF): enhances the absorption of the mineral iron, as well as improving its transportation capacity. It also serves as an antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial, inhibiting the growth of a great many bacteria such as yeast, fungi, parasitic protozoa, E. coli, HIV, herpesvirus and hepatitis C. It can help stimulate the development of bacterial flora in the intestinal tract, as well as increasing bone density.
  • Glycomacropeptide (GMP): is a peptide derived 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 food consumption, providing a feeling of satiety. Recent research has shown properties that are useful in the treatment of phenylketonuria.
  • Immunoglobulins (IgG1m IgG2, IgA and IgM): immunoglobulins have shown antimicrobial activity and can neutralise toxins and viruses. Major investigations are underway to determine the possible application of dairy antibodies in the prevention or treatment of diseases and microbial conditions in humans.
  • Alpha-lactalbumin (Alpha-lac) and Beta lactoglobulin (Beta-lac): the alpha fraction represents 25% of the total whey, while beta is 50%. Alpha provides a very similar aminogram to breast milk, while beta is responsible for the functional properties of whey, such as being soluble in water.
  • Lactoperoxidase (LP): this enzyme is present in milk, acting as a natural microbial agent with potential for 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 action of WPI is to help the individual to complete their Nutritional Requirements in terms of proteins. However this basic function can be covered in greater detail, if one considers the following concepts:

  • Provision of "building blocks": protein consists of amino acid chains, and these are the unitary elements whose properties are used by the body as material for the synthesis of new muscle tissue. In addition to providing support for protein structures and a means of exchange for "protein turnover", amino acids take part in other essential tasks within the organism: aiding in the production of hormones and enzymes, as well organs, skin, hair, nails and bones.
  • Stimulating the synthesis of proteins: in addition to providing the necessary elements for the task of muscle building, WPI stimulates protein synthesis (MPS) due to the presence of the amino acid leucine, one of the BCAAs. The leucine content in a source of protein specifies its anabolic capacity. There is a large quantity 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 path, which regulates the initiation of the cascade of complex operations that must take place.
  • Quick absorption: this feature is especially important whenever we are looking for a product that can rapidly and effectively supply amino acids to our blood stream, such as in a catabolic scenario (protein degradation) during training. In this case, we are looking to reverse the situation and to get a positive response from the amino acids that are involved, or put more simply: attain a nitrogen balance.

Quantity of Lactose in Whey Protein Isolate

The amount of lactose present in WPI is practically zero, making it a product that lactose-intolerant people can eat.

Whey Protein Isolate properties

Aids fat loss

WPI helps with weight control in low-calorie fat-loss diets. Thanks to the satiating effect of the protein, it tends to reduce the appetite between meals. Available in powder form, it is a convenient and efficient way of providing this macronutrient in our diet.

Fortifies the immune system

As we have seen, the use of whey protein fractions can help avoid protein degradation and thereby be of use in the improvement of our health The presence of cysteine, as the main of glutathione precursor, elevates antioxidant properties.

Muscle growth

Of course, those sportspeople who have the goal of increasing their muscle mass will be able to benefit from the properties of high-quality whey protein. A workable approach would be to take 2 to 3 shakes daily in order to fulfill the usual requirements of the body. The presence of a high concentration of amino acids is notable, especially BCAAs, with leucine being the most important in the synthesis of proteins

The benefits of Whey Protein Isolate

Anyone can take advantage of the nutrional support offered by WPI to fortify their diet. It incorporates protein and essential nutrients in a form which is easy and comfortable to consume and 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 contains a high level of BCAAs, which have been investigated as elements helping to dramatically reduce 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 therefore suffer from a greater degree of degradation 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 quantity of this amino acid in blood plasma, which is related to regeneration processes and can also help alleviate overtraining syndrome.

Why take Whey Protein Isolate?

The reasoning is as follows, and has to do with the fact that it is considered to be the "most optimum protein":

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Digestibility: it doesn't cause any kind of stomach upset
  • Objective: Definition or improvement of body composition (losing fat and maintaining muscle mass)
  • Provision of Essential Amino Acids: especially BCAAs and glutamine
  • Fortifies the Immune System: Provides protein fractions and cysteine as a gluctathione precursor.

How to take and combine whey protein isolate?

WPI can be taken at any time of the day when a nutritional protein intake is necessary. However at certain times taking a whey protein isolate is of especial interest, such as:

  • On an empty stomach
  • Before or after training

The amount of protein recommended for each dosage will depend on the goals of each person (objective, type, duration, frequency and intensity of training) and also on their personal physical characeristics (bodyweight and percentage of muscle mas). We will also have to account for the amount of protein present in the product, in order to correctly calculate the total daily protein requirements.

In general terms, the recommendations range from: 20 to 50 g of whey protein isolate for each serving.

WPI protein can be combined with any type of Sports Nutrition Supplement:

Where buy Whey Protein Isolates?

At HSNstore.com there is a wide range of Whey Protein Isolates.

Two products are highly recommended for their excellent price/quality ratio:

Both share the same high-quality raw ingredients: IP-Glanbia 295 Provon. Evolate is available in two formats, 2 and 4 kg, and in 8 incredible flavours. WPI 92% is available in 2 and 4kg tubs with a neutral taste, part of the HSN Raw Series range.

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