Know Your Whey

Once you commit to exercising and fitness, at some point in time, the issue of supplementation will come up.  At the heart of fitness supplementation is protein.  Of course, that could mean a nutrition bar or a performance bar or any number of drinks or powders- or any combination thereof.  Those powders can be consumed as shakes or mixed into smoothies.  (I’m sure any number of people more creative than I have found other ways to include powders in their diets).  The possibilities seem endless.  Looking at the number of different protein products on the market pretty much confirms it- endless possibilities, endless options.  How does one choose?

There may be lots of considerations, but at the end of the day, I want to feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth.  Having tried all kinds of different products and brands over the years, I can tell you that protein powders are the most cost-effective way to go.   Having decided on powders, you now only have dozens of products from which to choose.  So which whey do you want?  Obviously, flavors are a variable.  You will also have to choose how artificial and synthetic you want your ingredients to be.  Many powders are sweetened with aspartame (absolutely horrible for you), saccharin (bad), Splenda aka sucralose (bad), or stevia (natural).  The most confounding variable, though, is whether to get Concentrate or Isolate.  What is the difference?

There are three key considerations at play when deciding between Concentrate and Isolate: fitness goals, lactose tolerance, and cost.  Basically, Concentrate is a Stage One filtration product while Isolate is a Stage Two filtration product.  Isolate is filtered more and thus is more “pure.”  While Concentrate might be, say, 70-85% protein, Isolate might be 90-98% with less fat and less lactose.  This additional filtration explains why Isolate is more expensive than Concentrate.  With goals in mind, if you are keying on weight loss and counting your carbs, then you probably will want to go with Isolate.  If you have problems digesting dairy products, then Isolate is a better choice.  If you want to spend more money, then Isolate is definitely for you.  Another consideration that favors Isolate is that some studies have shown that Isolate may actually help boost the immune system.

If, however, you are keying on strength gains and muscle growth alone, then you will probably be satisfied with saving some money and going with Concentrate.  “But what about the difference of 70% protein in Concentrate versus 90-98% in Isolate?” is a question you might be asking at this point.  While a lot of marketing materials will make the case that more protein content has to be better than less, there are many fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders who feel that the results are not significant enough to justify paying out the extra money.  Some compromise and opt for a Concentrate/Isolate blend, which is yet another option for you to consider.  As you might imagine, blends are somewhere in the middle on protein content, fat content, lactose content, and price.

Now go out there, and find the whey that is right for you!

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Friday, May 27th, 2011 Fitness & Wellness, Nutrition

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