What You Need To Know About Whey Protein Isolate

6 minutes read -
Tifa Ong
Written by
Table of Contents

You’ve probably heard words like, “whey protein isolate is better than whey concentrate”. Yet, some articles are saying protein powders contain contaminants and are not safe to drink.

Chances are, you’re not sure which protein powder to go for. That’s why you’re here.

Fret not, you’ve landed at the right place.

This is where you can get everything you need to know about whey protein isolate, from what whey is to the hidden dangers of protein powders.

What Is Whey Protein Isolate?

Whey protein isolate is 90% pure protein derived from whey protein, making it one of the highest protein foods available. 

It is one of three types of whey protein alongside whey protein concentrate and whey hydrolysate. Each of them is derived from whey but processed with different methods — which we’ll talk about in a second.

Before we get into the three types of whey protein, we’ll address some of the common questions of whey protein that you might have in mind.

1. What is the definition of whey?

Whey is the liquid part of milk that is separated from the solid curds during the process of making cheese and yogurt. 

It makes up 20% of the milk protein, and the remaining 80% is casein.

2. What is whey protein made of?

Whey is a class of protein, consisting of multiple globular proteins such as beta-lactoglobulin, immunoglobulin, enzymes, and others. 

3. Is whey a dairy product?

The short answer is Yes! A food is considered a dairy product if it’s sourced from milk, even if it’s lactose-free. Since whey is extracted from milk, it is considered a dairy product.

If whey is considered a dairy, does this mean it has lactose?

Does whey have lactose?

Yes, unprocessed whey consists of 75% lactose, 12% protein, and 9% minerals. 

Manufacturers can make lactose-free or reduced-lactose whey protein powders by selectively removing lactose through ultrafiltration. 

However, not all whey protein concentrate and whey isolate are 100% lactose-free. 

Be sure to read the ingredient list and labels thoroughly. If you’re unsure, call the manufacturer and confirm the amount of lactose in the milk protein isolate.

What is whey?

The Three Types of Whey Protein

As mentioned earlier, whey protein can be processed differently to produce three products: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate

How are they different? 

Is one better than the other?

Each type of whey has its own unique protein content and uses. It’s like comparing apples, oranges, and grapes. 

Still, it’s highly advisable to consult a professional dietician to determine the type of whey protein you need.

Whey concentrate

  • Derived from whey
  • 35 – 80% of protein by weight
  • Least processed form
  • Processed through ultrafiltration
  • Processing can selectively remove most of the lactose, fat, and minerals.
  • Used in cereal, baked goods, nutrition bars, sports beverages, and supplements

Whey isolate

  • Derived from whey
  • At least 90% of protein by weight
  • Characterized as high-protein, low-fat, low-lactose powder
  • Further processed through ion exchange
  • Processing can selectively remove most of the lactose, fat, and minerals.
  • More expensive than other types of whey protein
  • Used in sauces, cakes, confectionery and isolate powders

Whey hydrolysate

  • Derived from whey
  • Broken down by heating or addition of enzymes (hydrolyzed), and purification
  • Fastest digestion rate
  • Reduced allergens in whey and milk proteins
  • Used for speedy muscle recovery

What Is The Benefit Of Whey Protein Isolate?

What Is The Benefit Of Whey Protein Isolate?

A high-protein diet alone doesn’t help you lose weight effectively. Our bodies will crave for missing nutrients and will drive us to eat compulsively. 

That being said, whey protein does have a range of benefits including weight loss, but it should be consumed regularly for people with specialized diets only.

  1. It promotes muscle growth. Whey is rich in leucine, a potent amino acid that stimulates muscle growth. 
  2. Anti-hypertensive. One of the proteins in whey, beta-lactoglobulin, has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure.
  3. It helps with weight loss. This is because whey protein reduces ghrelin, the “I’m hungry” signal-inducing hormone.

Diets that focus on particular foods may stimulate weight loss but do not meet all the nutritional requirements that human needs. 

So the diet works for a period, until the body screams for the missing nutrients, and triggers cravings. 

— Eric Edmeades, Author Of Mindvalley’s Wildfit Program

When Should I Take Whey Protein Isolate?

Since whey isolate accelerates muscle recovery, some people may think it’s better to take it right after a workout.

Well, take a step back and think about it. 

“Do our bodies work that way?”

According to science, no. 

This study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine didn’t find any significant differences between groups taking whey protein during pre- and post-workout

Another group of researchers led by Brad Jon Schoenfeld found similar results, that the timing of protein consumption had no significant effect on body mass, fat mass, muscle thickness, and strength. 

In other words, timing doesn’t matter when consuming whey protein isolate powder. But, you definitely need to consume it before it expires. 

Does protein powder go bad?


The majority of protein powders have about 2 years of shelf life when stored according to instructions.

If the protein powder has expired or stored incorrectly,  it’ll give out the rancid smell, taste bitter, become yellow or clumped up

It’s best to not consume the protein powder in this condition. 

The Best Whey Protein Isolate

The Best Whey Protein Isolate

At this point, you may feel compelled to give whey protein isolate powder a try. 

Just search on Amazon and you’ll get a list of top 50 whey protein isolate powder, with hundreds of brands, flavors, protein content, BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) and other “marketing gimmicks”. 

With so many options out there, how do you know which whey protein isolate powder is the best for you?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with 3 tips to help you decide the best whey protein isolate.

1. Choose unflavored

Whey isolate protein powder comes with a variety of flavors because it tastes plain without any flavorings and artificial sweeteners.

However, these added flavors come at the cost of your health. Flavorings and artificial sweeteners have no place in our diet because they contribute to weight gain and diabetes. 

So, choose unflavored protein powders and mix them up with smoothies, drinks, and even soups. 

2. Choose the one with the least ingredients

The best whey protein isolate powder has “protein” at the top of the ingredient list, followed by 2-3 ingredients. 

You want to make sure that you’re drinking pure protein powder without other chemicals in it. 

3. Look for “certified for sport” seal

A “certified for sport” seal is provided by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International. It is an independent testing standard and product certification organization strictly for dietary supplements. 

Their seal means the product is safe for consumption and the ingredients are labeled correctly.

Although great whey protein powders help with muscle growth and weight loss, it is not recommended to rely on protein powders entirely. 

That’s because our evolved diet requirements require protein from whole foods.

The more closely a species adhere to their natural evolved diet, the healthier that species will be.

— Eric Edmeades, Author Of Mindvalley’s Wildfit Program

The Hidden Dangers Of Whey Protein Isolate Powder

Dr. Jaime Schehr N.D, R.D, a nutrition expert says, “Protein powder is for people who follow a plant-based diet or those with specialized diet — i.e., fitness professionals, endurance athletes, or those who are in recovery mode.” 

She further adds, “Use protein powder when you’re in a bind, or if it’s an emergency.

Let’s not forget that whey isolate powder needs to be heavily processed to extract protein from the whey. 

Imagine putting a scoop of super-processed food into your gut. 

In your opinion, how would that affect your body?

Besides, most protein powders have artificial sweeteners and sugar to enhance the taste at the cost of your health.

We, as consumers, need to be more conscious of our food choices. What the protein powder industry says may be more than what meets the eye. 

The bottom line is, the closer you are to the human diet, the healthier you become.

Would you choose to consume protein powder? Why? Share your opinions in the comments below!

Recommended Free Masterclass For You

How to Eat Your Way to Your Ideal Weight, Extraordinary Health & a Lifetime of Youthful Vitality

Join nutrition expert Eric Edmeades in this free masterclass as he shares game-changing "food philosophy" knowledge, giving you the tools to regain your wellness & vitalityReserve My Free Spot Now

Tifa Ong

Tifa Ong

Tagged as


Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.