Back in the day when I first got really interested in nutrition I sat on a couch in the basement of my comfortable suburban home and spent hours each day performing internet research—specifically on topics related to improving my athletic performance and losing weight. As I started strength training, I learned naturally that it was important to eat protein after a workout. I found several articles on bodybuilding.com and T-nation written by people with PhD’s; these articles were quite informative and vital to my education in the formative years of my journey into the study of health.
I remembered one tidbit of information I gleaned from those articles the other day as I tried out this new whey protein my father got me for Christmas: whey protein isolate is better than whey protein concentrate. I hadn’t used whey in several months, but I suggested it to him as a present because the commute to the gym was about 35-45 minutes via public transport, and having some whey could certainly help me increase my recovery after training sessions. After I got home from the gym, it would also take me another half-hour to prepare a meal, at least.
I also learned that the post-workout window is around 45 minutes—last time I checked at least. But there are other theories that your body can last a while without protein, and this mechanism is activated during intermittent fasting: protein sparing it’s called. So I got lackadaisical about my training and decided to take the “fuck it” approach and just eat when I got home. But since my gains in the gym have stagnated, I realized I needed to have a more solid plan. Hence, I told my father that instead of sending me something I don’t want for Christmas, whey protein would be helpful.
Whey Protein Isolate vs. Whey Protein Concentrate
On the blogs I’d read back in the day, I learned that whey protein isolate was better than whey protein concentrate. The concentrate was seen as inferior and less pure. This is why the top selling whey protein products on Amazon, like Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey and Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder use whey protein isolate. It is believed in the bodybuilding community that isolates are better. The language they use sounds fancy too. Here’s a snippet of the product description for Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey:
Whey Protein Isolates (WPI) are the purest form of whey protein that currently exists. WPIs are costly to use, but rate among the best proteins that money can buy.
This is Isopure’s description:
Nature’s Best Zero Carb Isopure contains 50 grams of 100% Ion Exchange Whey Protein Isolate. Any and all impurities typically found in most whey proteins have been removed to provide you with a great tasting, lactose free, fat free, glutamine enriched, state of the art carbohydrate free protein supplement.
Do you realize that the fitness industry is largely influenced by bodybuilders, whose primary objective is to increase the size of their muscles as an art-form? Did you realize that isolating muscles is a large part of bodybuilding?
I don’t know about you, but I feel that this trait of the fitness industry is reflected in the desire to “isolate” and “purify” whey protein. Certainly if you are lactose-intolerant, taking a whey protein isolate may be better for you. But for the rest of us who can handle dairy, whey protein concentrate has other beneficial constituents that may aid with muscle growth and anabolism in general. Before whey protein became a thing, it was made by naturally letting raw milk ferment. After a couple weeks, you would see it completely separate into a clear liquid fraction that sat on top, and a opaque white fraction on the bottom. That fraction on the bottom was whey protein, with some other stuff like beneficial bacteria, and enzymes.
That is a completely different product than whey protein isolate, and is likely much healthier for your body. It’s also less allergenic than milk in general as it’s a product of fermentation. But you’d have to try it to find out. When I used to eat this stuff it went down very smoothly.
You are a consumer
Whey protein isolate can only become popular once people are convinced that it’s better than doing things the old way, where people made cheese and fermented dairy, and had plenty of whey protein lying around as a byproduct. We don’t live in those times anymore and it is certainly one reason why we are confused about health. This is all part of the consumer culture we live in. To stop being confused about health, we just need to understand this, accept it, and look to connect to nature again, and stop isolating everything.
My Favorite Whey
When I tried this new whey protein concentrate, with water alone and nothing else, I could tell it was high quality—not because of individual amino acids, or by scrutinizing the label, but because of a holistic feeling I got when I tasted it. Good food has complex flavors usually. White sugar has just one. But a ripe mulberry during the peak of the season in Maryland has multiple. Similarly, this whey protein has complex flavors, like oregano even.
Aromatic compounds in our foods often permeate our sinus cavities with their aroma. From my experience, good quality food and ingredients always has this effect on me, even if the ingredients used aren’t rich in aromatic terpenes like oregano and other herbs. It’s just a universal feature I’ve noticed.
So when I drank this whey protein in just water after my workout and noticed how amazing it tasted by itself, I felt that the quality must be high. Yes it boasts being from grass-fed cows, but all I care about is my experience with the product. I don’t drink much milk, even if it’s from grass-fed and pasture-raised happy cows, because when I drink milk my throat tends to feel a bit congested and I have to clear it all the time. With this protein, I still have to a tiny tiny bit, but it’s nothing like when I drink milk or eat other inflammatory foods for my body.
The color of this product is also a light-yellow, which is typical for grass-fed dairy products. This is another sign to me that this product is of high quality. I want to see yellow, not white. Good butter is yellow, and cheap butter is white.
Speaking of white, I have some BCAA powder. Whenever I drink that, I notice that I want to spit more. There’s some reaction occurring in my mouth. I don’t notice that with this whey protein. Perhaps my body likes the less processed nature of the product more.
Most whey protein comes in a variety of flavors to increase palatability. If something doesn’t taste good and needs extra flavors for it to be palatable, maybe it’s not the best quality thing to put into our body after all—just a thought. I’m sure whey protein isolates are tolerated well by many people, but in general, isolating the bejesus out of everything can lead to imbalance in some shape or form. I feel better about taking whey protein concentrate that tastes great all by itself. I have more faith that the product is doing good for my body, because I can directly sense via my taste buds the quality of the product.
This is why I will stick to this product and maybe even post some strength gains I make from taking this regularly and actually taking my workout recovery more seriously. If you decide to get this whey protein, I’d love to know what you think. I know there are a variety of grass-fed whey protein products out there, and I haven’t tried them all, but this is certainly the best tasting whey protein I’ve tried before. I prefer getting unflavored ingredients so I can connect to the food more and I’m happy I did with this product. And beyond this, I think I need to start fermenting raw dairy again. That would be nice.
Lastly, if you haven’t read my about page already, I’ll add that I get a small commission whenever you purchase something on Amazon using my links. This helps support my work and my mission.