How is Whey Protein produced? What Are The Different Types and Which One Is The Best?
Whey protein is a milk protein and is a dairy product. It is a by-product of the cheese making process.
It is famous for the high amino profile it has, which aids in protein synthesis and muscle formation, making it a top choice among many bodybuilders and fitness experts.
It is an important nutrient for those of us wishing to build or repair muscle tissue and also contributes to the prevention of atrophy of muscular cells.
The curds are used to make cheese, leaving behind whey protein in the liquid portion. This liquid whey is then pasteurized and dried into a powder for various uses.
Interestingly, it has been found that even a small amount of whey protein could be very beneficial, even with as little as 10 grams combined with carbohydrates.
Types of Whey Protein
There are three primary types: whey protein concentrate (WPC), whey protein isolate (WPI), and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH).
Let's look at each of these in turn:
- Whey Protein Concentrates
These have a typically low quantity of fat and cholesterol. In sports nutrition, the most common type is 80 percent protein (often abbreviated as WPC or WPC80).
Now, the rest of the product consists of lactose (4 to 8 percent), fat, minerals, and moisture.
In comparison with the other forms, they have higher levels of bioactive compounds, and carbohydrates in the form of lactose.
They can range from as little as 29% to as much as 89% protein by weight and are mild to slightly milky in taste.
- Whey Protein Isolates
The whey protein isolates are processed to remove the lactose and fat. They are usually lower in bioactive compounds as well.
WP isolate is the purest form of whey with the highest protein content which is 90 to per cent by weight. It is most typically abbreviated WPI or WPI90.
It is an excellent source of protein for people who are lactose intolerant, as it contains little or no lactose.
WPI is also very low in fat. The price of WPI products is usually significantly higher than WPC due to the purity and higher protein content of the product.
Like whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates are usually mild to slightly milky in taste.
- Whey Protein Hydrolysates
The whey protein hydrolysates are whey proteins that are predigested and partially hydrolyzed for the purpose of easy metabolism.
Hydrolyzed whey generally is more expensive than the isolates and concentrates. They have bitter or acidic taste, and must be very soluble in water and other beverages.
It is commonly found in baby formulas and other specialized nutrition products.
However, they are more suitable for individuals with allergies as they may be less allergenic than other forms of whey.
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Native Whey Protein
Native whey protein is a natural whey protein extracted from skimmed milk using membrane technologies at low temperatures (microfiltration and ultrafiltration).
The low temperature process removes casein, fat and lactose to leave only the purest, most biologically active whey protein.
It is not a by-product of cheese production, and may be produced as a concentrate or an isolate.
What else should you know?
This process involved in extracting native whey protein offers the following advantageous characteristics compared to standard whey protein derived from cheese:
- Native Whey Protein is only pasteurized once avoiding unnecessary secondary heat treatments that can denature valuable cystine rich peptides irreversibly.
- Unlike standard whey protein, Native Whey Protein is not a by-product of cheese making process. Therefore is not denatured via the introduction of acids and additional processes during the production of cheese
- It is made in one continuous process and not from sweet dairy that is processed and denatured through secondary pasteurizing.
- Native Whey Protein contains higher in the branched chain amino acid (BCAA’s) L-Leucine, which is scientifically proven to have immense benefits such as, stimulating protein synthesis and repair in the body.
- Native Whey Protein has a cleaner taste, because it’s not derived from cheese production.
Methods used in Whey Production
Some examples of the common processing methods of whey protein include microfiltration and ion exchange.
Microfiltration method uses a technique consisting of fine specialty filters to strain the protein. The filters have microscopic holes that separating contents from whey protein.
- ION Exchange
This is another method utilized to concentrate and purify whey protein. The protein is placed into an ion exchange tower and undergoes a chemical purification process.
Ion exchange whey protein, the process uses both acid and chemicals to produce whey isolates. Although ion exchange whey has a very high protein content of around 90%.
Although, most of the contents are left intact, it lacks a few valuable protein fractions that have unique nutritional qualities.
How Whey Protein Is Made
The whey protein manufacturing undergoes a set of steps.Find below the step by step processes below.
Step 1: Whey protein is a dairy product and it is obtained from cow’s milk. The best cattle farms are chosen and it is ensured that the cattle is healthy and are properly fed.
These cows are milked daily for 1-2 times through automated machines. The milking facility is a part of cattle breeding farms and let me iterate it again that the complete milking process is human-free.
The machines ensure that milking process is bacteria free and is faster and safer.
Step 2: The milk obtained from the cows does have some harmful bacteria present so it has to go through pasteurization. Some of the bacteria residing in milk die when cooled at around 4° C.
Step 3: Tons of cooled milk is then transported in big refrigerated tankers to the nearest cheese processing facility.
Whey protein is the by-product of the cheese manufacturing process. Ideally the cheese manufacturing facility is located nearby the cattle breeding farm.
Step 4: In the cheese processing facility, the milk goes through a process called pasteurization. Pasteurization is the process devised by Louis Pasteur.
Pasteurization ensures that there are no bacteria breeding in the milk. Milk, if not treated, contains some harmful bacteria that can be fatal for human health.
Step 5: Here is where the real action begins. The pasteurized milk is subjected with enzymes to separate whey from casein.
Casein is the dominant product in milk and is used to prepare cottage cheese or other variants of cheese.
On the application of enzymes, milk gets separated into two parts – liquid and solid particles. The solid particles are collected and are processed as cheese. The liquid part is the one which contains whey as well as fats and carbs.
The liquid whey is sent for further purification to remove fats, carbohydrates, water and minerals.
Step 6: This is a rigorous process! Lots of machinery is involved, too. The liquid input from Step 6 is treated to obtain Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC).
The liquid whey is sent to a protein manufacturing plant where it is instantly loaded into a massive web of stainless steel turbines that have special ceramic filters.
The current process separates fats and lactose from the liquid solution eventually producing Whey Protein Liquid.
Step 7: This is the last step in the processing of whey. The whey protein liquid is put into a dryer that has hot as well as cold air to dry out the water and separate the solids from the liquid.
The resultant powder might have around 90% of Whey ratio. The process also ensures that Whey doesn’t lose its nutritional value and the protein doesn’t get denatured.
Which Whey Protein is best?
Ideally, the whey protein that employs the least processing of any whey protein should be considered the best. And native whey seems to fit the bill perfectly.
Suffice to say it is whey protein in its most natural perfect form as nature created it, hence the name Native Whey.
While this is expensive, native whey is superior to normal cheese in every regard.
How can you make homemade whey?
If you find it difficult consuming the right amounts of protein-rich foods, it may be necessary to use supplements such as whey protein since whey protein tends to be absorbed easily and faster and easier than other supplemental forms.
A healthy, well-balanced diet should include protein, which is essential for the building, repairing and maintenance of muscle tissues.
Find below the whey protein supplements that can be conveniently made in your home, provided you have the right ingredients. (See foods rich in WP…)
Purchase milk and milk products such as yogurt, cottage cheese and buttermilk.
Place a small strainer over a small bowl or an empty container. Be sure the bowl is large enough to allow the strainer to hang over the bowl. This is to prevent the curds from preventing the extraction of the whey.
Put a cheesecloth over and into the strainer. If you don't have a cheesecloth, you can find an alternative in a double-lined paper towel.
Pour a container of yogurt over the cloth into the strainer. Cover with a plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least eight hours to set properly.
Take the container out of the fridge the next morning and remove the plastic wrap. You will find a yellow substance which consequently, is the whey protein.
The hardened white substance in the strainer will be similar to cheese and is often referred to as yogurt cheese.
Pour the whey into a container and cover tightly.
If refrigerated, the cheese could stay as long as a month and the whey for about six months.
Whey protein is great for everyone with a variety of health benefits. You can purchase one from any store that sells health supplements or alternatively you can make one that suits your needs.