Before we discuss whey protein isolate, let's look at a quick review of whey protein in general: whey protein is a cheese by-product and is currently the highest quality protein on the market. Of the main types of whey ( isolate, concentrate, blends and hydrolsate) whey isolate is not only the most pure but also the most concentrated form, containing 90% or more protein and very little (if any) fat and sugar. It also has the highest biological value (BV) and the best PDCAAS rating. Let's look at each of these more closely:
The official method for measuring the quality of proteins is the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). This measures the amino acid profile of the protein against what is required by humans and gives a score from 0 to 1. Whey protein isolate scores a perfect 1, meaning it provides all the amino acids required by the body.
The quality of a protein as determined by the PDCAAS is only one aspect of protein ratings. A protein may have all of the amino acids required but this doesn’t mean much if the protein can't be completely absorbed. Biological Value is a percentage score showing how much of the protein is absorbed by the body. Whey protein has a perfect score of 100.
As well, whey protein in general is considered a fast absorbing protein making it ideal for morning use as well as post workout use. The concept of speed of digestion is a newer idea – with this thought process you ideally use different proteins for different needs based on digestion speed. The best example of this approach is to use whey as suggested above but to also add casein protein – a much slower digesting milk protein for those times when you can’t get to regular protein feedings, such as at night when most people sleep anywhere from 6 to 9 hours. This timeframe represents a long period of no calorie intake whatsoever and is in fact a “mini fast”, if you will. The casein protein is helpful while you sleep and the whey is critical when you get up – you need a quick protein (and carb) source to “break the fast” because when you wake up you are in a catabolic state.
So, whey isolate is the highest quality whey protein you can buy.
- Provides the highest quality protein source available to aid in muscle growth or maintenance of muscle while on a fat loss program
- Provides a fast digesting protein source making it ideal for morning or post workout use.
Speed of digestion and proper protein timing is more important than many trainees realize. Many new lifters, especially, do not really grasp the advantages of a high protein intake or the importance of proper protein timing. Understanding that your body is, after water, mainly protein and that it requires protein in it's broken down form – amino acids – to perform literally thousands of daily functions and, some of this required protein must be diet supplied or your body feeds on it's own muscle tissue to provide it, should make it clear that enough properly timed protein evenly spaced through-out the day is important. As I have stated before, protein intake needs to be every 3 hours to maintain a positive protein balance. This concept actually is termed positive or negative nitrogen balance and refers to the nitrogen levels in the body (nitrogen is a major component of protein). It's generally considered that a positive nitrogen balance indicates enough protein for muscle growth and a negative nitrogen balance means too little protein for muscle growth to occur.
One question many people would ask at this point is, how much protein do I need to take in at each meal? It's widely accepted by most modern authorities that 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body-weight is ideal. If you take 1 gram per pound and divide that number by 6, you end up with the grams per meal you should be taking in. You can do the same calculation with whatever level of protein in relation to body weight you plan to ingest. With whey isolate, you are not only providing protein quickly to your body you are providing the highest quality protein available. Many mainstream dieters miss the importance of protein and fail to understand its role in “weight loss”, as is often the term used among the mainstream public. Those that lift weights understand, or should understand, that it's fat loss we want, not weight loss which means muscle and water along with the fat. The role of protein is critical to anyone wanting to lean out for whatever reason as it allows you to hang on to your muscle mass while manipulating calories. Notice I didn't say dieting.
Dieting in the traditional sense does not work, most people who go on a diet go off at which point they go back to old eating habits and gain back the weight they just lost. Bodybuilders, however, will go on well planned, nutritionally sound pre-contest diets to get ready for a contest. These “diets” work because they are based on sound nutritional practices. One of the keys is a high protein intake. Protein not only helps you hang on to your muscle, it's the least likely of any of the macro nutrients to turn into fat if you ingest to much, it also requires more calories to digest than either carbs or fats.
Having already discussed timing and dosage, in this section we'll look at the supplement choices available. Powder is the most common version of isolate whether it's a stand alone product or a formula that contains whey isolate as one of the ingredients. Bars, meal replacements and weight gainers are also popular sources of isolate but when it comes to protein requirements, I do not advocate anything other than a straight protein powder as your main protein product. Bars, mrp's and gainers can all have their place but most users find they just want plain protein powder, which can be doctored to suit different needs as they arise – for example, do you need more calories? Add more ingredients such as fruit, yogurt and so on to up the calorie content. What if you don't want a lot of calories but you do want some carbs? Add a banana or mix the protein into your oatmeal. If you just want protein, you can have just protein. With a powder, you can even make pudding or brownies for some variety.
When choosing a powder, taste and ease of mixing must come into play. You have to drink anywhere from one to several shakes a day, you want one that mixes up easily and might as well choose one that tastes decent. User reviews can be a big help here, as the general consensus of current users can help you decide on the right product. One thing about isolate is that it’s a little pricey, but this is a case where you definitely get what you pay for. Take the time to do some research and, as always, read the labels completely before buying and using!