Building muscle requires some planning. Muscles don't grow on their own - they need the tools to repair and rebuild. Two of those tools are protein, along with proper nutrition to promote muscle growth.
In some form or another, whey protein concentrate is a staple for nearly any athlete. Also known as WPC, it provides enough proteins that can be broken down into essential amino acids that are then used in building and repairing muscle tissue.
On this page, we discuss the concentrate form of whey, and only list products that are pure whey concentrates. You can find mixed whey protein blends, which are more common, are on our whey protein page.
If you're lactose intolerant, we recommend you find a product that has whey protein isolate as the first ingredient or a pure whey protein isolate product.
About whey protein concentrate
Whey protein concentrate comes from cow's milk whey. However it can also be obtained from goat's milk. Whey makes up about 20% percent of milk, while the remaining 80% is casein (another type of milk protein).
Whey itself is typically 20% to 90% protein by weight, the rest is moisture, milk fat, and other solids. This is particularly important because every company the manufactures WPC purifies and prepares whey concentrates differently, which can impact the quality of the whey.
Whey is obtained by allowing milk to curdle using rennet or complex enzymes similar to those found in the stomach. Enzymes in the rennet coagulate or curdle the milk, causing casein to clump together. It's then forced through a cheese filter. Now isolated, the whey is processed and purified, resulting in whey protein concentrate.
While it's useful for muscle building, there are other WPC benefits worth mentioning, especially when compared to soy, casein, and albumin.
|Humans are adapted to whey.||Human breast milk has higher whey content than cow or goat milk. The whey content in human milk is the best milk source for growing babies.|
|Quality whey has considerably less lactose compared to casein.||Lactose intolerance causes gastric problems like bloating or loose bowel movements. Severe hypersensitivity can even cause emergency medical conditions.|
|Whey protein is easier to extract and prepare than albumin protein.||Albumin, which comes from eggs, coagulates easily and turns into hard egg whites, which makes it difficult to extract proteins. Whey is obtained easily when making cheese and casein.|
|Whey protein has fewer impurities than soy protein.||There are some problems with soy protein, especially soybean seed skin. Processed soy contains phytoestrogens, which can interfere with hormones, causing an imbalance.|
|Whey protein concentrate is cheaper than other forms of whey, such as isolate and hydrolysate.||WPC also offers a quick source of protein for muscle growth and maintenance.|
|Whey protein concentrate can also contain complex sugars and milk fat.||These are great energy boosters, especially during workouts.|
Before rushing out to buy a tub of whey concentrate, there are a few things to consider. Whey protein concentrate is less effective than whey protein isolate and whey protein hydrolysate. Percentages are used for identifying WPC protein concentration and purification levels.
Each WPC preparation has its pros and cons.
This is the least pure form of concentration, meaning that it's 30% protein by weight. The remaining is moisture, milk fat, and complex carbohydrates, like lactose. It's the cheapest WPC that is still ideal enough for bodybuilders and athletes on a budget. WPC 30% also provides energy through milk fat and complex carbs.
Unfortunately, the lower percentage also means there's a lower concentration of proteins. This is bad, especially for those who want to increase muscle mass.
Not all athletes and bodybuilders will need extra complex carbs and energy-boosting milk fat because they have other supplements on stack. Lactose is a complex carb that's very high in WPC 30%, which can trigger hypersensitivity and gastric problems.
This is a middle-of-the-road WPC preparation. It provides a relatively modest amount of proteins, milk fat, and complex carbs. But it has the same pros and cons as WPC 30%.
When it comes to quality, WPC 30% and WPC 50% share the same problem. Some unscrupulous manufacturers add cheap amino acids, such as taurine and glycine, to cheat dietary protein numbers. Glycine is a non-essential amino acid and taurine is barely an amino acid because it doesn't have a carboxyl group. Both are easily synthesized by the body.
Purer than the first two, and certainly a bit more expensive, WPC 80% is ideal for those who want a relatively cheap source of protein with lower lactose levels.
Due to its higher amino acid content, companies don't add fillers like taurine and glycine, which makes WPC 80% the best among the three.
Whey protein blend
Don't be fooled by marketing terms. Whey protein blends are just a cheaper combination of a whey protein concentrate (usually 30%) and whey protein isolate supplement with higher protein content.
If your product doesn't state exactly what type of whey concentrate it contains, you should question the quality.
WPC 80% is ideal for those who want a relatively cheap source of protein with lower lactose levels.
It's impossible to give dosage recommendations without knowing your dietary habits and athletic goals. Typically, whey shakes, containing 25g to 40g of WPC per shake, are used post workout and as a snack.
It's important to note that you your main source of protein should always come from a healthy diet, not protein supplements.
Whey protein concentrates carry almost the same benefits and side effects as milk. The level of lactose in WPC can trigger lactose hypersensitivity or intolerance, which can be irritating. If you are lactose intolerant, consider buying whey protein isolate or whey protein hydrolysate instead.
The presence of fillers can also be a problematic for some people. Companies that claim to "upgrade" their protein concentrate often add unwanted fillers that can be useless and/or harmful.
Whey protein supplements do not cause kidney problems. Several studies have confirmed this. They're only dangerous if you have an existing kidney problem.
WPC buying guide
Whey protein concentrate can be an important supplement for your stack, especially if you are using a reliable brand. Here's a quick recap:
- WPC 80% is better than 50% and 30%
- Look at the label for whey protein blend differentiation or content
- Avoid taurine and glycine-boosted WPC
- If you're lactose intolerant, choose the highest purified whey concentrate (or switch to isolate and hydrolysate)
One of our favorite whey concentrate products is MTS Nutrition Machine Whey. This product, a highly rated combination of taste, value, and quality is formulated by professional bodybuilder Marc Lobliner.
Supplements can only help you so much. Success still depends on dedication to your nutritional plan, workout regimen, and, of course, the best whey protein concentrates.
For added safety, before choosing your WPC, talk with your doctor about your health, possible prescription drug interactions, and metabolic problems.
- Ohio State University; "Whey Protein Concentrate;" 1993
- Morr CV, Ha EY.; Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition; "Whey protein concentrates and isolates: processing and functional properties;" 1993
- Liener IE, Pallansch MJ.; The Journal of Biological Chemistry; "Purification of a toxic substance from defatted soy bean flour;" May 1952
- Tang JE, et. al.; Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism; "Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in traine d young men;" December 2007
- Poortmans JR, Dellalieux O.; International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism; "Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes? Dietary protein intake and renal function;" March 2000