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Muscle Up The Smart Way: Your Expert Guide To Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Muscle Up The Smart Way: Your Expert Guide To Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Most of you know that whey protein is the way to go for building muscle, but what exactly is whey hydrolysate?

If number of syllables translated into number of pounds of lean mass gained, hydrolysate would win the supplement game hands down. But that's the thing: Does that addition to the "whey protein" phrase actually mean anything, or is it just a bunch of fancy-sounding bro-science, designed to make you cough up few more bucks each month?

Good questions. I've got the answers, and more. Today's lesson concerns whey hydrolysate, a hot-topic product in the muscle-building world.

What Is Whey Protein Hydrolysate?

Milk is composed of two major protein types: whey and casein. In human milk, whey makes up approximately 90% of the protein during early lactation and then it levels-out to about a 60:40 and 50:50 ratio of whey-to-casein in mature and late lactation, respectively. Contrast that with cow's milk, which contains only 20% of its protein from whey, with the remaining 80% coming from casein.

The emphasis of whey protein in human milk speaks to its role in supporting rapid development and a strong immune system, and the abundance of casein protein in cow's milk seems to explain the great majority of the allergies associated with consuming dairy.

After cow's milk is pasteurized and other processing takes place, the whey and casein can be separated by several means. Sweet whey, which only contains about 30-to-40% of its contents as protein, is the most basic form of food-grade whey. The remaining 60-to-70% of sweet whey is predominantly lactose sugar and fat. Filtration and other purification processes concentrate the whey to provide higher amounts of protein and yield fewer carbs and fat. These are called whey protein concentrates. A whey that's 90% or higher in total protein is referred to as a whey protein isolate.

Regardless of the level of concentrate or isolate, all of these forms of whey are still composed of extremely large peptide structures. To reduce their size, enzymes in your digestive system have to break the bonds between select amino acid sequences to yield smaller peptides that your body can actually use. To speed up that process, whey manufacturers can "pre-digest" the protein to create whey protein hydrolysate.

A hydrolysate can be created from sweet whey all the way up to isolates. Also, the enzymes and reaction conditions used - as well as the number of available bonds that are broken - dictate the final composition of the hydrolysate. The greater the degree of hydrolysis, the smaller the number of amino acids per peptide ... and the more bitter-tasting the resulting protein. So hydrolysates can vary a lot more than concentrates or isolates.

Who's It For, Anyway?

Whey hydrolysate is great for anyone looking for a high-quality protein source capable of helping them achieve their total daily protein goals and maximize muscle growth. Additionally, because of its significant effects on insulin and satiety, a hydrolysate is a great protein source for post-workout supplements or anyone looking to increase muscle mass while reducing body fat.

What Does It Do?

Whey protein is ideal for stimulating muscle growth. It has been demonstrated to provide the greatest anabolic response to weight training. Whey has been shown to elicit up to a 122% and 31% greater muscle protein synthesis response to exercise than casein or soy, respectively.

Whey contains 30-to-50% more of the amino acid leucine, the essential and branched chain amino acid responsible for stimulating muscle-protein synthesis. It's "bioavailable" and rapidly-digested, spiking blood amino acid levels after consumption. The faster the rise in blood amino acids, the greater the peak and total muscle protein synthesis response. In that regard, whey offers the most bang for your protein buck.

Additionally, whey protein has been demonstrated to improve exercise recovery and immune function, as well as increase thermogenesis, improve fat loss, and reduce hunger. So not only is whey great for muscle building, it's also a powerful fat-fighting fuel! Whey protein hydrolysate has been suggested to augment the beneficial effects of whey protein due to its ability to increase plasma amino acid levels faster, and to a greater peak concentration than normal whey. Although studies in humans have not shown these differences to reach statistical significance, the blood amino acid response to hydrolysate versus whey seem promising. My dissertation work revealed that people consuming 30 grams of hydrolysate twice per day significantly increased muscle mass and reduced body fat without significantly affecting total body weight.

Sounds Awesome So Far ... Are There Any Downsides?

Paradoxically, while the rapid spike in blood amino acids from hydrolysate is beneficial for stimulating protein synthesis, it also increases amino acid oxidation - that is, the breakdown of amino acids for energy.

Some people consider this increased oxidation a waste of amino acids, but that's a simplistic view of protein metabolism. Just because these amino acids are used for energy, rather than stored, doesn't mean they're "wasted." Whey is still more anabolic when compared to other protein sources that don't cause such a large increase in amino acid oxidation. If you think that's a downside, I've got some beachfront property in Utah you might be interested in.

Another potential downside - if you want to call it that - is that whey protein hydrolysate generally costs significantly more than normal whey protein. The greater the degree of hydrolysate, the greater the cost will be. Hey, you get what you pay for. As a customer, you have to "whey" the potential benefits against the increased cost.

How Much Why Protein Hydrolysate Should I Take?

Depends on your body weight, total protein intake, and whether you consume it alone or with other protein sources. Since whey hydrolysate is rich in leucine, you don't need as much of it to maximize muscle growth as you would from other protein sources. For example, for a 200-pound male looking to increase muscle mass, I'd recommend 25-to-35 grams of whey hydrolysate immediately post-workout or in place of your current protein supplement. Achieving that same effect with chicken breast might take 45 grams.

When Should I Take This?

Whey hydrolysate can be consumed any time of the day, but many people take whey hydrolysate both pre- and post-workout.

Consuming whey pre-workout ensures that an adequate supply of amino acids will be present in the bloodstream during the workout. Might it upset your stomach? Unlikely. Whey hydrolysate is easily-digested and gut-friendly.

Consuming it post-workout allows you to jumpstart recovery by maximizing the anabolic response to exercise and increasing protein synthesis. Research shows that whey hydrolysate can augment the growth response to weight-training sessions, reduce body fat and recovery time, and reduce muscle soreness.

How To Choose A Product?

I recommend looking for a product that contains an extensively hydrolyzed whey protein, of at least a 15-degree of hydrolysis. My study used a 32-degree derived from an 80% whey protein concentrate, which is about as high as you'll want to go because the bitterness becomes disgusting. If you want fewer carbs and less fat, then choose a hydrolysate derived from an isolate or 80% whey protein concentrate starting material. If you want smaller peptides, go with a 20-to-32 degree.

Are There Any Side Effects Lurking Around The Corner?

Though some people are allergic to whey, allergies aren't nearly as prevalent as it is with casein, soy or wheat protein. In fact, even those who might otherwise experience upset stomach, pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and other GI distress arising from a dairy allergy have been shown to have no significant adverse events from an extensively hydrolyzed whey of predominantly low-molecular-weight peptides.

Should Anyone Avoid It?

If you've been advised by your physician not to consume this product due to a health condition, then don't. While most people tolerate whey protein hydrolysate very well, those with very severe allergies to whey should use caution.

Take Me To The Bottom Line

Whey protein hydrolysate is an extremely high-quality protein that has myriad bodybuilding and health-related benefits.

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About The Author

Dr. Chris Lockwood earned his Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology and his M.S. in Exercise & Sports Science.

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Patman23051

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Patman23051

Typical protein powders tend to mess with my stomach regardless of what I mix it with, so it sounds like I would benefit from a 20-32 degree hydrolysate? Where can I find information on the degrees of hydrolysis for different products?

Jun 12, 2012 8:16am | report
txtenista

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txtenista

Have you ever tired other types of protein? If you're lactose intolerant, there are other choices you can use. If you can, you can try contacting the company or seeing the labels, if it's listed, check this list right above to see if those that chris listed would be covered under his findings. If you can't find a company willing to help you find this out, steer clear, dear. you can also try the customer service from BB.com, I like using the chat option. See if those people have any answers they can give, just let them you know you need a lil product help, Good luck!

Jun 12, 2012 5:15pm | report
Patman23051

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Patman23051

I considered lactose intolerance even though I've never had any issues with dairy and tried the (rediculously expensive) Isopure powder which was great but still messed with my stomach. I'll definately give one of the products in the article a try. Thanks again!

Jun 13, 2012 7:49am | report
DrChrisLockwood

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DrChrisLockwood

@patman23051: Sorry for the delay in responding to this. Technological ignorance on my behalf, I never get updates when someone posts on one of my articles.

Sadly, companies don't market if they're using a high- or low-DH whey. To be frank, the reason is b/c there's really one one company out there using a product with a DH that's even above 15%. The rest of the companies typically fairy-dust a low-DH (3-8%) into their "Protein Blend" just to get a hydrolysate on the label. Unfortunately, those other companies can do that and are still 100% within the letter of the law.

I did just complete a metabolomics investigation in which BNRG sponsored, and we discovered that ProtoWhey resulted in some very significant differences that didn't occur in response to the exact same formula, but with the native whey concentrate used for the protein source.

Am about to begin another trial comparing the phosphoproteomic and transcriptomic (microarray) responses to a whey fraction from early colostrum vs native whey versus control. Exciting stuff in protein, these days.

Nov 3, 2012 1:05am | report
DrChrisLockwood

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DrChrisLockwood

@patman23051: what gastro effects are you experiencing? One thing that protein drink consumers do that doesn't take place within anything else, is they consume an extremely high bolus of concentrated protein in under one minute. It may be that you simply need to consume your shake slower and/or be better hydrated before and after consuming a protein shake so that your stomach osmolality isn't compromised.

Nov 3, 2012 1:09am | report
jhick2

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jhick2

I find it humorous that in mentioning the "smart way", he neglects the fact that whey in itself is unhealthy. It's basically a waste product in the dairy industry, and rather than disposing of it, they found a ”whey" to market it. Obviously, the majority of articles written are intended to promote the websites purpose, selling supplements, not the health of the consumer. No supplement will ever be an exact, or an even close substitute for nature. They are cheap imitations and synthetic forms that lack the full benefit of the original. Worthless, which is to say worth-less than the original. While short term benefits way be seen whether, actual or through a placebo effect, this does not negate the fact that damage is done by a majority of supplements, whey included. Thanks Dr.

Jun 13, 2012 7:56am | report
DrChrisLockwood

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DrChrisLockwood

@jhick2: I don't want to be combative, so please don't take this the wrong way. However, you really are mistaken when it comes to whey. If you'd like to email me directly, I'll be happy to send you several hundred clinical manuscripts specific to both the safety and efficacy of whey protein; not to mention its superiority over other protein sources for promoting muscle hypertrophy. Also, as far as your claim that whey is a waste product, you're overlooking that over 90% of the protein in human breast milk, during early lactation, is whey; by late lactation, it's still almost 60% whey. Thus, for humans, the evidence is quite convincingly in favor of whey as an important form of protein. Granted, you and I aren't cattle, and thus the dairy form of whey that we use for food products and dietary supplements may not contain all of the bioactive fractions within the same ratios as is present within human whey; however, the protein is far, far from junk. If it were, it wouldn't be such a focus as starting material for big pharma to literally and figuratively "pharm" bioactive peptides to address an incredible host of ailments. Again, please feel free to email me directly; I'm happy to send you the studies. Thank you - chris

Nov 3, 2012 1:17am | report
mrlongisland1

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mrlongisland1

Yeah I've recently been messing with hemp protein recently. So far, so good.

Jun 13, 2012 1:10pm | report
DrChrisLockwood

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DrChrisLockwood

@mrlongisland1: As a supplement to your protein intake, I'm not entirely against plant protein. However, as I've written about before, when it comes to plant vs animal protein, it's a "survive vs thrive" argument. All one needs to do is look at early hominids and evolutionary biology (survival of the fittest stuff) to see what modern research techniques now allow us to observe - that is, that plant protein preferentially supports non-skeletal muscle tissue, whereas animal protein preferentially supports skeletal muscle tissue. If you're an athlete or physique enthusiast, I strongly recommend getting the majority of your protein intake from animal protein sources (at least a lacto-ovo vegetarian, as opposed to total vegan). Thanks for reading the article. - chris

Nov 3, 2012 1:21am | report
jessegxoxo

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jessegxoxo

You didn't mention anything about Undenatured whey. I think this would be valuable information for your readers to give a more well rounded picture of the quality of the protein options. Thanks for the article!

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Jul 9, 2012 5:14am | report
DrChrisLockwood

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DrChrisLockwood

@jessegxoxo: The term "undenatured" is more marketing than it is reality. Once a protein enters your stomach, your physiology is designed to undenature it so that it enters your small intestine with as many protein fragments exposed for enzymatic cleavage. I.e., the acidic environment of your stomach is the ultimate denaturing machine there is.

Yes, in theory, the bioactive peptides present within a protein are more protected during shipping and while waiting on the shelf to be purchased, the closer they are to their natural state. However, as stated above, as soon as someone consumes it down their pie-hole, their stomach denatures the hell out of it, which is by design.

Good question, though. - chris

Nov 3, 2012 1:27am | report
wolfpack64B

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wolfpack64B

Progenex Recovery is the way to go in terms of protein hydrolysates!

Aug 16, 2012 7:28pm | report
DrChrisLockwood

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DrChrisLockwood

@wolfpack64B: I have to disagree here. I actually used an ingredient from Progenex, as one of the whey treatment arms in my dissertation investigation when I tested a high-DH whey vs its native WPC. As a third whey group, I looked at the Progenex whey that contained a high concentration of Lactoferrin. That protein was no more effective than native WPC. Maybe they've changed their formula since then. Thanks - chris

Nov 3, 2012 1:31am | report
Showing 1 - 13 of 13 Comments

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