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Why of whey (powder): All you need to know about whey powder

We are reviewing key protein powder ingredients and in this blog we are looking at whey powder

Whey powder dominates the protein powder market with 80% of products in the market using whey. With such a dominance, it is useful to know what it is and the pros and cons of using it to reach your nutritional goals.

What the whey

Whey is a by-product from cheese making – think curds and whey – and comes from cows’ milk. There are three subcategories

  • Concentrate: lowest cost, lowest protein content at about 80% and contains carbs and fat. It’s the easiest to mix with water and probably the best tasting
  • Isolate: Filtered further which has removed the carbs and fat rising the protein content to around 90%. However, it is harder to mix than whey concentrate
  • Hydrolysate: Filtered again, it has the highest protein content at around 95% and is quickly absorbed. It is the most expensive, harder still to mix with water and doesn’t taste very nice

Planet Impact

The premium whey powder is always marketed as being from grass fed cows. What do the other cows eat?

Regardless, they have a high environmental impact on the planet.

Land use: cattle require large amounts of land to grow food to feed them.

Water use: as cows move in, they consume water reducing its availability to wildlife while on large scale farms there is the danger of water pollution if manure and other animal waste is badly processed.

Soil health: deforestation is caused as trees are removed to create grassland.

Animal health: To keep cows producing milk, they have their calves removed shortly after birth which keeps them lactating for longer than they would if their calf was present. To maintain their health, cows will require antibiotics and other drugs which may be present in the milk.

Climate gases: livestock creates CO2 emissions. On the bases of academic research recently completed, cheese production which creates whey as a by-product, is in the Top 10 largest carbon footprints of food.

Whey upside

As with all animal proteins, it is a complete protein meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids that humans cannot produce. The key reasons why it dominates the protein market is due to the fact it is absorbed into the body quickly to help rebuild muscle. Pretty important if you are trying to build muscle mass. However, with better science and a wider range of products there are now new proteins from which to choose.


As a product from dairy, it is not suitable for anyone that is lactose intolerant. It can have an unfortunate side effect of being hard to digest, causing stomach discomfort and bloating for those who would not consider themselves lactose intolerant.

Time for something better.

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