Do you ever find yourself staring with glazed eyes at a can of whey protein… scratching your head… wondering:
“What is Micro-Filtered Whey Protein?”
Or better yet… “What is cross-flow, cold processed micro-filtered whey protein?”
And should you care? Could you just as well toss the stuff into the arms of the overly-zealous supplement store clerk and head for the grocery store to grab some cans of tuna for your muscle building protein? The question’s not only “what is cross-flow, cold process micro-filtered whey protein”… but does it actually help build muscle better than other protein sources?
For what it’s worth, I’ll confess to being a big whey protein fan; I use the stuff a lot. But I don’t use it because I think I’ll lose muscle gaining benefits by dumping it for egg whites. I like it for four reasons:
- It’s a good source of branch chain amino acids.
- It’s easy on the stomach; great digestibility.
- It’s fast and convenient.
- It’s fairly economical.
My second through fourth reasons are kind of supplementary to the first one. Let’s face it: the all-important branch chain amino acids are present in good protein foods. A plate of steak and eggs is high in BCAAs, but it’s not always convenient, economical, or easily digestible. That’s where my liking of whey protein comes in – even if I’ve long asked the question “what is cross-flow cold process/micro-filtered whey?”
First… “What is Micro-Filtered Whey”… and who cares how it’s filtered?
Speaking personally, I’ve never noticed perceptibly faster muscle growth from using whey protein over any other good quality source, such as fish, egg whites, chicken, or beef. Consequently, I’m a bit skeptical of the purported distinctions among different whey protein powders and their alleged benefits over one another. I’m not doubting there are differ rent levels of quality in this product; only the notion that this results in faster recuperation between bodybuilding workouts and noticeably better muscle growth. Think about it this way: Our bodies are designed to digest proteins and use the amino acids therein for tissue repair. If giving a protein product a “pre-digested” or “semi-digested” quality does something our bodies would themselves do to the protein, why would there be a discernible difference in muscle gains from using the product?
But protein powder supplements are in a hyper-competitive industry. How can companies differentiate their products from those of competitors when the product is ‘protein’ – something we get from a turkey on Swiss cheese sandwich? The best way seems to be in creating mystique around the manufacturing. What better way to do that than put as many confusing manufacturing words as possible on the label? Nice!
Whey protein is a byproduct in the manufacturing of cheese. The creation of cheese requires first “curding” the milk by coagulating its casein protein. The thinner substance left behind in this process is whey. The whey can then be filtered to remove lactose, fat, and cholesterol. This naturally calls for a very small filter… or “micro-filter.” Obviously, the smaller the filter, the more of the things other than the protein will be separated from the whey – thus, making the whey more “pure.”
“What is Cross-Flow Cold Processed/ Micro-filtered Whey Protein?”
Okay… so we’ve already clarified the “what is micro-filtered” question. Let’s now go over what ‘cross flow’ means. Actually, it’s a manufacturer’s patented (or proprietary) mechanism of filtering the lactose, fat, and cholesterol from the whey without using the ‘ion exchange’ method. I doubt we’ll ever see this prized method of filtering. We may never even have it described to us. But we can trust that it exists and that once we use the protein it produces, we’ll… well… wander how we ever built muscle without it… I guess.
‘Filtering Whey Protein’: “Does ‘whey protein isolate’ build muscle better than ‘whey protein concentrate?’”
Cold processed simply means heat wasn’t used in filtration of the whey. This is purportedly good because the protein’s thus “not denatured.” Okay… I guess we should assume all those steaks, eggs, fish, and fowl proteins we’ve eaten our entire lives were subpar for building muscle because cooking them denatured their protein? Hmmm, I’m still not going to eat all that stuff raw, even if I do like my steak on the rare side. A bit of sushi now and then might be the exception.
I have seen claims that actually lowering the temperature of the whey can help in the filtration process. This is supposed to aid in the removal of undesirable particles and thus create a more pure whey isolate. The veracity of this is questionable. But even more debatable is whether the resulting whey isolate will lead to better muscle gains than whey protein concentrate.
Whey Protein Concentrate vs. Whey Isolate: The real question in all this “filtering”
It seems like yesterday to me when egg whites were the ultimate bodybuilding protein and whey was a somewhat marginalized product. How things have changed. The only company I can recall selling whey protein back then were the guys behind ‘Designer Whey.’ They’re still around. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect they just might be the people behind the “cross-flow whey filtration” creating the isolate everyone’s now putting in their whey products that make their labels so long and confusing.
Probably the main distinction that needs clarification on these labels is the difference between whey protein concentrate and whey isolate. Whey concentrate has not been as filtered as whey isolate. It also hasn’t been ‘ion-exchanged’ (another method of purifying). Therefore, whey isolate purportedly contains 90% pure protein per serving while whey concentrate contains anywhere between 34% and 80%.
But here’s a good question: If the absolute amount of protein a bodybuilder or athlete consumes each day is sufficient for tissue repair and growth – does the relative amount he or she eats in a serving of food (including whey) really matter very much? You’ve got to wonder. Is the notion that it does just marketing hype? It could matter to some degree for fat loss; we obviously choose to eat more lean beef than the fatty kind when we’re shooting for lean muscularity. If we scramble six egg whites we know as bodybuilders to leave only one or two yokes in the mix. This might be a good argument for the use of whey protein isolate, which is typically fat and cholesterol free.
But whey isolate is expensive. I just compared some yesterday to a can of combined concentrate and isolate. The isolate was 20% higher in price for a fourth less protein by weight than the concentrate/isolate combination. That’s a lot more to pay if absolute daily protein intake is of most importance and sufficient quality and quantity of such is easily obtained from food… or whey protein concentrate/isolate mixed.
Since I keep meticulous records of my muscle growth/strength progress with my simple but powerful system, I’ll buy some pure whey isolate in the near future and monitor its effectiveness compared to the isolate/concentrate product. I’ll immediately post my findings for you, my readers.
Feel free to share any experiences you’ve had comparing the two.