Whey Protein Buying Guide
Whether you’re a weekend warrior, hitting the gym every day, or simply looking to augment your diet, the right whey protein supplements can have a big impact on your training and fitness regime.
At Kinetica Sports, we always aim to give you the best chance to reach your goals. In this guide, we’ll explore several of the most important aspects you need to consider when choosing the best whey protein for you.
What is whey protein?
To properly understand whey protein, it’s important to start at the very beginning with how whey is produced.
As a community, we’ve been turning milk into cheese for thousands of years. During this process, milk is acidified until it separates into solid curds, which are dried and worked into cheeses. However, this process also produces whey, which is the liquid portion. For many years, whey was dismissed as merely a by-product of cheese manufacture and disposed of - until producers rediscovered the health benefits that this product can add to a diet.
Once it’s separated, liquid whey is pasteurised and filtered to remove the majority of the fats and carbohydrates - leaving whey protein behind. This can then be spray-dried to create the whey protein powder you’re more familiar with.
For a more in-depth exploration of what whey protein is, read our blog on What is Whey Protein and Why We Need it?.
What is whey protein made of?
Now that we’ve established how it’s made, the next step before buying whey protein is to understand what it’s made of and why protein is important.
The human body needs proteins for a vast array of different processes to stay healthy - from muscle growth and repair, to hormone and enzyme creation. They, alongside carbohydrates and fats, make up the three main categories of macronutrients (so-called because we need them in larger quantities to stay healthy).
Proteins themselves are made up of amino acids, which are like building blocks for structures within the body. Of the 20 amino acids that make up proteins, our body produces 11 naturally. These are called non-essential amino acids.
The other nine, called essential amino acids, come from ingesting different foods. The nine essential amino acids are:
You can either include complete or incomplete protein sources within your diet. Incomplete proteins, like nuts and seeds, are called this because they have a selection of these nine essential amino acids, but do not contain all of them.
Whey protein on the other hand, is considered a complete protein because it is an excellent source of all nine essential amino acids. Because of this, whey protein can be a valuable element in creating a balanced diet and ensuring your body receives everything it needs to sustain itself - and achieve the results you want from a training programme.
Whey protein buying considerations
There are several factors you need to consider that will influence which type of whey protein is right for you and goals. In this section, we’ll examine the most important, and practical, pre-purchase topics you should think about to ensure you make the best choice for you.
The first, and arguably most important, aspect to think about is why you’re planning to use whey protein.
For many fitness enthusiasts, whey protein is an excellent complement to their training regime, and a way to include additional protein into their diets quickly and easily. It’s also frequently the more budget-friendly option over some other protein-rich foods.
But whey protein doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be isolated to solely muscled weightlifters and gym-goers. Several studies in the past decade have shown that whey protein supplementation can help with weight loss, whilst managing to retain lean muscle mass (2,3).
Note: depending on your goals, you may wish to use alternative dietary supplements like mass gainer, or use a combination of whey protein and creatine supplementation. Explore our blog on What is Mass Gainer? for more information.
Understanding your end goals will help you decide whether whey protein is right for you, and how you should include it in your diet.
Whey concentrate to whey isolate ratio
Whey itself can come in different forms depending on how it’s been processed, which can have an impact on which type you should buy.
- Whey protein concentrate: this is the most basic form of whey protein powder, and is commonly used to make protein shakes and bars. It has a higher fat and lactose content, which gives it a richer flavour.
- Whey protein isolate: whey protein isolate has been processed further to reduce the amount of fat and lactose within the powder. Whey protein isolate is often used in clear whey protein powders, which blend well with fruitier flavours (and is more like squash than a traditional protein shake).
The main factor that will affect which whey protein powder is right for you is the whey concentrate to isolate ratio. For example, our whey protein powder is a combination of concentrate and isolate to offer you a high level of protein per serving.
Another thing to consider is the lactose content. By removing a lot of lactose during processing, whey protein isolate may be easier on your digestion, especially if you’re sensitive to lactose, or have an intolerance. Therefore, protein powders with a higher concentration of whey protein isolate, like some clear whey options for example, are often a more suitable option for you.
There’s little point in picking and committing to a supplement if you don’t want to take it - which makes flavour incredibly important when you’re choosing a whey protein.
Fortunately, the majority of whey protein powders are delicious because of added flavourings, with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry being the most common for whey protein concentrate.
If you prefer a more refreshing taste, clear whey protein may be the one for you. This is often paired with fruity flavours like orange or berry. When it’s mixed with water, this gives you a squash-like drink which works really well for those who struggle with their appetite after training.
At Kinetica Sports, our whey protein concentrate comes in these three classic flavours as well as banana and chocolate mint for you to choose from and enjoy. Explore our Recipes collection for more inspiration on how to incorporate your whey protein powder into delicious meals and treats.
Alongside flavour, the texture of your whey protein supplement will make a big difference to whether you remember (or want) to take it. Whey protein can be mixed with milk to create a thicker consistency like a milkshake, but it can also be enjoyed with water for a lighter alternative. Clear whey on the other hand, which as we mentioned is composed of whey protein isolate, is usually mixed with water to provide a lighter and more refreshing option for those who prefer fruitier tastes.
Choosing a whey protein powder that fits with your texture preferences will make sipping on your drink an eagerly anticipated part of your routine - and help you reach your goals more comfortably.
Considering your dietary requirements is an obvious but essential part of choosing any new supplement - including your whey protein. If you have a milk allergy, are lactose intolerant, or vegan, whey protein may not be the right product for you.
Instead, you may want to consider a plant-based protein powder to help you incorporate more protein into your diet.
Throughout this article, we’ve consistently referenced the importance of knowing what is in your whey protein supplements. Understanding the ingredients in your chosen whey protein can help you create a well-rounded diet and exercise programme, and make sure your supplements fit into your overall plans.
Below we’ve picked out some primary aspects of an ingredient mixture you need to consider.
Leucine, an amino acid, has been shown to play an important role in building muscle tissue. While this is important for those who want to increase their lean muscle mass, it’s also an important part of recovery. Leucine content is a good metric to take into account when assessing the quality of a protein supplement.
Fortunately, at Kinetica Sports, our whey protein powders have at least 2.47g of leucine per 30g serving to help you reach your goals, and encourage MPS (muscle protein synthesis (4) during and after exercise.
With additional flavourings, some whey protein powders have a high sugar content to help them taste good. However, this can be a problem if you’re considering a calorie monitored diet and exercise programme as having a lot of added sugar in one’s diet can have negative health outcomes too.
Make sure you always check the sugar content of your supplements before buying. At Kinetica Sports, our whey protein powders average out at around 1g of sugar per 30g scoop - so you can get a delicious taste without a lot of added sugar.
Whilst not an ingredient mixture as such, choosing grass-fed whey can have additional benefits that you may want to consider.
Cows allowed to graze naturally through pastures have a more varied diet, and grass-fed milk has been shown to have a higher concentration of important nutrients (5). These benefits can then be passed on to you through the whey protein supplement.
Want to learn more? Read about Grass-Fed Whey & Why it’s Important in our blog.
Whilst whey protein powders are the most well-known form, this is not the only way you can include more protein into your diet at home.
Protein bars are manufactured using whey protein powders too. This is perfect for those of you who prefer to eat a snack over having a protein drink. They’re also useful on the go, as you can simply slip a bar or two into your workout bag or handbag for that matter so you’re not stuck when you’re out and about.
You could also choose pre-mixed protein drinks over a tub of whey protein powder. These are perfect on the go, or if you’re running late and don’t have time to mix your own drink.
You know the why, let Kinetica be your how
Learn more from the Kinetica Sports blog, our hub of supplement advice, nutritional information and recipe guides.
1. Smithers, G.W., 2015, ‘Whey-ing up the options – Yesterday, today and tomorrow’, in International Dairy Journal, 48:2-14. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0958694615000229
2. Wirunsawanya, K., et al., 2018, ‘Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Body Composition and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’, in Journal of the American Nutrition Association, 37(1):60-70. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27885532/
3. Lopes Gomes, D., et al., 2017, ‘Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Body Fat and Weight Loss in Women Long After Bariatric Surgery: a Randomized Controlled Trial’, in Obesity Surgery, 27(2):424-431. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27885532/
4. Zaromskyte, G., et al., 2021, ‘Evaluating the Leucine Trigger Hypothesis to Explain the Post-prandial Regulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis in Young and Older Adults: A Systematic Review’, in Frontiers in Nutrition, 8:685165. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8295465/
5. Alothman, M., 2019, ‘The “Grass-Fed” Milk Story: Understanding the Impact of Pasture Feeding on the Composition and Quality of Bovine Milk’, in Foods, 8(8):350. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723057/