Lesson 11 Topic: Hydrolyzed Whey – Paying more for less?

In our first 3 lessons, you learned how to identify a quality whey protein concentrate (WPC) product, as well as what to look for (high leucine content) and what to avoid (egg protein) in protein powders. Today, we’re going to go over a very popular topic that very few people actually know the truth about.

Whey protein comes in 3 main forms: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. The hydrolysate form is touted as being the most rapidly absorbing form…and this is actually true. However, does faster absorption really mean better results? The science may just blow your mind…and save you countless dollars moving forward.

Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) is essentially whey protein that has been broken down into little molecules for quicker absorption. About a decade ago, the pre-dominant theory in muscle building was that the faster the absorption, the better results. Today, we know from better research techniques that a protein blend provides the best muscle-building results; that is, fast and slow proteins should be combined for optimal lean muscle gain. You see, the issue with rapid absorption is that if it occurs too rapidly your body actually ends up seeing the protein as a fuel source (like carbs) rather than as protein, and so the protein is consumed or stored for energy rather than used to create new muscle tissue.

This was demonstrated in a study conducted on athletes in 2013, in which the athletes consumed either whole whey protein concentrate (WPC), WPH, or pure sugar. WPH showed its worth here…it decreased muscle damage more than either WPC or carbs. Now you may think this is a good thing, but muscle damage is actually necessary for muscle growth to occur. We want there to be little “microtears” in the muscle that stimulate the growth response. By not allowing this to happen, WPH had a negative effect on body composition. In fact, the researchers found that WPH resulted in 1/3 of the muscle gain caused by WPC [1]. What’s worse, of the 3 beverages (WPC, WPH, pure carbs), only one of them resulted in FAT GAIN instead of fat loss when paired with exercise: WPH. That’s right, WPH was found to be more fattening than a shake full of carbs.

So the next time you see a drink being touted by its sellers for being something special because it has WPH, thing again. Not only will WPH cost you significantly more money than WPC, but it will also result in less muscle gain and more fat gain relative to its superior, less-expensive cousin: WPC.



  1. Lollo PBC, et al. Hydrolysed whey protein reduces muscle damage markers in Brazilian elite soccer players compared with whey protein and maltodextrin. A twelve-week in-championship intervention. International Dairy Journal. August 2013.