Comparing milk proteins: WPI, WPC, WPH, MPC

Proteins derived from milk represent, in the nutraceutical field, the golden standard in terms of protein powder. Those who practice sports and follow sports nutrition will surely be familiar with these products that are used to improve athletic performance by adding them to protein snacks or drinks.

But their use is not only aimed at increasing muscle mass, proteins derived from milk can be a valuable aid for the integration of macronutrients in the daily diet of many people, and not just athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Furthermore, milk protein concentrate, or MPC, can also be used in the preparation of ice cream, desserts and baked goods.

In this article we will explore the different characteristics of: WPC (Whey Protein Concentrate), WPI (Whey Protein Isolate), WPH (Whey Protein Hydrolized) and MPC (Milk Protein Concentrate).

What is whey protein and why take it?

Before we get into the technical details of each type of whey protein, it is important to consider a few facts.

Proteins are often described as “the building blocks of life”, this is because they are present in every cell and perform a fundamental function: to give life to new cells and repair existing cells.

That’s why they play a vital role in building muscle mass and skeletal mass. Furthermore, a correct integration of proteins is also essential for recovery from physical effort.

In this regard, we point out our article entitled “When and how to take proteins” in which this topic is explored.

First of all, it must be said that proteins should be integrated with a correct and balanced diet that includes: meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and legumes, combined with the right amount of carbohydrates and fats.

But those who follow a nutritional regime in which a greater quantity of protein is required, both for needs related to sporting activity and for health reasons, will be able to benefit from the practicality and convenience of protein powders.

Good quality whey proteins are considered the most effective thanks to their completeness, as they contain all the amino acids the body needs.

Choosing the right protein for your needs, however, can be difficult. The market offers a truly vast choice, being able to navigate this sea of ​​products and finding the right one can be a difficult task.

So which ones to choose? Let’s see below the characteristics of each different type.

WPI – Whey Protein Isolate

When choosing whey proteins it is useful to know their derivation and how they are made.

Whey used to be considered a “waste” product obtained from the curd of cow’s milk during cheese processing. It was then discovered that the liquid obtained is a concentrate of noble proteins, which once dried and processed, becomes what we commercially know as whey protein.

The production processes are different and are what differentiate isolated, concentrated and hydrolysed proteins from each other.

The isolated proteins undergo an additional process compared to the others. After the first microfiltration process, which separates the fat from the whey, they go through cross-flow ultrafiltration, a process that removes the lactose.

In this way, a liquid with a very high protein content is produced, which is then dried with the spray drying process. The final product obtained is a powder with a protein content normally equal to 90%, with an almost zero lactose and fat content.

Thanks to these characteristics, WPIs are suitable for lactose intolerant people or for those who want to use highly digestible proteins, a very useful quality both in pre-workout and post-workout.

In summary, these are the main characteristics of WPIs, or protein isolates:

  • 90% protein content
  • Lactose-free
  • Free of carbohydrates and fats
  • Excellent digestibility (30-60 minutes)


WPC – Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate does not go through the ultrafiltration process like the isolated proteins do. The result is a protein powder with a higher percentage of lactose and fat and with a protein content ranging from 70% to 85%.

Despite the lower amount of protein, WPCs are rich in other useful nutrients, including linoleic acid, also known as CLA, which helps prevent obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Maintaining lean mass is another advantage that concentrated proteins have, so they are useful for weight loss and to increase muscle mass.

Also, digestibility is very good, if compared to a normal complete meal. WPCs are generally cheaper than WPIs, but that doesn’t mean they’re of lesser quality, they’re just less refined.

In summary, the main advantages include:

  • 70% – 85% protein content
  • Suitable for maintaining lean and muscle mass
  • Suitable for slimming diets
  • Good digestibility
  • Contain CLA (linoleic acid)
  • Lower price than WPI


WPH – Hydrolysed Whey Protein

Hydrolysed proteins are not as well known as WPC and WPI, but have interesting characteristics. They are produced with a hydrolysis, a process that involves treatment with enzymes or strongly acidic or basic substances that simulate digestion.

In fact, they are also known as pre-digested proteins, and are used both in the nutraceutical and medical fields, in the production of artificial breast milk or products for lactose intolerant infants.

In the field of sports nutrition, on the other hand, the two main advantages they present are the greater tolerability by lactose intolerant people, and easy digestibility.

The shorter digestion times and the greater insulin peak caused, make them suitable to be eaten after training (together with carbs and liquids), taking advantage of the anabolic window and thus promoting recovery from physical effort.

The main qualities of the WPH can therefore be summarized as follows:

  • Free of lactose
  • Very high digestibility and tolerability
  • Optimal for post-workout
  • Promote faster recovery after training


MPC – Milk Protein Concentrate

Conversely, concentrated milk proteins, commercially known with the acronym MPC, differ from whey proteins and are produced with a different treatment.

To obtain the MPC, the milk is first skimmed, then it is subjected to ultrafiltration to reduce the lactose content. Casein, whey and some minerals are not filtered, but are dried with the technique of spray drying and evaporation, obtaining this way the protein powder.

The protein content can vary between 30% and 90%, making this product very versatile and usable in many different fields.

In the lowest concentration, 30% MPCs are used in the production of ice cream and baked goods. They can replace skimmed milk partially or totally, depending on the products. In pastry production, they give stability to: mousses, cakes, creams, meringues, whipped cream and soufflè.

In ice cream and gelato making they are excellent because they give smoothness to the ice cream by increasing its volume and they add a tasty creamy flavor. About this topic, we point out our article on high protein ice cream.

In higher protein concentrations, WPCs are also used for sports nutrition, both as powders and as ingredients of snacks or functional drinks.

Digestibility is considered good, but only by those who tolerate lactose, since this powder does not contain a high amount of lactose, but it is still significant. While the high content of calcium and vitamin D and the low content of carbohydrates and fats are very appreciable.

Among the main advantages of the MPC we can therefore list:

  • 30% – 90% protein content
  • Rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Low in carbohydrates and fats
  • They can replace powdered milk in ice cream and pastry
  • They improve the stability of baked products and creams
  • They give creaminess and volume to ice cream
  • Not suitable for the lactose intolerants


The final choice

In conclusion, there is no type of protein powder better than the other, each one has specific characteristics and adapts to different needs.

Therefore, before rushing into the purchase, we recommend that you inform yourself carefully and establish first what your needs and goals are. In this, the opinion of a nutritionist, a qualified personal trainer or a doctor specialized in sports medicine can be useful.

And for vegan athletes? We thought about this too! Read our article on vegan proteins where we talk about the extraordinary qualities of the isolated proteins of: rice, soy, peas and flaxseed.

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