Whey protein vs whey isolate: what's the difference?

Choosing between whey protein vs whey isolate? From the taste to the calories and the protein content to the price, here are all the differences

Woman scooping whey protein
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What's the difference between whey protein vs whey isolate? It's a question often asked and, at first glance, an answer that's not often known. So, to get to the bottom of the debate, we're weighing the differences between these two types of nutritional supplements. 

If you already use one of the best protein powders for weight loss, you'll know how beneficial a nutritional supplement can be for hitting your health and fitness goals, keeping you fuller for longer, and increasing your protein intake. 

But when deciding on a muscle-building powder, you need to compare whey protein vs whey isolate, two forms of dairy-based protein. But what are the exact differences between the two supplements? And what calorie intake does whey protein vs whey isolate have?

Generally speaking, whey protein is the most common form of protein powder. It comes from cow's milk and is more readily available than whey isolate, with various flavors available. Whey isolate is also derived from dairy, and both whey varieties are a by-product of cheese production.

However, whey isolate doesn't contain lactose, a sugar found in milk. Due to this, whey isolate has a lower calorie content. It also has a lower fat level and a higher protein intake per serving. 

But these aren't the only differences. If you're on the lookout for a new nutritional supplement and wondering whether to choose whey protein vs whey isolate, stick right here. 

  • MyProtein (opens in new tab): Shop Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Isolate 
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods (opens in new tab) including top brands such as Optimum Nutrition
  • Target (opens in new tab): Shop protein deals here
  • Walmart (opens in new tab): Shop all protein powder deals
  • A1 supplements (opens in new tab) offers and deals on protein powder 

Whey protein vs whey isolate: Price

Generally, both products tend to cost roughly the same. Whey Isolate, because of the additional processes that the product has to undergo, often costs slightly more than normal whey protein. For example, the Optimum Gold Standard Whey Isolate (opens in new tab) costs around $35.99 for a 2lbs tub, around 24 servings. The same brand’s Gold Standard Whey Protein (opens in new tab) costs $34.99.

However, because whey protein is more common than whey isolate, which is a little more of a specialist product, you’ll often see more discounts on standard whey protein concentrate flagship products as opposed to whey isolate. In terms of price, whey protein is usually the winner by a hair. 

Winner: Whey protein 

 Whey protein vs whey isolate: Protein content 

Whey isolate tends to have a slightly higher protein content than simple whey protein powder, as the process which removes the lactose from the powder also concentrates the protein somewhat. However, it’s a difference of usually just a few grams, and this will be very brand-dependent, as some brands are able to pack more protein per serving than others. 

Winner: Whey isolate

Woman mixing supplement drink

(Image credit: Lyfe (Unsplash))

Whey protein vs whey isolate: Calories 

Whey isolate tends to have a lower calorie, carbohydrate and fat count, which makes isolate ideal for mixing with water for a low-calorie, high-protein drink. Great for building lean muscle. Whey protein is still a very efficient way to cram more protein into your diet, whether you’re making shakes or pouring scoops of the stuff into pancake mix, oats or your morning yoghurt. However, it does come loaded with a few extra calories.  

Winner: Whey isolate

Whey protein vs whey isolate: verdict  

If you’re just after a drink to add more protein to your diet without additional calories, fat or triggering any digestive issues with lactose you may have, whey isolate is what you’re after. However, whey protein, as a more common supplement, is often seen on offer and at far greater varieties of flavour. If you’re just after a high-protein supplement solution to add to your diet, feel free to pick up either supplement without any further concerns.  

Matt Evans
News Editor

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.

With contributions from