Dairy proteins like whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed whey protein, milk protein isolate, and micellar casein are all processed food powders. Being that they are processed they are denatured and subjected to heat. As muscle seekers, we want the LEAST undenatured protein as possible because we want the protein powder that is the most usable. More processed equals less usable, equals less nitrogen retention, equals less muscle protein synthesis. In the snake oil salesman filled protein supplement industry many protein sellers will try to convince you that their protein powder is 100% undenatured, comes from raw milk, is not pasteurized, and is subjected to no heat. Nothing can be further from the truth.
As you will see below whey protein is subjected to processing which involves heat. However, there are different types of protein powders out there that subjected to different processes.
Here is the way dairy proteins are processed. This is for whey protein.
It all starts with a cow.
Then the milk goes into processing and these are the following steps typically to make a whey protein powder which is 80% protein and 90% protein commonly.
- Raw Milk
- pasteurization (this is a denatured or heating step to kill the bad stuff like salmonella and e.coli (required by LAW)
- separation. ( this is when the casein and the whey is isolated. )
- pasteurization AGAIN
- pH adjustment
That is a lot huh?
All of this processing downgrades the quality of the food powder. In this case whey protein. But how much? Do we simply base the quality of a protein powder on the biological value or PDCAA alone? Which quite frankly, each one of these tests has been around for decades and are probably outdated. Or do we try to analyze the protein powder more. If we simply look at the powder itself and dissect it maybe we can find out exactly what is in it and what has happened to it during the manufacturing process.
And that is exactly what these researchers did below.
I found a research study that may prove WHICH protein is least denatured therefore which protein would be the ideal one to use to help increase muscle protein synthesis. Remember as muscle seekers, we want the LEAST processed protein powder as possible. Check out this study.
If you want to read the whole study I found a PDF but you have to download it. Put it into your cart and check out. Its free.
The researchers based their quality assessment on the discovery of a certain compound found in the dairy proteins called furosine. The more furosine found in the protein powders the lower quality it is based on the fact that it has been processed more.
The graphic below shows the different types of Melanoidins found in food products These are formed when temperatures are between 140-165 degrees celsius. That means at a minimum your whey protein concentrate has been subjected to at least 280 degrees Fahrenheit
Furosine is produced when the dairy protein powders are pasteurized and spray dried as both of these processes involves heat. It is kinda like caramelization. The more heat and processing is involved the more furosine is created. The more furosine, I hypothesize the more denatured. Kinda like when you BBQ. The more you let that burger cook on the grill and turn more and more “blackness”…the more you are denaturing that slab of beef. The same thing happens when you heat sucralose…bad things happen, really bad like cancer-causing compounds are created. I’m coming to the general conclusion that “heating” food in general, especially chemicals are bad. Life Hack: Do NOT cook with aluminum foil!
check out the results.
As you can see the casein contains the lowest amount of furosine. Which means it is the least denatured in my book.
Unfortunately, I could find out WHO’s protein they used. And I am not talking about retail brands. Researchers know better than to buy their proteins from unscrupulous retail brands. Instead, they go right to the manufacturers. This study was done in Spain. So I would guess they used high-quality manufacturers in Europe. Most likely they used a micellar casein.
I would be curious to see how a native whey concentrate and isolate performed. I’m guessing it would score really low in furosine.
In conclusion, whey protein powders are processed differently than casein and milk protein isolate powders, and in such a way that more of the protein is “damaged”, “fried” or “scorched”. For some reason, whey protein concentrate is the worst when it comes to furosine.
If you want the least undenatured protein and the protein that gives your body the best chance for muscle growth, I would not use whey protein concentrate alone as you can see it contains a boatload of furosine’s. If you are set on whey you obviously want a whey isolate. However, and you should know this already. Blended protein powders are the best for muscle growth and you’ll reduce the amount of furosine’s your consume.
You can keep it basic and go with my Wisconsin whey protein isolate and micellar casein. do a mix of 50/50. Or better yet, the Muscle Shake which is a combo of micellar casein, native whey isolate, and native milk protein isolate. (first in the industry BTW)
Or I came up with some great blends.
Maybe it is time Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Protein gets tested. HMMMMM, I think I may just do that. Then after the results are finished they can either retain their title of Gold Standard or change the name of their protein powder! Additionally if a whey protein seller is claiming their protein powder is not subjected to heat, simply ask them, “What is the furosine content amount in your whey protein?”
Alex Rogers is a supplement manufacturing expert. He has been formulating, consulting, & manufacturing dietary supplements since 1998. Alex invented protein customization in 1998 & was the first company to allow consumers to create their own protein blends. He helped create the first supplement to contain natural follistatin, invented whey protein with egg lecithin, & recently imported the world’s first 100% hydrolyzed whey.