Whey protein is a by-product of cheese production. It is available in three forms: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate, and each has somewhat different properties. The whey protein hydrolysate, also known as hydrolyzed whey protein, is a popular nutritional supplement, particularly among bodybuilders.
As is true of all three forms, whey protein hydrolysate contains high-quality proteins, and thus it includes all the eight essential amino acids required by human adults. Whey protein hydrolysate is more processed than the other forms, is predigested, and provides the the highest protein quality. Due to its predigested state, hydrolyzed whey protein is more easily absorbed then the isolate or concentrate versions. The additional processing may increase the cost of the hydrolysate form compared to the cost of isolate or concentrate. Along with being an excellent source of protein, whey protein may help strengthen the immune system.
Whey protein is used as a bodybuilding supplement because it provides a high quantity of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). The BCAAs, particularly leucine, trigger protein synthesis and provide energy to the muscles as they are being exercised. When it is taken during exercise, whey protein increases blood flow, and thus nutrients, to the muscles. After exercise, the use of whey protein may help increase muscle mass.
Some medical professionals have also found whey protein supplement to be effective when used by HIV patients to reduce muscle wasting. Though more evidence is needed to verify effectiveness, other uses include lowering the incidences of allergies in babies, nutritionally supporting people who are lactose intolerant, and treating patients with obesity, high cholesterol, asthma, and late stage cancer.
Whey protein hydrolysate can be found forms that make supplementation simple and convenient. It is available as a protein powder for making shakes or added to other foods. Whey protein nutritional supplement is also used as an ingredient in some commercially manufactured protein bars.
Though the hydrolysate version may be less allergenic than the isolate or concentrate forms, caution is still advised for people who are allergic to milk and who are considering taking this protein supplement. Though hydrolysate whey protein is generally safe for healthy, non-allergic adults, high doses may cause headache, nausea, cramps, fatigue, or other side effects. Some medications may interact with whey protein, and patients should check with a healthcare practitioner before supplementing with hydrolysate whey protein. Women should avoid using whey protein hydrolysate if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.