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Hydrolyzed Whey Protein: What Is It & What Are the Benefits

Have you seen the term “hydrolyzed protein” listed on food labels and wondered what it meant? It sounds complicated and scary, but it’s actually a good thing!

When you’re interested in optimal health and fitness, details matter. You probably know the importance of buying organic produce and avoiding highly processed junk food. But are you getting the right protein?

It isn’t enough to grab any protein bar off the shelf and expect it to help you build muscle and healthy tissue. As with any other food, protein bars and powders vary significantly in quality, and many come with unpleasant side effects. Let’s take a closer look at hydrolyzed protein and why it may be the best protein for your body.

Hydrolyzed Whey Protein (WPH)

One of the most popular types of protein is whey, which comes from milk. Of all dietary proteins, whey has the highest total essential amino acids (EAAs). EAAs must be supplied by the diet as the body cannot manufacture them as it does with non-essential amino acids. Whey is the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and strained. But not all types of whey protein are the same.

Whey protein comes in three primary forms: whey protein concentrate (WPC), whey protein isolate (WPI), and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH), also known as hydrolyzed protein, which is unique due to its concentration of small peptides.

WPH is becoming more popular in the health and fitness industry, and for a good reason: hydrolyzed whey protein is a version of whey that’s already broken down and offers a high degree of bioavailability. That means it’s easier to digest and delivers muscle-friendly protein to your body more quickly relative to whole (non-hydrolyzed) proteins, allowing for fewer undesirable effects such as gas and bloating, as well as a speedier recovery.

Hydrolyzed whey protein can provide super-protein nutrition, and its benefits are especially noteworthy for people who experience digestive discomfort (gas and/or bloating) or have trouble digesting other food proteins.

You may be thinking, great, but what does “hydrolyzed whey protein” actually mean? To understand what makes hydrolyzed whey protein better than other types of protein, we need to understand what protein is and how the body digests it.

Protein: An Important Macronutrient

Most of us know that protein is an essential macronutrient. But how much do we need? What are the best sources of protein?

Protein is one of three macronutrients; the others are carbohydrate and fat. All three macronutrients are required for human growth and development. Protein performs many functions throughout the body, but it’s best known for its role in building and repairing tissue, including muscle. Protein is necessary for your body to make healthy muscles, organs, glands, and skin.

Your body is continuously building and repairing tissue, so including a source of high-quality protein in every meal—along with plant compounds and healthy fats is a good idea. It’s especially important to eat enough protein as we age to counteract the natural loss of muscle mass and strength.

Sources of Protein

Protein can be obtained from nearly countless sources. Just look at the selection of protein bars and powders in your health food store—chances are, no two are the same. You can find protein derived from collagen, whey, and casein. You can also find plant-based proteins such as soy, pea, hemp, brown rice, and quinoa.

But not all protein is the same. Whey is generally regarded as one of the best forms of protein powder because you digest it quickly and it is rich in essential amino acids. But as we’ve seen, whey comes in three forms, which have varied effects on the body.

Other types of protein, particularly plant proteins, can be challenging to digest. Certain proteins found within plant foods, known as lectins, can cause intestinal distress. High consumption of lectins, particularly when combined with other inflammatory foods, such as gluten and sugar, can lead to a compromised digestive system and all sorts of gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, bloating, reflux, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, loose stools, or constipation.

When evaluating any food product—even those marketed as healthy and natural—it’s important to look at the ingredients. Many protein powders and bars contain added ingredients. They may be high in sugar and unnecessary calories. Some may even contain excess heavy metals and other potentially toxic chemicals.

Clearly, when choosing a protein bar or powder, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Hydrolysis: How Your Body Digests Protein

Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, and nine of these are essential. In nutrition, when something is “essential,” that means it can’t be made by the body and must come from the diet.

Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. The most efficient sources of complete protein are animal proteins such as meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy products.

When you eat protein, your digestive system breaks it down into peptides, which are smaller chains of amino acids. The smallest of these called di and tripeptides, with just 2 or 3 amino acids can be absorbed by the small intestine and released into the bloodstream, so they can be transported throughout the body to build muscle, create energy and repair tissue.

The process of breaking dietary protein down into di and tripeptides which your body can use is called hydrolysis. Simply put, protein hydrolysis is a biochemical reaction in which the large food protein molecules are made available for transport and use within the body.

Protein that has not been adequately hydrolyzed cannot be readily absorbed by the small intestine, and therefore may not be efficiently used to build or repair tissue, help create energy or accomplish other important protein-dependent functions.
For people who have difficulty digesting protein foods, separating and absorbing these small peptides and amino acids can be difficult. That’s where hydrolyzed protein comes in.

Putting it All Together: Hydrolyzed Whey Protein

Properly hydrolyzed protein is simply protein that has already been broken down into dipeptides and tripeptides. In a sense, the protein is pre-digested, so that the body can easily absorb it.

DH refers to the degree of hydrolysis, which indicates how much the protein has been broken down. Generally speaking, the higher the DH, the larger the concentration of small peptides.

So, high-DH means smaller peptides, more rapid and complete absorption, and a higher degree of bioavailability. Not only is high-DH easier to digest and absorb, but it may also reduce digestive discomfort, gas and bloating compared to other forms of protein. This is especially beneficial for people with digestive issues, food allergies or sensitivities, or athletes and other individuals who have a higher need for dietary protein.

All Power Crunch products contain high-DH hydrolyzed whey protein.

Benefits of high-DH hydrolyzed protein

Studies have shown that high-DH hydrolyzed protein results in more rapid uptake of di and tri peptides and amino acids and may supply more effective support for tissue repair than whole proteins or individually supplied amino acids alone.

Because of its high degree of bioavailability, high-DH WPH can help:

1. Promote mental energy and alertness.
2. Increase muscle recovery.
3. Support immune system function.
4. Promote intestinal health.
5. Increase absorption efficiency of other proteins and foods.

High-DH hydrolyzed whey protein also offers reduced allergen potential. Although whey protein allergies are rare, some people who are allergic to milk may have difficulty digesting whey as well as casein. But research has shown that milk protein hydrolysates significantly reduce allergic responses in children. If you have a milk allergy or experience intestinal distress when consuming whey protein, a high-DH whey protein may be what you need.

Taste the difference

Try a Power Crunch Original, Power Crunch Kids or Power Crunch Pro, found in every major retailer in the U.S. Find a store near you or order online!

*This blog discusses the possible benefits of High-DH WPH. It does not attempt to prescribe any medical advice or claim to treat any disease or illness. Any changes to diet or treatment for any disorder should be taken up solely upon the recommendation of your doctor or health professional.


Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake?

The Seven Best Types of Protein Powder

The Plant-Based Nutrient That Could Be Messing With Your Gut Health

Protein Hydrolysates and Tissue Repair

Milk Protein Hydrolysates

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