What is whey protein hydrolysate?
All whey protein is a by-product of cheese manufacturing.
If you're interested in learning more about how whey protein is produced, please refer to the FAQ.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) is a specialised type of whey that has been exposed to an enzymatic process during manufacturing. Enzymes break down the protein's naturally occurring long chains of amino acids so that they're smaller and more readily available. This enzymatic process is called hydrolysation or pre-digestion and is meant to mimic part of the digestive breakdown that occurs naturally in the stomach and small intestine. It is these smaller, easier to digest fractions that provide WPH with its unique characteristics.
These fractions, known as whey peptides, enter the bloodstream at a rapid rate, faster than a concentrate or an isolate.
Scientific research published in 2012 & 2013 notes that when WPH is accompanied with a fast carbohydrate source it can significantly enhance muscle glycogen repletion. This rapid delivery system aids muscle recovery.
It's important to note that although WPH is more expensive than WPC and WPI, it is by no means any purer than a whey isolate. This is often a misconception that people new to supplementation make; it's reasonable to assume seeing the price differential between WPC > WPI and WPI > WPH. Both WPC and WPI can go through the process of hydrolysis. If you look at the nutritional data across products, you'll see in almost every instance an unflavoured WPI has a higher purity of protein than WPH products.
WPH remains controversial. The marketing purports that WPH is the premium protein and the optimum choice for post-workout recovery, and arguably intra-workout, because of its rapid uptake. What they don't say is that it is only fractionally faster (in terms of minutes) than an unflavoured WPI. The purported benefits that hydrolysed protein offers should be taken into account when you see carbohydrates and fats on nutritional profiles. Some carbs and all fats will slow down the rate of digestion.
Much of the independent research conducted on WPH shows it to be unremarkable – it's no better in how it's absorbed by the body except to say it is marginally faster in its natural state. The majority consensus reflected on the bodybuilding forums is that WPH represents an excuse to market a "superior" protein. That said there is a vocal and experienced margin of bodybuilders that defend the claims. While the majority of reviews on forums we've come across seem to disagree that WPH is worth the additional money, if you search through the posts some users report improved gains, strength and recovery.
Would a WPH supplement suit me?
Before committing to a WPH, we recommend you do your own research to first determine whether you think it's suitable for you. There are a number of reviews on supplement sites, forums and independent studies online to form an opinion. Based on the research we've read, users who are positive about WPH are typically experienced bodybuilders that follow strict diets and maintain a dedicated workout regime. The hydrolysation process makes the whey taste bitter, so while it's palatable it is an issue highlighted as to why some people avoid it.
The bottom line
If you're experienced and you feel as though you've hit a plateau, then it's something to consider. Obviously it comes with the higher price tag, but if you've gotten this far chances are you already know this!
Some links to look at...
If you're still not sure, you can find a supplement that will suit your goals with our protein finder.