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Whey protein isolate: 
the ideal ingredient for sports nutrition


*Corresponding author
1. Davisco Foods International, Inc., 11000 West 78th St. Suite 210 Eden Prairie, MN 55344, USA
2. Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, 905 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA


Nutrition needs for athletes depend on the unique demands of their sport. Although specific nutrition needs differ among athletes, all athletes must optimize muscle strength and performance. In addition, athletes seek to achieve rapid muscle recovery and avoid injuries. Dietary protein intake has a significant impact on muscle development, athletic performance and recovery. Whey protein isolate is a valuable dietary supplement for athletes because of its high concentration of essential amino acids (EAA) plus rapid digestion and absorption that minimize the amount of protein and total calories required for maximum muscle effects. The technology used to isolate whey proteins affects the purity and specific proteins in the final products, and in turn the nutritional and functional properties of the protein ingredients.


Whey protein is a collective term encompassing bovine milk proteins that are soluble in the low pH environment created during the manufacture of cheese. Whey protein isolates and whey protein concentrates are distinguished as having > 90% protein and <90% protein on a dry weight basis, respectively. Whey protein has consistently been found to be among the most highly digestible of proteins, providing the body a complete amino acid profile for muscle growth and repair.
Whey protein has gained popularity in sports nutrition products as a source of high quality protein with a rich supply of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are essential for building muscle and improving athletic performance. Leucine, in particular, plays a critical role in the human body as a dietary trigger required to initiate the synthesis of muscle proteins for development and repair (1-3). The technology used to isolate whey protein affects the purity and specific proteins retained in the final product and in turn the nutritional and functional properties of the whey protein ingredients ...