Whey protein is undoubtedly the most popular sports nutrition supplement, but have you ever wondered how it’s actually produced? In this article we’ll be looking at the whey protein production process from the first step to the last.

Whey Protein Production

Whey protein is derived from milk protein, and is regularly used by gym-goers to aid muscle growth and recovery.  The manufacturing process involved in creating protein powder can be outlined in the following steps:

Step 1 – Milk Source

Cows milk is the most commonly used protein source. Once the milk has been collected it must be cooled to remain fresh. The milk will then be transported to a cheese manufacturing plant, as whey protein is a by-product of the cheese making process.

cows in a field

Step 2 – Pasteurising the Milk

To kill harmful bacteria, contained within the milk, it is pasteurised at a high temperature of 72°C and then cooled to 4°C . The milk will contain around 80% casein and 20% whey.

Step 3 – Separating the Whey

The whey must then be separated from the milk. This is done by using enzymes, which separate the milk into liquid and solid particles. The solid particles are casein, also known as curds, and this is used to make cheese. The whey is now in a liquid form and goes through a filtering process to remove the fat, carbohydrates (lactose), minerals and water.

The now filtered whey protein can then be micro-filtrated, which creates the most commonly bought form of whey: whey protein concentrate. To produce whey protein isolate the whey can then be un-filtrated.

Whey protein concentrates protein content can vary from as low as 25% to as high as 80%. The rest of the product contains lactose, fat and minerals. Whey protein isolate is a purer form of protein and usually has a protein content of around 90%. This means it has a much higher protein content than whey protein concentrate and this is the reason why it’s more expensive to buy.

Step 4 – Creating a Powder

The milk protein must then be turned into a powder. To do this the liquid whey is spray-dried. This drying process creates a powder. Now that the whey protein is in powder form, it can be easily packaged and stored.

whey protein powder

Step 5 – Adding Flavour

Flavoured whey protein is extremely popular and this means that most manufacturers will flavour the whey they produce to make it more appealing to the consumer. Unflavoured whey normally contains a higher protein content because it is in a purer form. You should be aware that adding flavour to a whey protein reduces the overall protein content per serving.

Step 6 – Packaging

The final step will be to package the whey protein powder into the branded packaging in various sizes. Depending on what company you purchase from this will either be in a tub or a bag. The packaging is then sealed, dated, stored and ready to be purchased by the consumer.

High Quality Whey Protein

There are so many sports nutrition companies on the market all producing whey protein, so how do you know which protein powder to buy?

One of the best indicators that a whey protein company is producing high quality protein is to look out for third party testing. If a company is prepared to have their product tested and checked by a third party organisation then you can be confident that the product you’re purchasing is of a high quality.

Informed-Sport is a globally recognised quality assurance organisation. They test sports nutrition products, investigate suppliers and check manufacturing facilities to ensure that the ingredients listed on the packet are exactly what’s in the product. For a sports nutrition product to bear the Informed-Sport logo it must also have been tested for banned substances. So, if you want peace of mind and to know for sure that you’re using a high quality protein powder then look out for the Informed-Sport logo on products.

informed by sport logo

Conclusion

Hopefully after reading this article you now have a better idea of how whey protein is produced right from the beginning of the process to the end.  When purchasing whey protein powder always make sure to check the ingredients listed to make sure that you know what that product contains.

Some companies will own their own production facilities, whereas others will use overseas suppliers, so be careful who you’re buying from. Look out for third party testing as an assurance that the protein powder you’re using is of a high quality and has been produced in the right way.