Hooray for hydrolysates! Consumers rate protein type an upgrade over normal whey

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/Marilyna
©iStock/Marilyna
Whey protein hydrolysates are superior to normal whey proteins for sports nutrition according to nearly two thirds of consumers, who cited improved muscle building and recovery amongst its purported benefits. 

The survey, commissioned by Arla Foods Ingredients, found that nearly half of those (48%) responding said they had heard of whey protein hydrolysates (WPH) and within this group, 60% said they believed them to be better than standard whey proteins.

“This survey demonstrates that, globally, among consumers who take their exercise seriously, there is a generally positive perception of whey protein hydrolysates and good awareness of their benefits,”​ said Troels Laursen, director of Health & Performance Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients.

WPH have been a mainstay ingredient in sports nutrition for a number of years with sports enthusiasts encouraged by its fast absorbing, easy digesting and rapid delivery qualities.

These benefits would ideally be suited to the endurance sports area, although evidence has been scant in supporting this view, and market sector growth has been attributed to sports drinks containing carbohydrates and electrolytes only.

As well as Arla’s Lacprodan Hydro.356, companies operating in the market for protein hydrolysate ingredients include Fonterra, FrieslandCampina, and Milk Specialties Group.

For sport nutrition manufacturers, such as Nestlé and Danone, WPH are a key ingredient for formulating protein drinks, for adding protein into sports gels and for increasing the softness and shelf life of protein bars.

More survey results

The survey, produced by market researchers Lindberg International, questioned 2,649 consumers from the UK, Germany, US, Brazil and Japan, about their use of WPH.

Subjects, who all exercised for more than three hours a week, revealed that on average, those who had heard of WPH consume the protein eight times per month.

Most respondents (81%) said they consume them at least once a month, and nearly a quarter (22%) said they consume WPH 11 or more times per month.

Further results considered WPH a credible source of protein with only 4% having negative associations.

“With the Innova Database identifying a 26% increase in the number of launches worldwide of sports nutrition products containing WPH from 2010 to 2016, the survey results demonstrate that hydrolysates are gaining traction in the sports nutrition space,”​ commented Laursen.

“This means there is an excellent opportunity for sports nutrition companies to develop products with whey protein hydrolysates, which are at the vanguard of the industry.”

WPH research

Identifying protein’s benefits for endurance athletes is a relatively unexplored research area with few studies comparing the effects of whey or casein protein hydrolysates on building muscle in healthy athletes.

The effect of WPH supplementation and timing appears to make little difference to recovery or performance in elite cyclists.

Denmark’s Aarhus University concluded that protein intake combined with carbohydrate during an intense cycling session did not result in marked performance benefits.

This was compared to carbohydrate intake when a recovery drink containing adequate protein and carbohydrate was ingested immediately after each training session in both groups.

However, more research​ concludes that muscle building in young men was greater after whey hydrolysate or soy protein consumption than casein both at rest and after resistance exercise.

Despite both being ‘fast’ proteins, whey hydrolysate stimulated muscle building to a greater degree than soy after resistance exercise.

These differences may be related to how quickly the proteins are digested or, possibly, to small differences in leucine content of each protein. 

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