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Milk Protein vs Whey Protein: Which Is Best?

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If you work out regularly, you know the importance of protein. It greatly contributes to improving body composition and brings you closer to the results you want to see. The following article will look at the benefits of both milk protein and whey protein..

Milk Protein vs Whey Protein? Milk protein provides a slower release of protein, so it’s generally better used at bedtime and in a situation where there is a long period of time without the opportunity to eat. Whey protein is quickly digested and absorbed, so it is better suited as a pre-workout snack.

protein

What’s Milk Protein?

Milk protein is a blend of casein and whey protein in the same ratio in which they are found in milk – 80 / 20%. Due to its composition, we can simultaneously get the benefits of both casein and whey protein, as slow- and fast-digesting proteins. Overall, this is a high-quality protein source with a high BCAA content.

Most often, we can find this protein in ready-to-drink shakes. Good examples are Premier Protein and Muscle Milk. Milk protein is also sold in powdered form. It is generally labeled as milk protein concentrate (MPC) or milk protein isolate (MPI) in the ingredients list. The first has a protein percentage of up to 89.5% of dry weight, the second – 90% and higher.

However, there are very few protein powders on the market, in which the protein is presented only in the form of MPC or MPI. It can usually be found in whey proteins, where it is added to a concentrate or isolate as a blend.

What’s Whey Protein?

Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese production. It is obtained by pasteurizing milk, adding enzymes or acids that separate liquid whey from casein, then filtering lactose, fat, and other components (to varying degrees) and drying it to a powder form. Although it is also a dairy product, it does not contain casein.

It is one of the most popular supplements on the fitness and sports market. And it deserves this popularity, because it is an affordable source of high-quality protein, which also contains even more BCAAs than the milk protein we discussed above.

protein powder

Milk Protein vs Whey Protein: Comparison

Let’s look at the differences between milk protein and whey protein:

1. Processing

For the production of milk protein concentrate or isolate, skimmed milk is used, which passes through pasteurization, membrane filtration / ultrafiltration and diafiltration. During these processes, milk is purified from fat, lactose, some minerals and other components. Diafiltration is used where it is necessary to obtain a final product with a protein percentage higher than 65%.

After a product with the required milk protein concentration is obtained at an intermediate stage, water removal by vacuum evaporation and spray drying takes place. This is the process of producing milk protein, which contains whey protein and casein.

In the process of whey protein manufacturing, milk is pasteurized, then enzymes or acids are added to it, which start the process of coagulation of casein and its separation from whey. Later, casein will be used to produce cheese. The liquid that remained in the casein coagulation process is whey. It goes through membrane filtration and other processes that allow to get a product in liquid form that is low or free of fat, carbohydrates and other components.

Finally, the product is spray-dried into a powder, which we can mix in a protein shake.

2. Average Protein/Carbs/Fats Content

The nutritional content of milk and whey protein will vary based on whichever brand and product you choose. To know the general difference between milk and whey proteins, take a look at the comparison chart below.

Protein per servingFats per servingCarbs per servingCalories per serving
Milk Protein24-25 g2-3.5 g6 g130-160 kcal
Whey Protein20-30 g0-2 g0-4 g100-130 kcal

Keep in mind that the macronutrient composition for milk protein is taken from protein supplements in powder form (not in ready-to-drink shakes), in which it is mainly contained in the overall blend along with whey. If we talk about protein shakes, in which the key source of protein is milk protein concentrate or isolate, then one bottle usually contains 24-32 grams of protein. Muscle milk or Premier protein shakes are great examples.

Whey Protein Isolate
photo by livwellnesss

3. Price Range

Protein powders with milk protein in the general blend are about the same price as regular whey protein concentrate – on average $1.2-$1.5 per serving if you buy a large package (5 lb as a standard reference).

Whey isolate goes through additional filtration processes and increases the protein concentration relative to the weight of the product. It usually has a higher percentage of protein to total calories per serving, less lactose and fat than whey concentrate or milk protein. Therefore, the cost of a serving is usually higher than $1.2-1.5 per serving.

4. Muscle Milk vs Premier Protein

When you search Google for milk protein, you may find Premier Protein vs Muscle Milk, and other ready-to-drink shakes. And the main ingredient in these products is milk protein concentrate or isolate. Both products deserve top marks, as they contain a large portion of high-quality protein (30 g or 32 g per bottle) without added sugar.

However, when choosing between Premier Protein or Muscle Milk shakes, consider the type of milk protein, the amount of protein per serving, and the lactose content. If you do not have a problem with lactose, both products will work for you. If you have an intolerance to milk sugar, Muscle Milk is better because it contains milk protein isolate, which contains less lactose than concentrate. Also Muscle Milk has more protein per serving and costs less.

When you search Google for milk protein, you may find Muscle Milk listed. Now you may think with a name like Muscle Milk that it would be made using milk protein, but this is not the case.

Muscle Milk is made from whey protein, making it suitable for use before and after working out. Premier Protein is also a product you may see advertised online; again, this is made using whey protein.

protein shake

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Milk Protein vs Whey Protein vs Ready-to-Drink Shakes: Summary

1. Pros/Cons of Milk Protein

Positives:

  • A high-quality source of protein
  • Contains micellar casein, whey proteins, and bioactive proteins in the same ratio found in milk
  • Provide both fast- and slow-digesting milk proteins
  • Perfect for a high-protein meal before bed
  • May keep you full longer than whey protein
  • Lots of calcium per serving
  • Good price / quality ratio

Could be better:

  • Contains less BCAA than whey protein
  • Relatively low solubility

2. Pros/Cons of Whey Protein

Positives:

  • Highest quality protein
  • Contains more BCAAs than milk protein
  • Better suited for a pre-workout meal
  • An excellent ratio of price / quality / amount of protein per serving

Could be better:

  • Contains less calcium than milk protein

3. Pros/Cons of Ready-to-Drink Protein Shakes

Positives:

  • Ready-to-Drink form, no need to spend time preparing a protein shake
  • Enriched with vitamins and minerals
  • Very high amount of calcium per serving
  • Provide both fast- and slow-digesting, high-quality milk proteins
  • Perfect for a high-protein snack

Could be better:

  • Generally contains more carbohydrates and fats than whey protein
  • Cost more than a serving of whey or milk protein in powder form

Milk Protein vs Whey Protein: When to Use Each?

Even though they are both forms of high-quality dairy-based protein, we can use the advantages of each of them in different situations.

In the gastrointestinal tract, milk and whey protein will break down into amino acids and peptides, after which they will be absorbed into the bloodstream. The difference is that milk protein is digested and absorbed slower than whey protein, because the casein part of milk protein coagulates in the gut and is digested more slowly. Because of this, it can better support the feeling of satiety and prolongs the process of delivering amino acids to the muscles.

For these reasons, milk protein is better suited in cases where:

  • You will not be able to eat and get a portion of protein for a long time (for example, during long work meetings or while sleeping),
  • You often feel hungry, especially when you are trying to lose weight.

Although there is a lack of research that proves the unique value of taking casein protein before bed, we can still reap the potential benefits of taking it in the evening so that our muscles use sustained release of amino acids while we sleep.

On the other hand, whey protein is very quickly and easily digested, due to which amino acids are able to get to our muscles faster. It’s better for a pre-workout meal when you have 30-40 minutes before your workout, but you haven’t eaten anything in the last few hours. This will allow you to get a large portion of easily digestible protein, reducing the likelihood of a feeling of “heaviness” in the stomach during training.

By the way, both types of protein are a great option for a post-workout meal!

protein powder

Products We Recommend

The whey protein we recommend is the Whey Protein Isolate from Transparent Labs. This protein is sourced from grass-fed American cows, providing 28 grams of protein per serving. It is a concentrated source of whey protein isolate that is ideal for people with lactose intolerance. Zero added sugar and fat per serving. By the way, in the ranking of the company Labdoor, which checks products for harmful ingredients and contaminants, this whey protein isolate has the highest rating – A+!

transparent labs protein

It is almost impossible to find a protein powder on the market in which the key ingredient is milk protein. However, we have found Vital Performance Protein Powder for you. One serving contains 18 g of milk protein isolate (lactose-free), as well as 10 g of collagen to support the health of bones, joints and tendons. It is certified by the independent organization NSF as a product that does not contain unsafe levels of contaminants or prohibited substances.

Vital Performance Protein Powder

If you are choosing between Muscle Milk vs Premier Protein, consider Muscle Milk as one of the best ready-to-drink shakes on the market. It contains milk protein isolate and a total of 32 grams of protein, plus 5 grams of fiber, as much as 520 mg of calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. And all this in one 330 ml bottle!

Muscle Milk

FAQ

Is Milk Whey the Same as Whey Protein?

Milk protein and whey protein are both derived from milk. However, milk protein contains 2 fractions of milk proteins: both casein and whey protein in the same ratio as milk. Whereas whey protein does not contain casein.

Is Milk Protein Good for Building Muscle?

Absolutely! Any milk-based source of protein has a high biological value and is perfect for people who want to gain muscle mass.

Conclusion

Both types of protein, milk and whey, are high-quality proteins. Milk protein contains a lot of casein and is better suited for maintaining a feeling of satiety and as a meal before going to bed. Whey digests very quickly, and is a great option for a pre-workout snack.

Do you have any questions about milk protein or whey protein?

Also read:

References:

  1. Can milk proteins be a useful tool in the management of cardiometabolic health? An updated review of human intervention trials // Cambridge University Press: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/can-milk-proteins-be-a-useful-tool-in-the-management-of-cardiometabolic-health-an-updated-review-of-human-intervention-trials/CA667E69AFECAAB70D1BF3027C53FA21
  2. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise // Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8
  3. Isolated protein supplement // Australian Sports Commission: https://www.ais.gov.au/nutrition/supplements/group_a#isolated_protein_supplement

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Oleksandr Maksymenko

Author: Oleksandr Maksymenko
Certified Sports Nutritionist,
MSc Sports Dietetics

Experience: 7 years
Specializing in: Weight management, Fitness / Sports nutrition

Oleksandr is a professional fitness nutritionist certified by the Fitness Professional Association (FPA). He follows the principles of evidence-based dietetics and fosters a healthy relationship with food in his clients, ensuring there are no strict prohibitions on their favorite foods or frequent lapses. His primary goal is not only to achieve results for you but also to sustain them over the long term, all while enjoying tasty and delicious food.

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