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What is Lean Whey Protein?

You probably have some sort of basic understanding about what whey protein is, but how good are you at deciphering all the other adjectives that get tacked onto the tub? There’s concentrate, isolate, organic, hydrolysate, and tons of other descriptors floating around the supplement industry.

For now, though, let’s focus on one of the simplest: lean.

What, exactly, is lean whey protein? What does the addition of that little word change?

Just Plain Whey

To fully grasp what “lean whey protein” is, we need to refresh ourselves on what just old fashioned whey consists of.

It may be a strange thought but milk actually contains liquid and solid portions. When heat, acid, enzymes or other curdling agents are applied to the milk, these components are forced to separate. The solids clump up and float on top of the mix – these are the curds, which are strained off to make cheese or casein protein powder.

The liquid that is left behind, however, is the whey. Of course, before it gets to you it goes through varying degrees of processing – consisting of dehydration and powdering at the very least.

Okay so, hopefully, that gives you a basic understanding of standard whey. What about the “lean” concept?

Lean, Mean Protein

Typically, “lean” describes something that has little-to-no fat – usually it also brings up of the idea of someone being extremely muscular. When it comes to food, though, the mean is slightly different. Yes, it shows a lack of fat, but it also generally points to a fair amount of protein.

This is significant because many protein sources are also rich in fat and, along with it, extra calories. For example, 100g of steak contains 28g of protein. Which is fantastic. Unfortunately, it comes bundled with 9g of fat and totals 194 calories. The same amount of chicken breast, though, gives you 31g of protein and just 4g of fat, with a total of 165 calories. Chicken breast, then, is a lean protein. Or, at least, it’s leaner than steak.

Now, what about whey? The standard dose of whey protein only weighs in at about 30g but packs 25g of protein, tied up with a meager 2g of fat and 120 total calories. To make that directly comparable to the earlier examples, let’s say that you threw back 100g of whey – which is ridiculous. Still, we’ll do the math for the sake of argument. That would deliver 75g of protein, with just 6g of fat to be found in the full 360 calories.

A quality whey, then, is an incredibly lean protein.

Leaner Than Others

And, while whey is a lean protein by nature, some are just little better than others. The majority of dairy cows from which whey is sourced are fed in feed-lots on a grain-rich, chemically treated diet. Along with all the other problems associated with this practice, it results in a higher saturated fat content in any dairy products made from that cow’s milk.

Animals that are pasture-fed and allowed to graze freely on grass, however, produce healthier milk. For you, this translates to a whey that is lower in saturated fat and higher in healthy omega-3 and conjugated linoleic fatty acids.

Read More:
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Grass-Fed Whey
7 Essentials to Look For In Your Whey Protein Powder
How Whey Protein is Produced