What Is Clear Whey Isolate? Here’s the Science Behind the Buzz

You thought you’d tried all the protein powder the virtual supplement aisle has to offer. But recently, the internet has been abuzz with a new type of protein powder — clear whey isolate.

An ever-increasing horde of probable gymgoers are searching for the term on Google. Well-known brands are on board, with Myprotein offering MIKE AND IKE® and Jelly Belly®-flavored clear whey while WICKED Protein also offers an unflavored alternative.

When you can snag a tub of the latest muscle-building trend at Costco, you know it’s reaching epic proportions. But what is clear whey isolate? And is it worth all the hype?

Credit: Halk-44 / Shutterstock

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What Is Clear Whey Isolate?

Clear whey isolate is whey protein that’s been so highly purified that it is transparent when you mix it with water. It’s treated with heat to break down its protein enough to become water-soluble — i.e., clear. This process may potentially give it a longer shelf life if sold as a pre-mixed protein drink. (1)

Limited research suggests that its taste may be strong (2), which might be one reason it’s often commercially paired with fruity flavors. And because the powder is fine enough to dissolve fully in water, you won’t need to panic about dreaded clumps in your drink if you forget your shaker bottle.

Popular brands advertise that clear whey isolate is both low in lactose and high in absorption — in other words, it’ll be put to use quickly and easily in your body. There isn’t strong clinical evidence that this is the case because research on clear whey isolate is scarce. However, whey hydrolysate is processed in a similar way, and it is thought to be used easily by the body. (3

[Read More: The 13 Best Whey Protein Powders, 2024]

What Is Whey Protein Powder?

First things first: Whey comes from milk during the cheese manufacturing process. When water is removed and some lactose is stripped away through processing and filtering, you’re left with the whey protein. (4)

Because it’s the least processed of the main commercial types of this supplement, whey protein concentrate tends to be the easiest on your wallet. However, it may not be easiest on your stomach since it still contains lactose. 

Whey isolate is further processed, having most of its carbs, fats, and lactose stripped away. (4

Whey protein hydrolysate, which is already broken down into its constituent amino acids and has almost no lactose. Since it’s been exposed to heat and already broken down, your body absorbs it more quickly. (3)

[Read More: The Gymgoer’s Guide to Whey Protein]

Clear Whey Isolate vs. Whey Concentrate

Plain and simple, whey concentrate has more stuff than clear whey isolate. Because the clear stuff is more highly processed, it’s stripped of components that whey concentrate still contains. Here’s how it breaks down:

Whey concentrate has higher levels of fats, carbs, and lactose. This may be beneficial if you’re on a bulk.

Whey concentrate is generally cheaper. Myprotein, for example, sells 1.1 pounds of clear whey isolate for $39.99, while they sell a 2.3-pound blend of whey concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate for $38.99. That’s over two times the amount for a dollar less.

Clear whey isolate contains less lactose, fats, and carbs.

Clear whey isolate may help if you want to reduce overall sugar and caloric intake

[Read More: What’s the Best Whey: Concentrate, Isolate, Hydrolysate?]

Clear Whey Isolate vs. Whey Isolate

They may sound similar, but clear whey isolate is often derived from regular old whey isolate. Here’s the difference that a lot of heat makes.

Whey isolate is generally much cheaper than clear whey isolate.

Clear whey isolate is often made from whey isolate (and sometimes, whey concentrate). It is processed much further using heat to denature proteins.

Clear whey isolate may contain less lactose.

Clear whey isolate is advertised as being absorbed faster by the body than whey isolate, but there is a lack of research to support this.

[Read More: How Much Protein Do You Actually Need Per Day?]

Clear Whey Isolate vs. Whey Hydrolysate

A lack of research on clear whey isolate makes it especially difficult to compare to whey hydrolysate. However, here is what we know:

Whey hydrolysate is made when heat and/or proteolytic enzymes are applied to whey protein concentrate or whey isolate. This kickstarts a “pre-digestion” process, breaking down peptides into amino acids — which your body can use very quickly and easily. (3)

Clear whey isolate is also derived from whey concentrate or whey isolate and also uses heat to fuel the breakdown process.

Whey hydrolysate is made to be very low in lactose.

Clear whey isolate is also designed to be very low in lactose or even lactose-free.

Clear whey isolate is also meant to be absorbed quickly by the body, but there isn’t current clinical research to back this up. 

Clear whey isolate’s transparency when mixed with water speaks to its solubility, which may be helpful for athletes who need both a protein and hydration boost on the go.

[Read More: The Best Protein Intake Calculator for Muscle Gain and Fat Loss]

Your Takeaways

Clear whey isolate is marketed as being more easily digestible than other forms of whey, both because of the low lactose content and because the body is theoretically able to absorb it rapidly.

While it is less clumpy and more easily drinkable because it’s water-soluble, there currently isn’t enough research to support the idea that it’s superior to other forms of whey protein. Here’s one final breakdown:

Clear whey isolate is a form of whey protein concentrate or isolate (depending on the manufacturer) that’s treated with heat to isolate protein even further.

In the process, clear whey isolate also becomes water soluble so that it becomes transparent when mixed with water.

Brands claim that it is more readily absorbable than other kinds of whey, but current research doesn’t support that claim. There is, however, research that suggests that whey hydrolysate (which is produced through a similar process) is more easily absorbed in the body. (3)

The biggest definitive difference between clear whey isolate and other forms of whey protein seems to be that it dissolves in water, making it a solid choice for hydrating and getting your protein simultaneously.


All the buzz is bound to leave you with questions. Here’s our quick (and science-backed) guide.

Is clear whey isolate worth it?

Even a cursory glance down the virtual supplement aisle will tell you that clear whey isolate is much more expensive than its whey concentrate and isolate cousins.

Clear whey isolate is a more processed version of whey concentrate and isolate, which is supposed to rid regular isolate of more lactose and create a faster-absorbing product. However, there isn’t currently clinical research to support this claim. If you want your supps backed by science, you might want to turn to whey hydrolysate instead.

(Note: whey hydrolysate also costs a pretty penny.)

But if you’re specifically in the market for a soluble protein powder, you may find that clear whey isolate is worth the cost.

Is clear whey isolate better than whey protein?

To be clear (pun intended), clear whey isolate is a form of whey protein. It’s simply a more processed version of whey concentrate or isolate.

Clear whey isolate is advertised as having little-to-no lactose and can be absorbed very quickly by your body. There aren’t currently clinical studies to back up these claims.

However, if you’re after a protein powder that’s water soluble, clear whey isolate is your best bet.

What does clear whey isolate do?

Generally speaking, clear whey isolate likely does the same thing that other forms of whey protein do — boost your protein intake levels. Whey protein is very well-known as a supplement that can help spur muscle growth when taken in combination with a rigorous strength training program. (5) And since clear whey isolate is, indeed, whey protein, it may well have a similar impact on the body.

How do you use clear whey isolate?

You can use clear whey isolate the same way you do other forms of whey protein powder. You mix the recommended amount of powder into the recommended amount of liquid, give it a stir, and drink.

Since clear whey isolate is soluble in water, though, you needn’t break out the shaker bottle. It that way, it may be easier to use — no clumping to speak of.


LaClair CE, Etzel MR. Ingredients and pH are key to clear beverages that contain whey protein. J Food Sci. 2010 Jan-Feb;75(1):C21-7.

Childs JL, Drake M. Consumer perception of astringency in clear acidic whey protein beverages. J Food Sci. 2010 Nov-Dec;75(9):S513-21.

Manninen AH. Protein hydrolysates in sports nutrition. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009 Sep 28;6:38.

Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein – Which is Best? J Sports Sci Med. 2004 Sep 1;3(3):118-30.

Hulmi JJ, Lockwood CM, Stout JR. Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Jun 17;7:51.

Featured Image: Halk-44 / Shutterstock

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