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By Jennifer Narloch, April 15, 2013

In my first few weeks in the dairy industry at MSG, I worked with our ingredient Whey Protein Hydrolysate 9020. It’s 90% protein from whey and has a degree of hydrolysis of 20. Other than that, the first technical thing I learned about Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) 9020 is that it doesn’t taste great. This set off my Spidey sense. It doesn’t taste great, but companies and consumers are buying it? I thought, there must be more to this product than meets the tongue.

For those of you with the same amount of knowledge on hydrolysates as my first days in the industry, I will answer for you, the question our R&D team kindly answered for me. What are whey protein hydrolysates, where do they fit in in the world of finished products and who should take them and when?  

What are whey protein hydrolysates?

Dairy protein is broken into two major categories: milk protein and whey protein, with subcategories whey protein isolate, concentrate and hydrolysate and milk protein isolate and concentrate, micellar casein and lactose. 

Whey protein isoloate can be hydrolyzed, breaking the protein down into small chains of amino acids, known as peptides1. The hydrolysis process mimics your body’s own digestion in the stomach. The degree of hydrolysis (DH) is defined as the proportion of cleaved peptide bonds in a protein hydrolysate – how much protein is pre-digested.

The DH in WPH is what affects the function and flavor, and is highly controllable. For MSG hydroylsates, anything below a DH of 7 will have little to no flavor changes from WPI, while still having all the advantages of a hydrolysate. Common DHs are 3 and 5 at this level. A DH of over 7-20 will have flavor changes. However, this is key, flavor is negligible as WPH will be: used in combination with other proteins in a finished formula (adjust inclusion rate up or down), used in a highly flavored system or used for finished tablets. Common DHs are 10 and 20.

Where do they fit into the world of finished products?

1. Sports Nutrition Powders: Because hydroylsates are already broken down a step, they are absorbed more rapidly than whole food proteins. WPH is used in combination with other protein sources in a finished powder for a product that overall, is more readily available than a protein powder that does not contain WPH.  

2. Nutritional and meal replacement bars: Hydrolysates limit the way moisture can change in their environment due to the structure of their protein matrix. This helps with pliability, keeping the bar from hardening. It also is a great source for soy-free protein bars. (ask about our NEW product BarSoft®)

Ready-to-Drink: Hydroylsates are more heat stable than isolates and concentrates and work great in RTDs.

4. Protein Shots: WPH can rehydrate to a higher level of solids than WPI – great for super concentrated protein shots. WPH tastes better than hydroylzed gelatin, which is also used in protein shots, and is also a better source of protein than hydrolyzed gelatin.

5. Added Bonus:  Hydrolysates do not create gas with high consumption, like other proteins. Consumers can get more protein in their diet, without having to worry about gas or upset stomach.

Who should take them and when?  

Whey protein is an excellent source of the body’s daily needs for protein. Anyone can take whey protein supplementally or in a combination formula as a meal replacement. Specific to the sports nutrition world, hydrolysates can be taken anytime, pre-workout and post-workout.  

1. Pre-workout: For long duration exercise, muscle glycogen is an important fuel. WPHs stimulate muscle glycogen synthesis, yielding available energy as well as supply amino acids to the blood stream, during workout1.

2. Post-workout: Rapid absorption of whey protein post-workout helps reduce recovery time and decrease muscle soreness2.

Milk Specialties Global offers Whey Protein Hydrolysate with degrees of hydrolysis ranging from 3-20. For more information on hydrolysates please visit our Hydrolysate product page  or feel free to contact us here.


1. Protein Hydrolysates in Sports and Exercise: A Brief Review. Anssi H. Manninen. Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Finland. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2004) 3, 60-63

2. Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the   application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. 2000 American Society for Clinical Nutrition.