Maximizing Recovery & Performance With Hydrolyzed Whey Protein

Posted by Lindsey Ormond on Oct 24, 2022 10:36:53 AM

Every day, athletes of all levels are pushing their bodies in pursuit of their goals, be it to become faster, stronger, bulkier, leaner, or healthier. Regular training, particularly that which induces muscle damage and depletes the body’s energy stores, stimulates adaptations that make the muscles stronger and more efficient in future. But training is only one part of the equation; nutrition is key to maximizing these adaptations, enhancing muscle recovery, and optimising muscle condition.   



The unrivalled benefits of whey protein have been utilised for years within sports nutrition, having been shown to enhance recovery and performance in both strength and endurance athletes alike1,2,3. While both the composition and absorption rate of this natural protein make it unrivalled for building muscle, hydrolyzing whey protein can mean it’s absorbed faster, having a greater influence on insulin secretion and may even improve performance measures more than intact whey.



Whey protein hydrolysates naturally provide the same great composition of branched-chain and essential amino acids of intact whey protein, but in a faster, more easily absorbed format. Whey protein hydrolysates are produced by putting intact whey protein through an additional step, which breaks the protein down into smaller peptide units that the body absorbs more easily. In fact, these smaller peptides units are absorbed faster than both intact whey protein and free amino acids4,5.

Artboard 7-Oct-24-2022-03-16-21-19-PMWHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Faster absorption 

The absorption of amino acids from hydrolyzed whey protein has been shown to be 15-30 minutes faster than that of intact protein (figure 1)4. This faster, easier absorption may help athletes make more of the 2 hour ‘window of opportunity’ immediately after exercise, improve recovery for those training or competing more than once a day or on consecutive days, and enable pre- and peri- exercise protein intake with lower risk of gastrointestinal upset.

Artboard 7 copy-2 

Figure 1. Amino acid absorption of hydrolyzed versus intact whey4. Needs adapted – just use the 2 lines with circles, not the ones with squares.


Reduced muscle damage 

Hard, physical activity invokes muscle damage, which reduces the ability to train at the same level in subsequent sessions. Whey protein hydrolysates have been shown to reduce muscle damage, which could lead to less muscle soreness and reduce the time until the next training session, as well as increasing the training load possible at the next session5,6. For example, WPH was shown to reduce muscle damage more than intact whey protein in elite level Brazilian footballers (figure 2)5.

Artboard 7 copy 2-1Figure 2. Changes in muscle damage markers for intact vs hydrolyzed whey protein. Adapted from5.

CK: Creatine kinase       LDH: Lactate dehydrogenase 

WP – intact whey protein          WPH - whey protein hydrolysate 

% - reduction level of muscle damage marker vs baseline  

 Enhanced insulin effect 

Insulin has two profound benefits for the athlete – it can enhance muscle growth and stimulate re-synthesis of the glycogen. Glycogen, particularly muscle glycogen, is a key energy source for the body during exercise, but limited stores mean they need well replenished, particularly for athletes training every day. Hydrolysed whey can stimulate insulin more than intact whey, as shown in figure 3.


Artboard 7 copy 3-1

Figure 3. Effect of intact vs hydrolyzed whey on insulin response7



Whey protein hydrolysates work well across a range of applications, making them extremely easy to fit into the diets of any athlete. While hydrolysates have traditionally been associated with a bitter taste profile that can occur when “opening up” a protein, advances in technology and product development mean hydrolysates can be a key part of great tasting high protein products, from RTMs and RTDs, to protein shots, gummies, and bars.



Hydrolyzed whey protein has been pre-digested to breakdown protein into smaller peptide units, which can lead to faster, easier digestion, and potentially benefit sports performance and muscle damage. Milk Specialties Global manufactures a wide range of whey protein hydrolysates for different applications, including custom solutions to suit specific needs. To find out more, please contact us.



  1. Hoffman et al, 2010
  2. Rustad et al, 2016
  3. Volek et al, 2013
  4. Morifuji et al, 2010
  5. Lollo et al, 2014
  6. Hansen et al, 2015
  7. Power et al, 2009