Last updated: August 20, 2020

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Hydrolyzed protein is one of many protein supplements available, and perhaps one of the least well known. This type of protein is previously digested into peptides and/or amino acids to facilitate digestion. You can find whey, casein, collagen, soy and wheat protein hydrolysates, just to name a few examples.

Although the protein-sport-muscle use is indisputable, not all proteins are intended to build muscle. Some are key to skin and joint care, while there are peptides that are capable of promoting cardiovascular, digestive and immune health. Read on to find out more!

Key Facts

  • A hydrolyzed protein is one that has been pre-digested, that is, its long chains of amino acids (basic units) have been separated into peptides and / or free amino acids, with the aim of facilitating their absorption in the intestine.
  • Hydrolyzed proteins have wide uses in nutrition, medicine and the food industry. Most of the hydrolyzed protein supplements on the market are intended for athletes who want to increase their muscle mass and for adults who want to maintain the firmness and smoothness of their skin.
  • To choose the best hydrolyzed protein, it is important to consider certain basic purchasing criteria: protein source, functional properties, allergens, added ingredients and quality certification.

Our Selection: The Best Hydrolyzed Protein Supplements on the U.S. Market

Hydrolyzed proteins are common in sports areas, gyms, and when it comes to collagen, in beauty centers. Trainers, dietitians, beauticians or other consumers can recommend these types of products. However, after a thorough review, we have selected our favorites.

Best Rated Hydrolyzed Protein Powder

With a 4.6 out of 5 star rating by over 7000 happy customers, this is the highest rated item on our ranking. This formula is scientifically proven, fast-digesting, hydrolyzed, 100% whey protein isolate. If your goal is gains in muscle size and strength, ISO100 is your perfect partner.

Unlike many protein powders, this one is gluten free with less than 0.5g of lactose. ISO100 also has delicious chocolate protein powder flavors to crush your chocolate cravings!

The Best Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate Powder

Platinum Hydrowhey is a great option for those looking to gain muscle using hydrolyzed protein. By hydrolyzing whey protein isolates to break larger proteins down into smaller pieces, these ultra-pure whey isolates are able to get into your system rapidly, enabling your muscles to start recovering from heavy training.

This formula also includes added branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). This is a great option for post workout recovery, between meals, or anytime additional protein is needed in your diet.

The Best Hydrolyzed Protein Collagen

Grass Fed Collagen Peptides provides an easy way to add highly absorbable (peptides) collagen to your daily diet. It’s unflavored and is perfect for shakes, smoothies or can be used in baking.

One scoop conveniently delivers 20g collagen peptides (Type I and Type III) and is great for anyone looking to improve skin elasticity, nail and hair strength and joint mobility.

The Best Hydrolyzed Protein for Lean Muscle

This protein contains zero carbs, sugar, fat, and is low in sodium, ideal if you’re trying to lose weight and get very lean. Its high in BCAA’s and EAAS, which help to protect your muscles, increase muscle mass, resistance and help with your overall hormonal environment. And it has digestive enzymes that improves digestion and prevents gas and bloating.

The flavor of these proteins are the best, and the best part, no artificial sweeteners, it only has Stevia, a natural sweetener that won’t affect your health.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Hydrolyzed Protein

There are different types of hydrolyzed proteins, and not all are designed to promote muscle development or recovery. Some benefit skin and joints, others can improve immunity and heart health. In this section we will delve into the ingredients, uses and advantages offered by protein hydrolyzates.

girl at gym

A hydrolyzed protein is one that has been pre-digested, that is, its long chains of amino acids (basic units) have been separated into peptides and/or free amino acids, with the aim of facilitating their absorption in the intestines.
(Source: Vanchaichana: 124473164/ 123rf.com)

What exactly is hydrolyzed protein?

Long chains of amino acids are linked through peptide bonds to form a protein. When we ingest a protein, our body must digest it, that is, “break down” these peptide bonds through the action of digestive enzymes until we obtain peptides (several amino acids linked together) and free amino acids that will be absorbed in the intestine (1 ).

So, a hydrolyzed protein is one that has been pre-digested through a process of enzymatic or chemical hydrolysis to facilitate its assimilation or modify its functional properties. As a result, the long chain of amino acids that make up a protein is divided into smaller peptides and free amino acids, which can be rapidly absorbed (2).

Marie T. VanierAuthor of Handbook of Clinical Neurology

“Several classes of macromolecules are hydrolyzed: proteins, polysaccharides, lipids, nucleic acids”.

What are the differences between hydrolyzed protein, protein isolates and concentrates?

Isolates and concentrates are supplements that provide large amounts of whole proteins, which have not undergone a process of hydrolysis (predigestion). Its absorption is slower than that of hydrolyzed protein. Isolates and concentrates of whey and soy are often used as raw material for hydrolyzates (2).

Furthermore, some of the peptides that are obtained from protein hydrolysis may have functional properties, which means that hydrolyzed proteins offer an extra health benefit. For example, casein peptides improve calcium absorption, while soy peptides lower cholesterol (3).

Features Protein concentrate Protein isolate Protein hydrolyzate
Percentage of proteins 35-80%. At least 90%. Between 75 and 92%.
Price per kilogram $20-30. $20-45 . $30 to $70 (depends on whether the hydrolyzed protein is Whey, casein or collagen).
Protein sources used Whey protein (whey) and soy protein Whey protein and soy protein Whey protein, soy, wheat, casein (cow’s milk), collagen, beef.
Does it contain lactose? Yes. There are lactose-free brands. Yes. There are lactose-free brands. Very little quantity. There are lactose free brands.
Solubility (ability to dissolve in water without forming lumps) Very good. It dissolves in water without forming lumps. Regular. Regular.
Natural flavor (without addition of artificial flavorings) Neutral. Neutral. Bitter. The higher the hydrolysis, the greater the bitter taste. (Although manufacturers have strived to achieve consumer-friendly hydrolyzates.)

What benefits does hydrolyzed protein have?

Hydrolyzed proteins are not only used for sports or nutritional purposes. The food industry uses them because of their emulsifying properties and, as we have already mentioned, some peptides have beneficial effects on the body (2). Here are some of the benefits of hydrolyzed proteins:

  • They offer an excellent amino acid profile, since in their elaboration, raw materials of high biological value are used that contain all the amino acids, such as concentrates or isolates of Whey and soy protein, casein, beef protein, egg white, among others (1).
  • They assimilate quickly thanks to the pre-digestion of hydrolysis. The di and tripeptides, chains formed by the union of 2 and 3 amino acids respectively, are absorbed extremely quickly in the intestine (4).
  • They constitute one of the best supplements in the athlete’s diet because they provide all the branched chain amino acids, including the BCAAs (branched), which promote muscle recovery. They can be taken during or after training, to stimulate protein synthesis in the muscle and improve its development (4.5).
  • Casein peptides increase calcium absorption, prevent tooth decay and prevent demineralization of tooth enamel (3).
  • Hydrolyzed collagen contributes to the preservation of joint health. In cases of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, collagen has improved inflammation and pain in the affected joints (6).
  • The collagen hydrolyzate maintains smoothness and firmness of skin. It is one of the most consumed products to combat skin aging, preserve its elasticity and minimize wrinkles (7).
  • Hydrolyzed protein is key in the treatment of various diseases that occur with nutrient malabsorption (Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis) or in which there is a difficulty in metabolizing certain amino acids (phenylketonuria, tyrosinemia) (2, 3) .
  • Many hydrolyzed proteins are hypoallergenic. The enzymatic hydrolysis breaks the chains of amino acids that make up the entire protein and peptides of different length are obtained. All hypoallergenic formula must be certified as such by the competent authorities (2).
  • They collaborate with digestion: peptides obtained from the hydrolysis of gluten and casein could help in the treatment of diarrhea. Furthermore, casein peptides could regulate the sensation of hunger and gastric emptying (3).
  • Whey protein peptides are antioxidants, anticancer, antihypertensive and stimulate the proliferation of lymphocytes (defensive cells) (3).
  • There are peptides derived from the hydrolysis of milk, soy, fish and egg white proteins that have antioxidant activity and fight free radicals that cause aging and disease (8).
  • They protect the cardiovascular system: soy peptides reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) blood levels (8). Peptides derived from whey and casein have an antihypertensive effect, that is, they lower blood pressure (3).
protein powder

Hydrolyzed proteins have wide uses in nutrition, medicine and the food industry.
(Source: Doga: 123439878/ 123rf.com)

What types of hydrolyzed proteins are there?

Hydrolyzed proteins are classified according to the degree of hydrolysis that the raw material has undergone. There are 2 types of protein hydrolyzates (9):

  1. Elemental: the protein has been completely hydrolyzed and the product consists of free amino acids, which are the basic constituent units of proteins. They do not require any type of digestive process. This type of formula is used for specific medical purposes, for example severe food allergies and phenylketonuria.
  2. Semi-elemental: a partial hydrolysis is carried out and the supplement consists of peptides, mainly di and tripeptides, which are the ones that assimilate more quickly. They require a brief digestive process. Whey protein, casein, collagen and soy protein hydrolyzates are examples of this group.

What are the main advantages of hydrolyzed collagen?

Hydrolyzed collagen is mainly used to care for skin and joints. As we already mentioned, this supplement improves skin elasticity, restores its firmness, prevents and reduces wrinkles, and promotes smoothness. In the case of joints, collagen relieves pain and reduces swelling (6.7).

Is hydrolyzed protein recommended for athletes?

Protein is an essential nutrient for athletes and is key to the development of muscle mass. Hydrolyzates contain all essential and non-essential amino acids, in adequate concentrations, and, most especially, ready to be assimilated. The consumption of hydrolyzed protein stimulates protein synthesis in muscle (5).

Protein hydrolyzates are designed to provide significant amounts of BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine), which are key for muscle recovery and the synthesis of new proteins (10). Of course, hydrolyzed protein is useless if it is not accompanied by a balanced diet and adequate physical exercise.

foco

 Did you know that hydrolyzed collagen can be of marine or bovine origin? You can also ingest it in the form of powder or tablets.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of hydrolyzed protein?

Hydrolyzed protein is easily assimilated and is usually very well tolerated at the digestive level. The peptides resulting from hydrolysis can have beneficial effects on health. However, these supplements are expensive and are not always the best option. In the following table, we go over the advantages and disadvantages of hydrolyzed protein.

Advantages
  • It has an excellent amino acid profile
  • It is quickly absorbed at the intestinal level in approximately 30 minutes
  • It is the best protein supplement to take during training or competition (ideally accompanied by a source of simple sugars)
  • The peptides that arise from hydrolysis can have hypocholesterolemic, antioxidant, digestive, hypotensive and immunostimulatory properties
  • It has very good digestive tolerance. It does not produce gas, diarrhea or bloating, unlike other protein supplements
Disadvantages
  • It is expensive
  • It has low solubility and tends to form lumps when dissolved in water
  • It may taste bitter

Does hydrolyzed protein cause adverse reactions?

The consumption of protein hydrolyzates is not associated with adverse effects typical of other protein supplements, such as flatulence, diarrhea, stomach pain or bloating, since these products are predigested and are usually very well tolerated at the digestive level. Furthermore, these products are generally free (or very low) in lactose (6, 11).

Buyer’s Guide

Hydrolyzed protein is the most expensive protein that exists due to the processing that the raw material undergoes to become peptides and amino acids. In order not to waste your money, it is essential that you do not make quick decisions and carefully evaluate the products taking into account these purchasing criteria:

Protein Source

The raw materials from which protein hydrolyzates are obtained are: whey protein (isolated or concentrated), soy protein (isolated or concentrated), casein, egg white protein, beef protein, collagen (beef or marine), wheat protein, among other sources.

A hydrolyzed protein will always offer a good amino acid profile and will be easily digested, but it is important to take into account the origin to know if the supplement is suitable for vegetarians or vegans. For example, hydrolyzed collagen may come from fish scales or bovine bones, making it unsuitable for vegans or vegetarians.

beautiful eyes girl

Most of the hydrolyzed protein supplements on the market are intended for athletes who want to increase their muscle mass and for adults who want to maintain the firmness and smoothness of their skin.
(Source: Dotsenko: 87257990/ 123rf.com)

Functional Properties

As explained previously, some peptides provide other benefits, in addition to providing amino acids. These functional peptides can protect the heart, improve immunity, lower “bad” cholesterol, or lower blood pressure. In the following table we mention some examples:

Peptides Beneficial effect
Soy peptides Lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Whey protein peptides They reduce blood pressure levels (antihypertensive) and are antioxidants.
Casein peptides They increase calcium absorption, promote dental health and help treat diarrhea.

Allergens

Although hydrolyzed protein can often be hypoallergenic, people with allergies should read the label carefully to rule out the presence of the allergen. Those who have celiac disease should avoid wheat protein hydrolyzates and should always verify that the supplement has the gluten-free product seal.

Added Ingredients

The undesirable added ingredients in a hydrolyzed protein are simple sugars and artificial additives (colors, flavors). However, there are other nutrients that enhance the positive effects of the supplement. For example, hydrolyzed collagen supplements may have vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, green tea extract, or magnesium.

Quality certification

It is best to buy a hydrolyzed protein that has quality certifications, such as BMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), ISO 9001 (International Organization for Standardization) or HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). These accreditations imply that the product respects the highest quality standards.

Summary

The hydrolyzed protein has been pre-digested to speed up its assimilation time and quickly reach the blood. Although the first function of these supplements is to provide amino acids to the body for protein synthesis, there are peptides capable of improving immunity, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and fighting oxidative damage.

To obtain a hydrolyzate, different protein sources can be used, both of animal and vegetable origin. Whey protein, casein and hydrolyzed soy protein are highly recommended for athletes, while collagen is a supplement that helps care for skin and joints.

If you liked our guide, be sure to share it on your social networks or leave us a comment!

(Source of featured image: Khotjan: 86475481/ 123rf.com)

References (11)

1. Sanz M L. Proteins [Internet]. 2006.
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2. Millán Rodríguez F, Vioque J. Nutritional [Internet]. 2005.
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3. Martínez Augustin O, Martínez de Victoria Muñoz E. protein [Internet]. 2006.
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4. Manninen A H. Protein Hydrolysates in Sports and Exercise: A Brief Review [Internet]. J Sports Sci Med. 2004.
Source

5. Beelen M et al. Coingestion of Carbohydrate and Protein Hydrolysate Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis during Exercise in Young Men, with No Further Increase during Subsequent Overnight Recovery [Internet]. The Journal of Nutrition. 2008.
Source

6. Trc T, Bohmová J. Efficacy and tolerance of enzymatic hydrolysed collagen (EHC) vs. glucosamine sulphate (GS) in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (KOA) [Internet]. International Orthopaedics. 2011.
Source

7. Sibilla S et al. An Overview of the Beneficial Effects of Hydrolysed Collagen as a Nutraceutical on Skin Properties: Scientific Background and Clinical Studies [Internet]. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal. 2015.
Source

8. Vioque J, Millán F. Bioactive peptides in food: new health promoting agents[Internet]. 2005.
Source

9. Feferbaum R, Miuki Abe Jacob C, Zamberlan P, Fuchs Tarlovky V. Elementary and semi-elementary formulas in pediatrics[Internet]. 2010.
Source

10. Salinas García M E et al. Effects of branched amino acids in endurance sports: a review [Internet]. 2014.
Source

11. Gleeson M. Dosing and Efficacy of Glutamine Supplementation in Human Exercise and Sport Training [Internet]. The Journal of Nutrition. 2008.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Ava Kirk Journalist
Ava has specialized in medical journalism and not only writes about the human body, but also knows her way around food supplements. She also studied sports science in college.
Sanz M L. Proteins [Internet]. 2006.
Go to source
Millán Rodríguez F, Vioque J. Nutritional [Internet]. 2005.
Go to source
Martínez Augustin O, Martínez de Victoria Muñoz E. protein [Internet]. 2006.
Go to source
Manninen A H. Protein Hydrolysates in Sports and Exercise: A Brief Review [Internet]. J Sports Sci Med. 2004.
Go to source
Beelen M et al. Coingestion of Carbohydrate and Protein Hydrolysate Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis during Exercise in Young Men, with No Further Increase during Subsequent Overnight Recovery [Internet]. The Journal of Nutrition. 2008.
Go to source
Trc T, Bohmová J. Efficacy and tolerance of enzymatic hydrolysed collagen (EHC) vs. glucosamine sulphate (GS) in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (KOA) [Internet]. International Orthopaedics. 2011.
Go to source
Sibilla S et al. An Overview of the Beneficial Effects of Hydrolysed Collagen as a Nutraceutical on Skin Properties: Scientific Background and Clinical Studies [Internet]. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal. 2015.
Go to source
Vioque J, Millán F. Bioactive peptides in food: new health promoting agents[Internet]. 2005.
Go to source
Feferbaum R, Miuki Abe Jacob C, Zamberlan P, Fuchs Tarlovky V. Elementary and semi-elementary formulas in pediatrics[Internet]. 2010.
Go to source
Salinas García M E et al. Effects of branched amino acids in endurance sports: a review [Internet]. 2014.
Go to source
Gleeson M. Dosing and Efficacy of Glutamine Supplementation in Human Exercise and Sport Training [Internet]. The Journal of Nutrition. 2008.
Go to source