Casein protein is not as popular a protein powder as its cousin, whey, but is still a solid choice for a muscle-building supplement.
Casein is actually the more dominant protein in milk, accounting for 80% of milk’s protein content. When compared to whey, it is relatively insoluble, and often forms structures called micelles, which ake it more soluble in water. This is where the term “micellar casein” – which you will often see on protein powders – comes from. When milk is processed, the micelle structure is broken down into less complex form using heat or enzymes, resulting into a thicker, gel-like substance.
Casein protein powder is usually about 80% protein per serving, with the rest being only trace amounts of carbohydrates and fats.
BENEFITS OF CASEIN
Casein protein has a whole range of benefits, including not just increased muscle mass and lower body fat, but also high levels of antioxidants, reduced triglycerides in the blood and reduction in harmful free radicals. And thanks to its low glycemic index and low insulin response, it has been shown to be very good for those suffering from type 2 Diabetes.
CASEIN VS WHEY
While whey protein is very simple to break down and easy to digest, casein protein is much more complex, and digestion takes a much longer period of time. Consuming whey will result in rapid, almost-immediate protein synthesis and increased amino acids in the blood. However, this increased protein synthesis may not last very long.
Casein, on the other hand, will take longer to digest and release amino acids into the bloodstream. If you’re pounding shakes right after a workout so as to target your newly scorched muscles, this may not be ideal. However, the anabolic effects of weight training don’t subside immediately, and in fact last for anywhere between 8-24 hours after working out. Casein protein has been shown to have a much more prolonged release of proteins and amino acids into the bloodstream, often lasting up to 8 hours after consuming a shake. As a result, there was a constant, consistent source of protein for the muscles, fueling muscle growth for the next several hours.
This is great if you are trying to lose fat. As casein proteins take much longer to digest than whey proteins, they promote even better and lasting fullness, curbing hunger for much longer periods of time.
Is there a noticeable difference in body composition and results from these two protein powders? Not really – if all other factors and aspects of your fitness regimen and lifestyle (sleep, workout, diet) are the same. Some fitness fanatics swear by either whey or casein, preferring either the longer fullness or the shorter digestion. But it mostly comes down to personal preference. As long as you are working out properly and with intensity and focusing on your nutrition, you should see good results with either protein.
In fact, best results may come from simply mixing the two together, as some protein powders do. This will enable rapid digestion of amino acids from the whey for instant protein synthesis, while still allowing for extended anabolic effects and lasting satiety over several hours.
Casein is rich in amino acids. It contains all three BCAA’s (Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine), as well as the other seven essential amino acids. While casein does not have as high a percentage of BCAA’s and essential amino acids per weight as whey, it releases these acids into the bloodstream more slowly over time, which can result in a more consistent and efficient protein synthesis.
Are there any drawbacks to casein protein? If you’re simply consuming a few scoops per day as a protein supplement, it shouldn’t have any negative side effects. People with pre-existing kidney or liver problems may want to watch their protein intake, as too much can have negative health consequences. If you are healthy, however, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Casein protein is, like whey, milk-based, and is very high in lactose. If you are lactose-intolerant, you may not be react well to casein, and should probably look other protein powders, perhaps a plant or egg-based powder. Many people, especially those who are lactose-intolerant, complain of bloating and gas from casein (and whey) proteins.
Many flavored caseins are also full of additives, preservatives and artificial flavors, which some people may react to.
WHEN TO TAKE CASEIN
As mentioned above, there is no “right answer” to when you should take casein, or how it compares to whey. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
If you’re working out at night, or downing a shake for consistent muscle synthesis while you sleep, casein is a good bet. Casein is also good if you like taking a shake several hours before a workout, allowing sufficient digestion time but also extended protein synthesis during the workout.
In conclusion, casein an excellent, slow-digesting protein, great at boosting protein synthesis and muscle growth both pre- and post-workout. It has a wide range of health benefits and is great for lasting fullness, meal replacement and fat loss as well.