When you first start working out, you hear a lot of hype about whey protein. But the more you learn, the more you’ll start to hear about casein protein. Then the confusion sets in. What’s the difference between whey protein and casein protein? What is casein protein? What does casein do? What are the casein protein benefits? Then you’ll hear about different types of casein protein, like miceller casein and casein hydrolysate, to make things even more confusing. Well the confusion ends here. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about casein protein. We’ll tell you what it is, what it does, how to use casein protein, the best times of day to take it, and much more!
What Is Casein?
Casein protein, also known as calcium caseinate, comes from cows’ milk. In that way, casein protein is similar to whey protein. However, the main difference between casein protein and whey protein is the rate of absorption. They both contain a rich range of essential amino acids but whey protein is fast absorbing and casein protein is slow absorbing. Fast absorbing basically means that the protein can get into your system super quickly. Slow absorbing means that the protein is drip fed into your system, providing a steady supply. This explains why people recommend taking whey protein after your workout and casein protein at another time during the day, preferably before bed. The best use of casein protein is when you need a long and sustained supply of nutrients.
What Does Casein Do?
One of the main benefits of casein protein is that it provides a steady supply of protein and essential amino acids to your system. Casein provides a long and sustained (around 7 hours) supply of nutrients that will help you recover from your workouts. Whey protein is great for creating an anabolic response and a sharp spike of protein synthesis but casein is best for catering to your body’s needs over longer periods of time. For example, if you were going on a long trip and you didn’t have much food to take with you, a casein protein shake would probably be a better choice of protein supplement than whey. Likewise, you wouldn’t take a casein protein shake directly after your workout. So, to answer the question, ‘what does casein protein do?’ I would say that casein protein is the best form of protein of steady nutritional release.
What Is Micellar Casein?
Micellar basically refers to the protein’s molecular structure. It also refers to the way that your stomach digests this protein. When micellar casein enters your stomach, it turns into curds. This makes the digestion process extremely slow. When your body is digesting miceller casein protein, enzymes produce bioactive peptides that have many beneficial effects. Micellar casein is seen as the highest quality casein. It is a superior casein protein choice compared to calcium caseinate and sodium caseinate.
What Is Casein Hydrolysate?
Casein hydrolysate is quite different from micellar casein. Hydrolysate refers to hydrolysis, which is a form of digestion that breaks protein down into small amino acid chains. The result of this is that casein hydrolysate, unlike micellar casein, does not form curds in your stomach. As a result, casein hydrolysate digests much faster than micellar casein.
Is Casein Bad For You?
If you are lactose intolerant (as many people are), casein protein might not be the best protein choice for you because there are significant levels of lactose in casein protein.If you are lactose intolerant, taking casein protein will likely leave you feeling gassy, bloated, and uncomfortable. This can really wreak havoc on your intestinal and immune system. Some studies have also linked high casein intake with higher rates of illness, resulting from poor cholesterol and lowered immune response. Yet it is unclear whether casein protein is the sole cause of these issues or whether it is due to wider lifestyle issues. There is also the case of ensuring that you get good quality casein sources. As with most things, using casein in moderation is unlikely to be bad for you. It will actually help you grow. There’s a reason many baby formulas have casein protein sources.
Side Effects Of Casein Protein
- Stomach issues – This is pretty much only an issue if you are lactose intolerant. If you have a milk allergy, casein protein sources are probably going to cause you some intestinal distress that will appear in the form of bloating and gas. This can often be avoided by consuming casein protein in moderation and ensuring that the sources are of the highet quality.
- High cholesterol – This is only an issue if you consume foods with casein protein in addition to a poor diet. If you are consuming high quantities of high-glycemic carbohydrates (like breads and pastas), lots of simple sugars (think fruit juices and cakes), and then having casein protein food sources like cheese and milk, you have a higher chance of high cholesterol and weight issues.
- Could interfere with blood pressure control – Medical authorities often recommend stopping taking any casein peptides before protein because it could interfere with blood pressure control. As stated above, this is more likely to be a cause for concern if the individual has a poor lifestyle and diet in addition to casein consumption
Benefits Of Casein
- Long lasting – This is of the best benefits of casein. It’s very long lasting and can keep your body’s uptake of essential amino acids high for up to 7 hours after administration. This makes casein the perfect choice of protein when you are going to be without food for a while (e.g. sleep). The slow and steady supply of essential nutrients is one of the reasons why trainers love casein so much.
- More muscle gains – Anyone looking to build muscle quickly or keep the muscle they have already gained should incorporate casein protein into their diets. In combination with an already healthy diet, casein has great effects on body compositions and will help you recover faster from your workouts.
- Improved fat loss – Casein protein increases your metabolic rate, which in turn helps your fat balance. In addition to that, food sources composed of casein protein are very satiating. That means you will feel fuller for longer after a casein-rich meal. That’s always a good thing when dieting because being full means we are less likely to slip up and binge on something unhealthy.
- Increased strength – If your goal is to get stronger, you should definitely try to incorporate casein into your diet. Casein has anti-catabolic properties, which translates to more strength and increased muscle.
Good Sources Of Casein Protein
Given casein’s status as a milk protein derivative, the best place to look for casein in food is dairy products. Cows’ milk is a top source of casein protein. Just make sure you get quality and organic cows’ milk and don’t overdo it because it’s easy to gain fat when drinking a lot of milk. You can also eat cheese. Cottage cheese is an especially great choice. Greek yoghurt, cream, and butter are also good sources of casein protein. There are also a wide variety of high quality casein protein powders you can choose from.
Is Casein Protein Good For Weight Loss?
I personally wouldn’t indulge in many casein protein food sources if I was dieting for fat loss. Stuff like milk and cheese can add a lot of calories, and sugar, to your diet, making it hard to stick to a calorie deficit. However, if you’re following a paleo diet or you are within your caloric deficit range, then go for it. If the foods you enjoy are casein food sources and you can still adhere to your diet while consuming them, I don’t see the problem. I personally, however, would recommend taking a casein protein shake during dieting. I would take it before bed in order to supply my body with essential nutrients and also keep me satiated so I don’t wake up from hunger.
How To Use Casein Protein
Find high quality sources of casein protein and consume them at times when your body needs a constant supply of essential nutrients. A casein protein shake, Greek yoghurt, or cottage cheese before bed is a great way to utilize the many benefits of casein protein. Try to consume a protein source that is faster absorbing around your workout (like eggs) and save the casein protein sources for times when you need a continued supply of nutrients rather than a sharp spike of them.
Which Casein To Use?
The easiest way to get casein protein into your diet is by consuming a casein protein powder. Here are two of my favorite casein protein powders:
Optimum Nutrition is a real bargain that can’t be beat. I always have a tub of chocolate or vanilla lying around the house. When I’m bulking, I’ll have a big scoop before bed every night. When I’m dieting, I’ll do the same but only have it 3 times a week.
If you’ve got a little more money to spend, I really recommend you try out Naked Casein because their product is super healthy. The casein is completely GMO-free, gluten free, soy free and preservative free. It’s also one of the tastier options on the casein protein powder market.
In addition to consuming a top quality casein protein shake, you should also ensure that you varying your casein food sources. I like to rotate them on a regular basis. One day I will have cottage cheese before bed, the next I’ll have a shake, then another day I’ll have Greek yoghurt.
How Should I Take Casein Protein Powder?
Casein protein powder can be quite a bit lumpier than whey protein. This is completely normal but you may need a little time to get used to it if you’ve only had experience with whey protein powder. The clumps mean that a blender bottle is a necessity. Make sure you get a good quality blender bottle. I recommend this one: Blender Bottle
You’ll need to shake it for at least a minute. Mix it with water to make it easier to consume. If the lumps don’t bother you, you can try mixing it with almond milk in order to improve the taste and make the texture more like a milkshake.
If you’re not on the go...
I recommend investing in a good electric blender in order to make even tastier shakes. You can throw in a bunch of fruit too make it taste really great. I recommend investing in this blender:
When Should I Take Casein Protein Powder?
These are the two best times to take casein protein powder:
- Before bed – Casein protein is the best protein source to take before sleeping. That’s because it feeds your body a steady supply of essential nutrients. Casein keeps your body’s levels of essential amino acids high for around 7 hours – the perfect amount of time for sleep!
- Before long trips/periods of time where you won’t eat – If I was going on a 3-hour train trip and I didn’t want to bring any food with me, I would make sure I eat a big casein-rich meal before I go. This will help keep my body in optimal condition and make sure I stay in an anti-catabolic state – perfect for muscle gain, muscle maintenance and fat loss!
Whey Vs. Casein
You don’t have to choose one or the other. Whey protein and casein protein both have many great benefits when trying to get in great shape. I recommend you make use of both forms of protein. Here are the general rules of thumb for when to use whey protein and when to use casein protein:
- Whey protein – Use this in the morning or after your workouts. Whey protein has fast absorption and will quickly shuttle the essential nutrients to your muscles.
- Casein protein – Use this before bed or when you won’t have access to other foods for a long while. Casein has slow absorption and will steadily feed your body the nutrients it needs over a longer period of time.
Where Can I Buy Casein Protein?
If you’re looking for a whole food source, head on down to your local farmers’ market or grocery store and pick up organic versions of the following casein food sources:
- Greek Yoghurt
- Cottage Cheese
If you’re looking for something that is quick and easy to make without the fuss of preparing food, check out the casein protein supplements on Amazon. When people ask me where to buy casein protein powder, I always recommend Amazon. I personally prefer Amazon when it comes to shopping for most supplements because they have some of the best prices, they have quick delivery and you know you can trust them. As mentioned above, if I had to choose two of the best casein protein powders it would be these two:
Casein protein is an extremely valuable resource for anyone looking to gain more muscle or lose more fat. Its slow absorption and high quality amino acid profile make it a fantastic complimentary protein source to that of whey protein. Make sure you get casein protein in your diet in the form of whole foods and powder supplements and you’ll see your body make some incredible changes.
Product Images Sourced From Amazon.com