Casein is a slow digestive protein from dairy, which people often take as a supplement
Casein releases amino acids, so people take it before bed to help with recovery and reduce muscle breakdown during sleep. Many studies have shown it helps increase muscle growth, along with a ton of other benefits.
Casein Is Derived From Milk just like Whey protein
Milk contains two types of proteins which are casein and whey, the Casein takes up about 80% of the milk protein, and whey takes up 20%.
Casein protein is a slow digestive protein, whereas whey protein digested very quickly. This is an important difference between these two traditional dairy proteins.
Like animal proteins, casein is a complete source of protein. This means it provides all the essential amino acids your body needs for growth and repair.
It also contains various unique proteins and bioactive compounds, some of which have health benefits.
There are two primary forms:
Casein Hydrolysate: This form is predigested and rapidly absorbed.
Micellar casein: This is the most traditional way and is digested slowly.
It may also contain various micronutrients, such as calcium, but the exact composition will vary depending on the brand.
For taking such a long time to digest Casein is well known as a “time-release” protein because of its slow absorption rate in the body. This means that it feeds your cells with amino acids at a low level over an extended period.
It can help your cells synthesize protein, even during times when your body might typically be breaking down its muscles to feed itself, such as when you haven’t eaten for some time. This is called “anti-catabolic” which helps reduce muscle breakdown.
One study tested digestion speed by providing participants with either casein or whey protein shake. Researchers monitored the blood amino acid content, specifically the critical amino acid leucine, for seven hours after ingestion.
In another study, researchers had participants take either whey or casein protein and then measure their digestion rate by analyzing levels of the amino acids and leucine over a seven-hour period. They found that circulating levels of leucine rose 25% higher in the whey protein group, indicating faster digestion.
This protein is an anti-catabolic protein, and it broke down within the body due to its slow absorption rate and sustained a supply of amino acids to muscle cells.
Casein Protein Is Very Effective for Muscle Growth
Athletes have been using this supplement for decades. It contains all the essential amino acids that your body is unable to produce naturally but most important; it provides a high amount of leucine, which initiates muscle protein synthesis.
If you only consume a little amount of protein, it may help you boost muscle growth simply by increasing your protein intake. Researchers compared those who took casein to two other groups that consumed whey protein and didn’t have protein. They found that the casein group had double the muscle growth and tripled the fat loss compared to the nonprotein group. The casein group also experienced more fat loss than the whey group.
It can also enhance long-term muscle mass by reducing protein breakdown. It’s accelerated during exercise or weight loss. So for this reason, casein is often used at night to prevent the protein breakdown that may occur, since you go through a relatively extended period without food while you sleep.
There was a study done on casein protein shake before bedtime, and it helped strength-training men increase type 2 muscle fiber size by 8.4 cm2 in the supplement group, compared to 4.8 cm2 in the training-only group. Also, they found the casein group had increased strength about 20% more than the training-only group.
Much like whey, casein has repeatedly been shown to increase muscle growth and strength; it may also help with fat loss.
The myth that high protein intake causes ill health has been proven wrong many times. Researchers and reviews have shown that there are no negative effects in healthy individuals. The only exception is those with current kidney or liver disease, who may need to limit their protein intake.
All this being said, some people are allergic to casein or intolerant to lactose, which is often found in the protein powder. Other people may become bloated or experience other digestive issues, but this depends on the individual. Like most sources of protein, it is safe for regular consumption and may even provide long-term health benefits.
Different types of cows produce different casein proteins
One of the proteins in casein which is called beta-casein and it exists in several forms. Most cow’s produce a mixture of A1 and A2 beta-casein, whereas some breeds contain only A2 beta-casein.
The research and debate on A1 and A2 beta-casein will continue, but in the meantime, this is probably not something you need to worry about.
Casein protein powder is a high-quality source of protein that’s also very convenient.
If you are taking it before or after a workout, then it makes sense to use a faster-digesting form like whey protein.
Most people who take casein, take it before bed.
For example, you can put casein protein powder with water in a shaker bottle and mix it that way, or in a blender with some ice.
Also, you can put it in a bowl and stir it with water until it gets a pudding-like consistency, then put it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Then it tastes a little like ice cream, especially with flavors like chocolate or vanilla.
Casein protein can be used daily to increase your total protein intake, but may be best to take it before bed, or if you are going to be without food for a while. This is because Casein is a slow-digesting protein that can boost muscle growth and help recovery after exercise.
Casein is a highly underrated source of quality protein, and you won’t be disappointed with the results if you try it.