You know protein. It’s vital in building muscle. Whey is widely thought to be the best. One protein that often gets overlooked is casein. That ends now. Why? We explain its benefits.
We all know protein helps build muscle. But, what do you know about casein protein?
Casein is a protein and specifically a milk phosphoprotein.
It’s found in a variety of foods. Obviously, milk and dairy products contain casein, but it’s also used as a binding agent in breads, cereals and vegetarian meats and cheeses.
If you have an allergy to casein, you’ll need to avoid any food that features the statement “contains milk ingredients” on its label. With that said, if you’re looking for a reliable protein source that offers a lot of perks, casein might be a good place to turn.
Casein makes up about 80% of milk’s protein content. Its molecules have a chemical attraction to one another and they gather together in groups to create micelles. To create casein protein powder, these micelles are separated from the milk and dehydrated into powder form.
Casein is one of the highest quality proteins around. If your goal is to boost muscle mass while making smart, nutritious choices that help you achieve your fitness goals, then casein is a great choice.
You might be asking, what are some of the most important reasons to include casein into your protein regimen if you’re trying to build muscle, but remain lean?
You’ve got questions.
We’ve got answers!
Casein Protein Powder Is Slow And Steady
Casein is a long-lasting protein. As a matter of fact, that’s one of its main strengths. It provides a steady amount of amino acids to your bloodstream over several hours. In a perfect world, you’ll get the most out of casein if you drink a glass of milk at bedtime so it can work its magic on your muscles while you sleep.
Yields The Highest Gains
Casein helps you build muscle faster than other protein sources. According to one study that split 36 men engaged in heavy resistance training into different groups, the group taking a combo of whey and casein outperformed those using whey, BCAAs and a glutamine supplement.
Grow Muscle, Not Fat
If you want to boost your muscle mass without gaining fat, casein is a great option. A Netherlands study found men who increased their casein intake by two and a half times had a higher sleeping metabolic rate and felt about a third fuller than usual. Casein has been proven to offer weight loss perks, especially if you consume your casein from sources that are low in saturated fat.
Casein also helps build strength. Participants in a Massachusetts study who started using casein doubled the impact of their whey supplement and saw strength gains in their shoulders, chest, and legs. Experts believe this is due to casein’s anti-catabolic ability.
Along with the fitness benefits of casein, there’s one more health perk: Improved dental health. A study out of the United Kingdom showed boosting casein consumption, often by switching from juice or soda to milk, helped to reduce and/or prevent tool enamel erosion.
Casein has also been shown to promote colon health. In one Australian study, researchers found that dairy proteins are healthier options for the colon than meat or soy.
Choosing Casein Over Whey
Is no longer supplementing with whey in favor of exclusively using casein the way to go? No. Don’t do it!
The best way to make protein supplements work for you is to use a blend of both whey and casein. Both offer benefits and can be effective in helping you grow muscle.
Whey Vs Casein
Whey is the liquid leftover in cheese production. By drying a concentrated amount of whey, you get protein powder. It’s a fast-acting protein, unlike casein, which provides a slow stream of protein to your system.
Whey protein takes about 20 minutes before nearly all you’ve ingested is coursing through your system. In under an hour, it’s gone through the metabolic processes and has broken down. It peaks at about the 40-minute mark.
Casein, on the other hand, is a slow metabolizing protein. It takes about three to four hours for it to reach its peak. But, that peak isn’t at the same level as whey. Casein slows the rate of protein breakdown, which is a positive thing. To grow muscle, you need a balance of protein synthesis and breakdown. That means both casein and whey play an important role in building muscle.
You might think creating a single blend that includes both whey and casein would be the best way to consume a balance of both proteins. Sadly, this isn’t going to work. In fact, it can even backfire.
Casein coagulates in the stomach and can force other proteins to be absorbed slowly. By mixing the two, you remove the biggest perk of whey and cause it to move slowly through the system. In effect, the whey mimics the metabolizing of casein.
Gone is whey’s ability to flood your system with amino acid and trigger protein synthesis.
It’s also important not to overdose on either whey or casein to stimulate muscle growth. There’s a right and wrong way to consume both proteins. Going to the extreme or using an elimination method, in either case, isn’t going to help. All you achieve by doing this is flushing a lot of money and hard work down the toilet. Excess protein is eliminated through urine, so it does you no good to go overboard.
Instead, your goal should be to give your body sudden changes and occasional boosts in amino acids. The best way to stimulate protein synthesis rates is by using different protein sources. There are times you want to stimulate protein synthesis.
There are times you want to slow protein breakdown.
But, you can’t do either all at once or constantly.
What Are Your Fitness Goals?
Chances are you’re interested in boosting your protein intake to get larger and/or stronger muscles. Doing so requires a plan of action. To achieve your goals, you need to boost protein synthesis and reduce protein breakdown. Whey is the best choice for the former, and casein the latter. But, you can’t use a multivitamin approach to getting both whey and casein. The best way to achieve your goals is to use food sources and supplements.
Whole foods give you access to slow-digesting proteins.
You’ll get the mild, constant stream of amino acids that casein provides, but without the coagulation that interferes with your whey supplement.
Tips That Can Help Balance Your Whey And Casein Intake For Max Benefits
Take whey protein a short time after eating a meal with whole food. It’s the perfect environment for muscle growth because your meal suppressed muscle breakdown by triggering a slow wave of amino acids into your bloodstream. Your meal should also contain some carbs, which prompts the release of insulin. This also slows muscle breakdown by spiking insulin. Doing so prior to consuming whey creates the perfect environment for the anabolic reaction you want.
This timing ensures your amino acid levels will drop but not return to normal, had you not eaten the meal. You’re able to stimulate protein synthesis while also slowing protein breakdown.
Your next optimal protein timing option comes by consuming a casein-based meal within three hours after the meal you first ate. Waiting longer than three hours negates the optimal perks. As a result, you might want to shoot for two to two and a half hours after your first meal. The goal is for the amino acid levels in your blood to drop a bit so you’re able to create that dramatic spike again.
When you consume a casein-based meal within the three-hour window, you’re allowing a drop to occur, but keeping amino acids above normal.
This prevents too much protein breakdown.
To achieve maximum benefits throughout the day, repeat this process. Switch between a whole-food meal followed by a whey protein supplement, and then within three hours eat a casein-based meal. You can also have a second whole food meal in place of the casein-based meal if you’d rather use only one type of supplement. It’s also important to have one casein-based meal or supplement just before bed, so you’ll enjoy the perks mentioned that occur while you sleep.
Over time, this schedule of eating and supplementation can help you both preserve and increase lean muscle mass, even when you’re cutting calories. Scheduled properly, you’re able to enjoy the benefits of casein – a slow protein – and the benefits of whey – a fast protein – at the same time.
You’ve achieved the rapid increase of amino acids that boosts protein synthesis without creating a crash that leads to protein breakdown.
What About Casein And Weight Loss?
Of course, if your goal is to lose weight without losing muscle, casein is a great option. A 2009 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed casein is useful for those trying to lose weight. Researchers compared two diets. One diet had people eating 10% of their calories from casein and another 25%. Study participants eating 25% showed an increase in energy expenditure and satiety. This helped them not to overeat and allowed them to burn calories more efficiently.
Of course, if your casein sources are coming from whole milk and servings of cheese, you need to watch your calorie intake and be sure you aren’t consuming too much-saturated fat. Powder casein supplements make it possible to boost your intake without overdoing it with indulgent foods.
There Are Other Uses For Casein
Along with consuming casein in milk and dairy products, and making the usual supplement shake, you can also use casein powder as a low-carb replacement for flour. There’s also evidence casein might be a great source of protein for the elderly or malnourished who have a hard time getting protein from food sources.
Casein Allergy? It’s Real…
Unfortunately, casein protein isn’t going to be an option for all. Some people have an allergy to dairy products. In some cases, the cause of that allergy is casein. If you have any type of reaction after consuming dairy products, it could be a sign of a casein allergy.
It is possible to be allergic to both casein and whey. If you determine you have a reaction to whey-based supplements, don’t automatically assume you’ll do any better with casein. Most people show symptoms of a dairy allergy early in life. It’s rare to develop an allergy as an adult. Chances are you know if you have a casein allergy long before you’re concerned about fitness and building muscle.
Casein allergies are different than lactose intolerance and symptoms of each manifest in diverse ways.
Lactose intolerance usually produces gastrointestinal symptoms. That includes such things as gas, diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain.
The symptoms of a milk or casein allergy include:
- Swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue, face or throat.
- Red, itchy rash.
- Nasal congestion with sneezing and runny nose.
- Itchy eyes.
- Coughing or wheezing.
Someone with a severe casein allergy could experience anaphylaxis, which is potentially life-threatening. The symptoms listed, as well as chest pain and difficulty breathing, could be the onset of anaphylaxis. That’s why it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as you can if you are unsure of the severity of your allergy. Some casein allergies are serious enough that a person suffering from it must carry an epinephrine pen to counteract the effects.
Allergies aside, if you’re able to consume casein, it can be one of the most valuable tools to improve your fitness. It helps with muscle retention and aids in fat loss. It’s one of the best quality sources of protein around, which means less will be excreted by your body – you’re able to absorb more – and you’ll need less to maintain muscle mass. Too many people supplement with low-quality protein and think they’re getting more benefits than they really are.
That isn’t a problem with casein.
Ultimately, you need to make protein choices based on your body and your fitness goals. Casein isn’t better than whey. But, it’s a necessary complement if you want to reach your ultimate fitness level. Learning to properly combine the two can give you the short and long-term amino acid boosts you’re looking for and can help you reach your goals faster.
By Kelly Brown
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