Protein powders have been all the rage over the past few years, and they provide an easy way to increase quality protein intake. But not all protein powders are good for you, and some can be detrimental to your health or weight loss goals if you are using the wrong types. There are cheap, less beneficial protein powders, and expensive quality options, but even then, you need to do your research in relation to what you are using it for. Whey is a popular dairy-based protein powder, but it’s not the only one. Casein is also a dairy protein, but a much underrated one. It is digested slower than whey, boosting muscle growth and helping with recovery after exercise. It comes with a number of health benefits, and can be used to aid weight loss.
Nutritional Information (Standard scoop/33 grams)
Calories – 120
Total Fat – 1g
Cholesterol – 10mg
Sodium – 260mg
Total Carbohydrate – 3g
Dietary Fiber – 1g
Sugars – 0g
Protein – 24g
What Is Casein Protein?
Casein and whey are both proteins derived from milk. Casein makes up 80% of the milk’s protein, while whey accounts for the remaining 20%. Casein is a high quality dairy protein that is digested slowly, and is often taken as a protein supplement. It is a complete protein source, like any other animal protein, meaning it provides all the essential amino acids your body needs for growth and repair. That is particularly relevant when looking at exercise, because taking casein protein after exercise can help aid muscle growth and recovery, minimizing protein breakdown.
Casein comes in two different forms – micellar casein and casein hydrolysate. Micellar is digested slowly and is the most popular form, while hydrolysate is predigested and therefore rapidly absorbed by the body. Micellar protein is the original form of casein protein found in milk. A micelle consists of thousands of molecules of casein clustered around an inner core. When micellar casein is exposed to acid in the stomach, it curdles into a large clot, causing it to be digested slowly over several hours, supplying the body with amino acids to build muscle. It is often taken before bed to help the body build muscle and recover during sleep. Casein hydrolysate is a predigested form of the protein that is broken down into smaller peptides, or amino acid chains. This prevents it from forming a bolus, or cluster, in the stomach, meaning it is absorbed at a faster rate than micellar casein. Hydrolyzed casein is better suited to athletes who need protein to work quickly, like straight after a workout to balance amino acids and stop muscle breakdown in the body.
How Does Casein Compare To Whey Protein?
Whey is generally a leftover product of making cheese, whereas casein is not a byproduct of anything – if comes directly from milk, making it significantly costlier than whey protein. The most common and popular form of casein, micellar, is digested slowly, while whey is digested quickly. Casein is a better muscle and strength builder, and can help burn fat better than whey. While whey encourages protein synthesis to increase rapidly, it doesn’t last long, and it doesn’t change protein breakdown. Casein, on the other hand, increases protein synthesis like whey, but also significantly inhibits protein breakdown. Studies have shown that casein protein is more beneficial to building lean muscle mass and strength when compared to whey.
Because casein takes so much longer to digest than whey, it is able to feed your cells with amino acids over a longer period of time. That means your cells are able to synthesize protein even when your body might otherwise be breaking down muscle to feed itself. One study found that taking casein protein before going to bed resulted in a rapid rise of circulating amino acid levels, which were sustained throughout the night. Researchers found that it increased whole body protein synthesis rates and improved net protein balance, ultimately improving post-exercise recovery during sleep.
How Does Casein Compare To Other Protein Powders?
If you are vegan, then casein and whey protein powders are out, because they are dairy products derived from cow’s milk, meaning they are animal protein. If you are lactose intolerant or vegan, then plant-based protein powders, such as pea and hemp are great alternative options. Pea protein is highly digestible and helps turn carbohydrates into energy in the body, which reduces the amount of carbs being stored as fat. Hemp protein is full of nutrients and provides inflammation fighting properties and plenty of fiber. Some other vegan options are not so good. Soy protein, for example, is highly processed and there are questions surrounding its potential health risks. If you do use soy protein, it’s best to blend it with other powders, such as hemp or pea, rather than taking it on its own.
If you are not dairy-free, then casein and whey are the best protein powder choices for muscle-building and recovery, and also provide more zinc and iron than plant-based powders. However, even if you do take casein or whey, it is a good idea to integrate some vegan proteins into your diet because of their benefits in fighting inflammation and providing different nutrients. You can find protein blends, or you can switch your casein shake for a plant-based protein shake a couple of times a week.
Health Benefits Of Casein Protein
Protein in general, whether animal or plant-based, is an essential nutrient that needs to be consumed every day. Casein is an extremely high-protein supplement that has a number of benefits, including healthy metabolism and weight loss, digestive health, stable blood sugar, healthy immune system, lean muscle development, decreased muscle deterioration, hormone balance and recovery from sport and illness, to name just a few. Here are some promising health benefits of casein protein…
Casein May Have Antibacterial And Immune Benefits
Preliminary cell studies suggest casein protein may benefit the immune system, possess antibacterial powers, and reduce blood pressure. An animal study looked at the short-term oral atihypertensive effect of peptide sequences isolated from casein fractions that had been previously documented as in vitro angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Researchers concluded that the peptides had the potential to lower high blood pressure and treat hypertension and other associated disorders. Milk contains antibiotic peptides,with preliminary research suggesting it may also work in a similar way to some commercial antibiotics.
Casein May Aid Weight Loss
There are a few reason casein may help you shed pounds, and one of them is because the body digests it slowly, meaning it can curb hunger for several hours. But even the faster-digesting casein hydrolysate has been found to reduce fat and increase lean muscle. One study looked at the effects of a moderate hypocaloric, high-protein diet and resistance training, using two different protein supplements, compared to a hypocaloric diet alone in overweight police officers. The 12-week study compared the changes in body composition from three different treatment groups. One group was placed on a nonlipogenic, hypocaloric diet alone, the second had a hypocaloric diet with casein protein and resistance exercise, and the third group had the same as the second, except, instead of casein, they had whey protein. Researchers concluded that the peptide components of the casein hydrolysate improved nitrogen retention and had overall aticatabolic effects, which was the likely reason that group lost more fat and gained more lean muscle.
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