This unceasing “Casein protein vs Whey protein” battle… Love it!

Let’s get straight to the point. There’s is no battle as each one has its own properties.

Whey protein benefits are that it is digested and absorbed fast, which is a great fit when we need a quick protein intake and we know we’ll be eating in the next two to four hours.

Casein protein benefits are, on the flip-side, that it is more complex for the organism to digest and absorb it. So, the dissemination of protein will last quite long, about 4 to 6 hours, up to 8 hours for some people.

Let’s dive a bit more in depth on what a casein protein is, and how it works.

What is a casein protein? 

Casein and whey proteins come from cow’s milk. It accounts for roughly 80 percent of milk’s total protein content. 

Casein protein has a very rich pool of amino acids, almost identical to whey protein, which is a byproduct of cheese. This pool of amino acids is high in essential aminos, which are responsible for muscle protein synthesis. 

Much like whey, there are numerous standard choices when it comes to casein supplements. The most common casein supplements are milk protein, calcium caseinate and the most effective micellar casein. 

Calcium caseinate: this is the protein extracted from the insoluble portion of milk and purified in a chemical process. It is considered to be the lowest quality form of casein and is commonly sold as a food ingredient. It is soluble and does not clot in the stomach. 

Micellar casein: it is the purest form among caseins available in the market. It exists in its natural form and is more readily digested and assimilated by the body. Micellar casein is labelled as an anabolic. 

Milk protein: milk protein isolate has both micellar casein and whey protein. Casein concentration is roughly 80 percent whilst whey is 20 percent. 

How does casein work? 

It will become a bit technical but keep reading on and every will get clearer as you go through the explanation.

A casein consists of a complex of casein micelles broken down in submicelles. The calcium phosphate and hydrophobic interactions between submicelles contribute to the stability of the micelle. Kappa casein around the outside stabilises the micelles against aggregation. here’s how a casein micelle structure looks like

Casein micelle structure
Courtesy of:

A: submicelle
B: protruding chain
C: calcium phosphate
D: kappa casein
E: phosphate group

Casein proteins come in 4 different variants: alpha-s1, alpha-s2, beta and kappa casein. Each variant has its own amino acid composition, genetic variations and functional properties. These 4 casein variants combine to form a structure called a micelle. Micelles are dispersed in the water phase of milk and give milk its white colour .

This slow and steady flow of amino acids creates a prolonged yet low rate of muscle protein synthesis. This slow digesting nutrient makes casein protein the ideal supplement to take before going to bed, or when you know you will be going prolonged periods without the opportunity to refuel. 

Indeed, due to casein’s 5-8 hour digestion and amino acid release, it’s generally taken when you can be taken when fasting for a long period of time. 

As such, many people prefer to consume casein protein at night with the thought that consuming a slow-digesting protein will help stave off catabolism (muscle breakdown). While there is little research examining the use of casein overnight, it has been shown to reduce protein breakdown and thus may be useful in such situations. 

Casein protein vs whey: when consume one or the other? 

As discussed, casein doesn’t provide whey’s peak anabolic response, but it does provide a more sustained amino stream. To maximize this effect for the best of both worlds, consider combining casein with a rapid-digesting protein like whey. By doing so, you might benefit from high leucine plus a steady feed of amino acids. 

How much casein to consume depends on a number of factors like weight, total daily protein intake, and whether you’re consuming it alone or with other protein sources. 

Therefore, if you’re taking casein alone, it can be beneficial to swallow a large dose to maximize anabolism. I’d recommend 35 to 40 grams of casein protein (if consumed alone) for a 200-pound muscle-building male who wants to maximize the muscle-building response. 

Usually I suggest using anywhere between 20 and 30g per day of supplemental casein or milk protein before a long period of fasting, meaning more than 4 hours, mainly before bed. 

Here’s an infographic recap which compares the difference between whey and casein:

casein vs whey
Courtesy of:

Alright, time to wrap this up! I hope you know a bit more about how this great protein works. Hit an emoji below to let me know how you feel about this article and if you want to get in touch, shoot me an email via the about page or on socials @charlyfitlife. See you in the next one!

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