Perhaps you have been taking the more readily available whey protein supplements after vigorous workouts. But did you know that you can enjoy more long-term benefits after workouts by using the less common casein protein powder? Well, you read that right.
Unlike whey protein that is best taken immediately after a workout to replenish the muscles, casein protein powder is the better choice for long-term benefits.
This article invites you to check out the benefits of casein protein powder as a potential supplementation to your ordinary diet.
What is Casein Protein Powder?
Casein is one of the two proteins found in mammalian milk. It makes up 80 percent of milk protein, while its sister whey makes up the remaining 20 percent. Casein is a complete protein, meaning that it has all the essential amino acids that our body can’t make independently.
Casein protein powder is the processed milk-derived protein supplement that you can add to your regular diet to enjoy the benefits discussed later in the article.
Forms of Casein Protein Powder
Casein protein powder is available in three forms:
1. Micellar Casein Protein
Also known as micellular casein protein, this is the purest or most natural form of casein milk protein. It is digested, released, and absorbed slowly into the body. The slow absorption makes it the best milk protein powder to take before you go to sleep.
Once ingested, micellar casein protein clots up in the stomach into small lumps that the body breaks down slowly to replenish amino acids over a long time between four and seven hours after intake.
A caseinate protein is essentially casein bound with a mineral, such as calcium or sodium. Calcium caseinate protein is the most common one and is usually an ingredient in making instant creams.
Unlike micellular casein, calcium caseinate does not clot in the stomach, so it breaks down more quickly. However, it is cheaper because it has lower quality protein content compared to micellar casein powder.
3. Casein Hydrolysates
Hydrolysed casein or casein hydrolysate is the most expensive casein protein powder. Its protein molecules have been broken down into smaller protein strands to make it easier for the body to digest them.
While hydrolyzed casein would be your best bet if you are looking for faster digestion and absorption, people who want to enjoy the slow-release benefits of casein are better off using micellar casein powder.
Foods That Contain Casein
Although often processed into protein powder as a supplement, casein protein is available in everyday food items such as milk, yoghurt, butter, cottage cheese, and some milk-derived puddings and desserts.
Casein accounts for 80% of the total milk protein, meaning that dairy products naturally have high casein content. You can go for non-flavoured and non-fat milk products to avoid extra fat and carbs if you use milk as your primary source of casein.
Cheese and butter have high casein content, too, but they also have calories from fat. You should only eat a little of these, although that won’t be easy to do!
If you can keep your hands off butter and cheese with high-fat content, consider buying the no- or low-fat version of cottage cheese.
How and When to Take Casein Protein Powder
The best time to use a casein protein supplement is before you go to bed. At this time, the best form of casein to take is micellular casein because it digests slowly to provide muscle tissue with amino acids over a more extended period for optimal muscle recovery.
However, you can still take it before or after a vigorous workout session. In these cases, take caseinates or casein hydrolysates as they digest faster, though you could also consider whey as an alternative.
You can also take casein protein before or during intermittent fasting to replenish your muscles with amino acids and thus prevent the breakdown of already existing muscle during prolonged hunger periods.
There are several ways to consume your casein protein powder. You can mix it with water in a shaker bottle and take it as a shake. Alternatively, you can mix it with some ice in a blender if you want to consume it cold.
Milk is also an excellent alternative to water if you want to maintain your protein intake in the form of a milkshake.
To add a touch of icing or flavoring, mix your casein powder with water and a flavor powder like vanilla and chocolate in a bowl to achieve a pudding-like texture before freezing it for three to five minutes.
What to Look for in a Casein Protein Powder
Although casein is highly beneficial to your body in the short and long term, picking the best casein powder ensures you reap all casein benefits from just one brand. Here are three quick things to look at in a casein protein powder.
It’s important to determine whether you want a slow-release or quick-digest protein powder. Micellar casein is the better bet when you want a time-release protein, while a caseinate or casein hydrolysate is suitable when you want more immediate release.
2. Protein Content Per Scoop
Experts recommend that the casein powder you choose should have a protein content of about 20 to 28 grams per scoop.
3. Fewer Number of Ingredients
A casein protein powder with over seven or eight ingredients should be treated with some suspicion because some of them are just filler material and will add no protein value to your body.
5 Casein Protein Powder Benefits You Didn't Know About
There are several casein protein benefits you can enjoy on both a short and long-term basis. Here are five significant protein powder benefits you should look forward to when you add casein to your standard diet.
Improved Bone and Dental Health
Casein has phosphate, hydroxide, and calcium contents that result in strong enamels and protect the teeth from damage or erosion by acids. It also helps prevent tooth cavities by reducing the attachment of tooth decaying bacteria to your teeth.
The calcium in casein is essential for stronger bones since they require high calcium content for optimal development and strength.
Efficient Weight Loss
The weight loss benefit of casein protein powder is associated with its slow digestibility, with micellar casein being the most effective form at losing weight while preserving already built muscle.
Once you consume micellar casein, it clots in the stomach and causes a prolonged feeling of satiety during which you don’t feel the need to eat any more food. As a result, you can keep off irresponsible or impulsive eating that could otherwise lead to weight gain issues.
Since it takes four to seven hours for the ingested micellar casein to be digested, you can keep off other food during this time. The body can only focus on processing the casein to supply the muscles with essential amino acids.
To get the best weight loss results using casein protein, you should take it shortly before bed to support a calorie-controlled diet. Go for low- or no-fat versions of casein powders or casein-containing foods to cut back on fat intake and the number of calories.
A healthy caloric deficit means that you can lose some fat since, under normal circumstances, the body resorts to burning fat to rekindle its energy supply when impoverished.
However, you should take care to ensure you do not prolong the hunger durations because, after the fat reserves, your body will turn to the muscles to rekindle its energy supply levels.
Scientific studies show that increasing protein intake during a calorie-controlled diet helps with efficient weight loss without losing muscle mass.
One such study observed resistance training subjects who took either hydrolysed whey protein or hydrolysed casein to supplement a calorie-controlled diet.
The two groups showed a fat loss, but the ones using casein had a more significant fat loss, and their chests, legs, and arms grew stronger.
Weight loss using casein is also attributable to its high calcium content. Calcium helps burn fat when you take in more of it than protein. Calcium caseinate protein is especially great for boosting your calcium intake since the casein here is bound by calcium.
Improved Muscle Building
Consuming casein protein shortly before going to sleep is an excellent way to supply muscle tissue with amino acids. When you are asleep, human growth hormone is released to build your lean muscle mass, a process that requires synthesizing proteins.
Casein protein contains leucine, which is important as it initiates muscle protein synthesis. The result is that your muscles get a constant supply of amino acids they require for growth.
The good news is that it is possible to build your body muscles while losing weight or fat at the same time when you take casein protein to supplement a low-calorie diet.
Enhanced Muscle Recovery
Going for prolonged periods without food causes the body to turn to its fat reserves to break down fat into energy. In extreme cases, the body turns to the muscles as an alternative energy source for its vital activities.
With casein protein intake, muscle recovery becomes easy after workouts or prolonged hunger durations. Studies have shown that reducing carbohydrates while increasing the consumption of proteins helps enhance your body shape.
Muscle retention and recovery are crucial for sportspeople who usually rely on low-calorie diets to check their weight.
To prevent loss of lean muscle mass, they consume casein protein to supply the muscles with enough amino acids during a long workout or sports session.
Taking casein shortly before or during intense training or sports sessions ensures enough amino acids for the body to break down for its energy needs instead of breaking down the muscles.
Boosting Colon Health
Although not widely known to most people, casein protein powder intake can help enhance the health of your colon.
An Australian study found that various proteins can boost colon health, and casein is among the most effective compared to meat, soy, or whey protein powder.
Any Side Effects of Casein Protein Powders?
Most people who use casein protein powders for long durations of up to 12 months experience no side effects when they take it by mouth in any of the consumption methods discussed earlier.
However, if you have a protein or milk allergy, casein protein powder is not for you since it is derived from mammalian milk. As such, you should avoid taking to reduce the instances of allergic side effects when your body reacts to the casein protein.
Taking casein protein powder allows you to enjoy several benefits such as improved bone and dental health, efficient weight loss, muscle building, improved colon health, and enhanced muscle retention and recovery.
To best experience the benefits of casein protein, it is advisable to ensure you pick the best protein powder by considering its form, the number of ingredients, and the protein content per scoop.
Micellar casein powder is the best for slow digestion and release, while your preferred powder should have seven to eight ingredients and protein content of 20 to 28 grams per scoop.
Note that the dosage depends on several factors, such as your health, age, and protein tolerance.
Be sure to pick the best casein protein powder to enjoy all the benefits, whether you take it before, during, or after workouts or intense training sessions. You can also take it before or during fasting to ensure optimum muscle retention.
Taking casein protein before sleep is the best way to provide your muscle cells with essential amino acids for muscle building and recovery without worrying about weight gain.
Since the body will have enough leucine to initiate muscle protein synthesis, it will eventually achieve high overall tissue growth, given that the body also releases human growth hormone when you are asleep.