What is Casein Protein?
May we re-acquaint you with Little Miss Muffet who sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey from our last article on whey protein. As we explained in the previous article, curds and whey are the two forms of protein derived from milk. Curds are casein protein which constitutes 80% of cow’s milk, whilst the remaining 20% is whey. It is the globular lumps seen during the separation of milk in the production of cheese. These lumps are dried and filtered, and used as an easily mixed, readily consumed protein beverage for before and after training, or more commonly as an evening shake to aid muscle anabolism (growth) over night. Casein is deemed a complete protein because it contains all 8 essential amino-acids. Essential amino-acids are the building blocks of protein that the body cannot make internally, meaning we need to consume them via the diet (International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2010).
When to Consume Casein Protein?
Compared to the quick digestion and absorption that is characteristic of whey protein, casein protein requires up to 7 hours for it to be completely digested and absorbed! This could be seen as undesirable in the fitness and bodybuilding world where readily absorbed proteins are usually required. However, unless you are a professional bodybuilder and have a strict supplement regimen requiring you to get up in the night to consume a whey protein supplement...you might prefer a more convenient option. This said, a pro-bodybuilder would also utilise the more convenient option, but their extremely high nutritional requirements necessitate that extra attention to detail. Casein protein is the answer because of its progressive digestive process resulting in a ‘drip feed’ of amino-acids which can feed you during the night when protein stores ordinarily run low.
Casein and whey protein provide the same amount of protein per gram; the only difference is the rate by which it enters our body, and the duration of its effects. Therefore a person’s requirements of casein does not differ at all to whey, in fact their benefits are better when combined! By consuming a whey protein immediately after training, followed by a casein protein source in the evening, the nitrogenous balance (indicator of protein status) remains positive. A positive nitrogen (protein) balance means the body is likely to stay in the anabolic (growth) phase, reducing muscle breakdown before, during and after training! Obviously the longer we can maintain anabolism (growth) the better, so in order to succeed, don’t forget the almighty cousin of whey....casein (Llewellyn, 2009)!