No matter where you’re at in your fitness journey, whether you’re trying to lose weight or build rock hard muscle, protein is an intricate and essential part of achieving your goals. Adequate protein consumption within everyday nutrition is essential because the human body uses protein not only to move and to form the physical structures of the body but for many other biological processes, including:
- Antibody production, which protects the body from foreign particles like viruses and bacteria;
- Enzyme production, which carries out chemical reactions within cells;
- Acting as messenger proteins signaling and coordinating biological processes;
- Transporting atoms and small molecules through the body.
Generally, protein consumption should increase with activity level and age. Dieticians of Canada recommend between 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for active individuals. The average active Canadian male requires between 96.4 and 160.6 grams of protein every day. The average active Canadian woman requires between 84.4 and 140.6 grams of protein per day.
More and more people turn to protein powders and supplements for their convenience and taste to achieve their protein requirements. Today, there are many kinds of protein powders from which to choose. From vegan sources like pea and hemp to the good old king of protein supplements, whey, you’ve got a lot of options. While you might be a fan of whey protein, its lesser-known counterpart can be equally beneficial and help achieve fitness goals.
Casein Protein: What is It?
Like whey protein, casein protein is derived from milk and is a byproduct of cheese making. During the cheese making process, milk’s temperature rises, and enzymes are introduced, which causes the casein to coagulate and the liquid whey to separate. Each of these substances are then washed and dried to create our protein powders.
When you consume protein, your body breaks the large molecules down into smaller molecules known as amino acids. These amino acids then circulate through the bloodstream until they’re absorbed. When you consume casein protein, amino acid levels stay elevated within your blood for up to five hours. After consuming whey protein, amino acid levels stay elevated for just 90 minutes. The difference indicates that these two types of protein digest at different rates. Whey protein digests rather quickly while casein protein digests over a more extended period.
Why does Digestion Time Matter?
The quick digestion of amino acids from whey protein is excellent for immediately following your workout. The spike and absorption of amino acids, particularly the higher content of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), trigger your body to begin protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the process by which your muscles grow. For this reason, whey is an anabolic, or muscle-building, supplement.
On the other hand, casein protein is an anticatabolic, or muscle saving supplement. We know that exercise breaks down muscles, and it is the repair process that leads to bigger, stronger muscles. For muscle growth to take place, muscle synthesis must be greater than muscle breakdown. The steady stream of amino acids delivered by casein protein prevents your muscles from breaking down more than necessary. This prevention of excessive breakdown can help ensure that synthesis is more significant than muscle breakdown and thus that you are achieving your desired results.
Which Protein Supplement is Better?
The answer to this question depends on your goals, as casein protein and whey protein are quite literally two halves to a whole. While the most critical factor for muscle growth is your overall protein consumption, strategically using either supplement at the correct time can help you achieve your goals faster.
When to Use Casein Protein
It is ideal to use casein protein before periods of fasting like:
- Before bed;
- Any time you won’t be able to eat for several hours.
The slow digestion of casein protein not only prevents your muscles from being cannibalized, but it can also promote the feeling of fullness longer. For this reason, casein protein makes an ideal meal replacement supplement, too.
If you enjoy a sweet treat in the evening before bed, many people enjoy mixing their casein protein with a small amount of liquid to make a pudding-like substance.
Here’s a pro-tip for peanut butter lovers – mix a scoop of natural peanut butter into your protein pudding. For a lower calorie and lower fat option, sprinkle a peanut butter powder like PB2 on top of your pudding.
When to Use Whey Protein
Whey protein is an ideal choice for your post-workout recovery drink. Whey can quickly end the catabolic muscle state from your workout and jump-start the synthesis process.
Some people also enjoy using whey protein pre-workout or intra-workout, as the quickly digesting amino acids can fuel your muscles during your workout along with kick-starting muscle synthesis when your workout concludes.
Whey and Casein: Either Or?
By now, you might understand that the question of whey over casein isn’t the right question at all. These two protein siblings can go to great lengths in helping you achieve your fitness goals, and when used strategically, they can complement each other perfectly to help you reach your goals even faster.
Many complete sports supplement brands offer whey protein and casein protein options.
Use your whey protein immediately following your workout and take your casein protein before bed. Incorporate these two proteins supplements into your daily routine and ensure you’re regularly hitting your protein goals. Combined with your efforts in the gym, this supplement strategy will help you feel lean and jacked in no time.
Whole Food Sources of Casein and Whey
Many people prefer to get their protein from whole foods, and ideally, this is what we should all be doing. Supplements are designed to bridge gaps when your nutrition falls short. So, when considering upping your whey and casein protein game, first consider adding these whole food sources to your diet.
- Cow’s milk
- Ricotta cheese
- Goat’s milk
- Cow’s milk
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
Taking your diet into consideration, if you don’t consume adequate protein or don’t particularly care for these foods, turning to protein supplements is the way to go.
Can I Mix Whey and Casein Powders?
Some people enjoy mixing their whey and casein into one post-workout shake. You can even purchase protein blends of whey and casein protein. In theory, your body reaps the benefits from an amino acid spike and a sustained level of amino acids at the same time. However, other people believe that using a slowly digesting protein in conjunction with whey protein only slows the digestion of whey protein and slows the muscle synthesis process.
Keep in mind that bodies are different, and what works for one person may not work for you. There’s no harm in trying different methods and schedules with your casein and whey protein. However, we recommend spreading out your use of protein supplements as nutritional experts suggest protein consumption should be throughout the day instead of all at once.
How to Choose a Protein Powder
Once you’ve decided to add protein powders into your daily routine, you want to be sure to pick a quality supplement. Here are some things to consider when choosing both whey and casein protein supplements:
- Protein content – Taking your protein consumption from food into consideration, generally anywhere from 10-30 grams of protein per serving is excellent.
- Carb and fat content – Again, considering the macronutrients you consume through your diet, you might require more or fewer fats and carbs. Generally, your whey protein powders will be lower in carbs and fat, while casein might be a little higher. Another reason casein protein is ideal for sustaining you over periods of fasting.
- Sugar content – You should consider anything containing more than 10 grams of sugar a sweet treat, so it’s important to check your protein supplements label for sugar content. However, you should avoid artificial sweeteners as well, as they don’t always show up under grams of sugar.
- Artificial colours, flavouring, and fillers – Dietary supplements are still, unfortunately, something we must consume with caution. Supplements are poorly regulated and could contain unhealthy or even harmful ingredients. It’s critical to find supplement brands you can trust. Look for third-party testing and a Natural Product Number.
Other Supplements to Grow Muscles
Aside from protein, other supplements that assist in increasing muscle mass are:
- BCAA or essential amino acids;
Supplement Superstore is a one-stop-shop for all your protein and dietary supplement needs. We are proudly Canadian and passionate about two things: wellness and incredible customer service. We offer only the highest quality supplements from the most trusted supplement brands. When you shop with us, you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands. We’ve sifted through thousands of supplement brands to select only the best, and we don’t sell anything we haven’t tried ourselves.
We’re passionate about our loyal customers’ wellness and are always available to offer advice, answer questions, and share our knowledge. With proper nutrition and the work ethic, we know that Fit After 45 readers have, anything is possible. Be well, and don’t forget your protein!