In order to obtain bigger muscle mass gains and lose fat, you should start by following an adequate diet. That means you should pick the best supplements to stimulate muscle growth – whether you’re following a diet that’s low or high in calories -, the best carbs, follow a few low cost tips to take protein, but also use the best supplements to overcome some shortages in your diet.
Many people have heard of the benefits of whey, once it’s rapidly absorbed and highly bioavailable, but casein can be the best option in certain situations.
What is casein?
Casein is dairy protein and is responsible for about 80% of all proteins found in milk. It is known for being a slow digestion protein. When ingested, casein turns into a solid substance (in the stomach) and forms big protein cells. This process slows down the rate of gastric emptying. Scientific studies have shown that casein provides a constant and slow aminoacid release in the blood stream, for about 7 hours, on average. This process keeps the body focused on its anabolic functions, even after several hours after taking the protein shake. That’s why you should take it when you know your body will be deprived from food for a long period.
A study conducted in 2012 has proven that, strategically speaking, casein should be taken before sleeping, in order to avoid catabolism (loss of muscle mass) during your sleep.
Sixteen healthy athletes have performed a weightlifting workout around 20h00, having right after that ingested a meal with 20g of protein and 60g of carbs. About half an hour before going to sleep, some of them also took a shake with 40g of casein.
The investigators registered that casein was efficiently digested and absorbed, which translated into a quick increase of aminoacid levels in the blood, lasting through the night. As a consequence, there was an increase in protein synthesis and an improvement in nitrogen retention.
To avoid the loss of muscle mass, it is recommended to take 30g-50g of casein before going to sleep.
Casein has lots of benefits, especially for those who are following an intense exercise plan.
1. Provides several hours of nutrition and satiety, which doesn’t happen with a quickly digested protein, like whey.
2. It is rich in calcium and promotes fat loss. Calcium is an essential mineral for bone health. Its consumption can enhance fat loss in overweight subjects. For this reason, individuals that find they struggle to meet their daily quota of calcium intake through food sources and who don’t want to add ingredients like saturated fats in their diets, could stand to benefit with a casein protein supplement. The International Journal of Medicine came up to the conclusion that the individuals who increased their calcium and high bioavailability protein intake have lost more fat than those who took a normal protein and low amounts of calcium.
3. Promotes hypertrophy and muscle tissue recovery after a resistance workout.
4. Keeps your muscle mass. Casein provides anti-catabolic characteristics for longer periods than rapidly digestion protein. One of the main concerns of those who are following a weight loss diet is the possibility that, during this phase, they’ll lose lean muscle mass. If you’re not eating enough calories to obtain the energy you need throughout the day, you’re forcing your body to use your muscle tissues for energy. At best, your body will use your fat. The worst case scenario shows your body asking your muscles for energy. In most cases you lose both body fat and lean muscle mass, but there’s a way to stop this muscle loss. A study conducted in Boston has tested muscle mass variations, as well as fat loss. A group of individuals took hydrolyzed protein from casein and the other took hydrolyzed whey protein. They were both following a low-calorie diet and doing resistance workouts. After the study period, though both groups have registered fat loss, the group who used casein has shown a higher body fat loss rate and a bigger increase in chest, shoulder and leg strength. The casein group also got a bigger percentage of lean muscle mass in relation to the previous result. This means there was a bigger lean muscle mass retention and shows that casein is especially efficient in muscle maintenance.
5. It is a high biological value protein source. A study published in the USA has demonstrated that casein has a higher quality to soy protein, once it provides every necessary ingredient, especially during a low-calorie or a vegetarian diet.
Whey Protein or Casein? Should I choose between these two?
Each one of these plays an important role in certain moments during the day. Whey and Casein both work differently according to the time of the day, offering advantages and disadvantages.
Within the first hours after taking it, whey assumes an important role when it comes to activating the mechanisms of protein synthesis, so its intake is more important right after working out. Two hours after taking it, the casein’s anti-catabolic potential comes into the scene, avoiding the loss of muscle mass and keeping your body focused on repairing muscle fiber. Both have a very similar aminoacid profile, that only differs in the absorption rate. The recommended is to complete your diet using both supplements. Combining casein with whey protein in an 80/20 to 50/50 ratio is the ideal.
What’s the difference between calcium caseinate and micellar casein?
Just like what happens with Whey Protein, there are different options when it comes to casein supplements. These are sold as calcium caseinate or micellar casein.
Calcium caseinate is the denatured form of milk casein. This means it goes through chemical processes to make it more pure. That’s why it’s considered inferior to micellar casein, due to its bioavailability.
Micellar casein is the non-denatured form of milk. It is separated from milk without going through chemical processes, and that explains its bioavailability. That’s why it is considered superior to calcium caseinate, and that’s also why it is more expensive.
Who can take it?
Any athlete who’s looking for a convenient and quick way to increase protein intake and prevent muscle mass loss will get the best out of casein.
Shannon Clark, Top 4 benefits of casein protein, May 2010, translation and adaptation of the original version
Brian Bullman, Casein: The Facts you need to know!, June 2010, translation and adaptation of the original version
N/d, Casein Protein Expert Guide: Types, Benefits, Dosages & FAQ, n/d, translation and adaptation of the original version
Res Pt. et. All., Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery, August 2012, [*] translation and adaptation of the original version.
Marcos Sabino, Whey é melhor que Caseína?, Julho 2013, translation and adaptation of the original version
Astrup, A. et al. (2005). Effect of Short-Term High Dietary Calcium Intake on 24-h Energy Expenditure, Fat Oxidation, and Fecal Fat Excretion. International Journal of Obesity, translation and adaptation of the original version