WHEY PROTEIN VS CASEIN: WHICH IS MORE WEIGHTLIFTING-FRIENDLY?
Many of you have tried both types of protein supplements, whey and casein. There is plenty of information about their characteristics, so the purpose of this article is to remind you of their main differences. I’ll also give a couple of recommendations!Cow’s milk proteins
Cow's milk contains water, vitamins, minerals, milk fat, carbohydrates (mainly lactose), and, of course, proteins: about 20% whey, and about 80% casein. If milk is left to sour, the process of curdling (also called coagulation) starts, that is, milk is broken down into liquid and semi-solid lumps, or curds. The liquid part only contains whey proteins, and the curds, which resemble cottage cheese, contain casein proteins. Cheesemakers drain the liquid whey fraction and make various cheese types from the remaining lumps of curdled milk.What is the difference between these two proteins?
Both protein types contain the full clip of essential amino acids that are critical for muscle growth. Also, dairy products are the best sources of BCAAs.
Certainly, there are some differences between whey protein and casein, too:
- Whey is a fast-absorbing protein. Casein clots in the acidic environment of the stomach, which slows down digestion and the delivery of amino acids into the blood and tissues.
- Whey proteins contain more BCAAs, especially leucine, which is a powerful stimulus for muscle protein synthesis.
- Whey protein is a stronger stimulus for muscle growth than casein.
One study showed that whey proteins enter the bloodstream and start contributing to skeletal muscle tissue repair just 20 minutes after the product consumption. In an hour, whey proteins began enhancing muscle protein synthesis — which is great, since our goal is to increase muscle mass and strength. According to the said research, increased levels of leucine were observed for 4 hours after taking whey proteins.
As for casein, the study said that increased leucine levels could be observed 40 minutes later, and the duration of the effect was approximately 7 hours. The peak in leucine levels was not on par with whey proteins’ results, however. On the other hand, casein can inhibit the breakdown of muscle proteins, and this is also great because this effect helps to sustain our muscles.
In addition, casein contributes to prolonged satiety — a significant benefit especially when we are cutting down on our calories. Casein helps us fight hunger!
Interestingly enough, other studies found no difference between the two types of milk proteins in question. Post-workout, the consumption of both whey and casein proteins resulted in the same spike in muscle protein synthesis, even taking into account that whey protein boosted the level of leucine in the blood x2.6 times compared to casein.There’s a time for everything
All things considered, whey protein is thought to have a greater anabolic effect, while casein works better as an anti-catabolic. Whey protein ensures faster absorption of amino acids and a powerful surge in muscle protein synthesis. Casein has its own strengths: it provides a slower and more stable supply of amino acids which prevents muscle loss.
So why not exploit the benefits of both types of protein?! Here are my recommendations:
- the ideal time to consume whey proteins is before, during, and immediately after your workout;
- the ideal time for casein is before your bedtime, since we stop “feeding” our muscles with protein every 3-4 hours during sleep, and also when you’re about to have a long snack-less break (like before a meeting or a long trip).
Let me emphasize that these recommendations are not mandatory and only represent my experience and observations.
What is especially vital here is to ensure that your daily protein intake is sufficient and regular at every 3-4 hours in approximately the same portions.
Some more recommendations from me:
- I would not consume casein immediately before a workout, as this can lead to unpleasant sensations in the gastrointestinal tract. It's also best to avoid whey protein concentrate if you have lactose intolerance. In this case, the best choice for your gut and wallet is whey protein isolate;
- note that consuming protein supplements is optional if you are sure your diet meets your protein requirements.
No conclusive evidence exists yet of protein supplements having any significant advantages over regular meals in terms of muscle mass or strength gain. The main advantage of the supplements is that they are convenient to use and are available in a variety of flavors.