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All About Casein Protein

Author: Rudy Mawer Contributing Author

Protein has long been regarded as the staple nutrient for those looking to pack on muscle mass. While everyone will talk about protein, most of the focus is on whey, with less attention is paid to the other types of protein available. Among these other types, their uses and benefits differ, and knowing these facts will allow you to strategically utilize the best protein based on your needs.

When it comes to the types of protein, the list is lengthy – hydrolyzed whey, whey isolate, casein, soy, hemp, vegan, and more. Among these, whey and casein are the most commonly used, but have very different benefits. Don’t limit your progress by excluding one over the other as casein has some unique benefits you may be missing out on if you only use whey.

Making Protein a Priority

Why is protein so important? Apart from simply helping you add more muscle, a high protein diet can improve recovery, help you retain muscle while dieting, and even aid in fat loss.

Putting your physique goals aside, protein and protein supplements have many health benefits, including improving metabolic conditions such as blood sugar control and other risk factors in diabetes. For your long-term health, it can even improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and possibly reduce heart disease risks.

In fact, the research on a higher protein diet is so supportive that many sport scientists and researchers believe the current daily protein recommendations are sub-optimal. If you take your training seriously, several studies have demonstrated that you may actually need double the recommended daily intake. Due to your body’s daily needs with a high level of output and protein turnover (the amount used versus the amount consumed), an increased intake of protein would bring you to a homeostatic point.

The suggested intake for protein is a minimum of 1 gram per pound of body weight. For example, an athlete weighing 190 pounds would have a protein intake of 190 g each day. In some cases, such as bodybuilders looking to put on some serious muscle mass, a higher protein intake is beneficial. These groups may consume up to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight.

When looking to fill your quota of protein for the day, be sure to include a variety of foods for the different nutrient profiles. This can add up to a lot of food, so you may find some relief in using supplements for the convenience and lower price tag. However, you’ll want to expand your use beyond simply relying on whey protein for additional benefits.

The Lowdown on Casein Protein

Casein is comprised of around 80% milk protein and is classed as a slow-digesting protein because the molecules are relatively insoluble in water. This means they take longer to be broken down, metabolized, and digested than other sources such as whey. These properties make it highly useful in your last meal of the day, right before going to bed.

Similar to whey protein, there are different forms of casein. Two of the main forms are micellar casein and casein hydrolysate. The difference between these two is the rate of digestion. Micellar casein is digested slowly, making it an ideal choice to use before going to bed to feed your muscles as you sleep, and is the casein used in Kaged Muscle Kasein. On the other hand, hydrolysate is faster digesting. Casein hydrolysate is essentially a “pre-digested” form of casein protein, allowing for the protein to be absorbed by skeletal muscle more quickly and making it a preferred choice to be used around a workout.

Fueling Better Results

While most people will reach for chicken breast or whey protein to fill their daily protein needs, don’t overlook casein. Several studies have found that casein protein is an anabolic source which can help shred fat, improve strength, and add muscle. 

A study interested in fat loss compared the effects of a normal protein diet (without protein supplements) against two other groups, one of which consumed whey and the other consumed casein (Demling, R.H., et al., 2000). The study lasted for 12 weeks and was combined with resistance training. The non-supplemented group lost approximately 2.5kg of fat, the whey protein group lost slightly more, approximately 4.2kg of fat. However, the casein group displayed the best results losing approximately 8kg of fat – about double that of the whey protein group.

The benefits extend beyond fat loss. Differences were observed between the groups in terms of muscle growth and strength. The non-supplement group saw no increase in lean mass while both supplement groups did. Specifically, the group who took whey protein added an average of 2kg of lean mass while the casein protein group outperformed that by adding 4kg. In terms of strength changes, chest, shoulder and leg muscles were tested among the groups. A 29% increase was noted among the whey users and a 59% increase in the casein group. The researchers suggested that these findings were likely due to the anabolic and anti-catabolic (i.e. muscle breakdown) benefits of casein. 

Another study tested the hunger and satiety benefits of casein protein (Hochstenbach-Waelen, et al., 2009). In one group, 25% of the participants’ total calories were from casein, while a second group only supplemented 10% of their calories with the casein product. The group with the higher casein intake had higher total energy expenditure – meaning they burned more total calories per day – despite being provided with the same calorie intake. They also found that the casein group had an improved net protein balance, satiety, and decreased body fat. 

Sleep On It

The most common way to use casein is before bed, and these reported anabolic effects are not just bro science. Once ingested, the amino acids can remain in the blood for 6 - 8 hours, keeping your muscle cells nourished. This can keep you in an anabolic state for most of the night, preventing your body from needing to burn muscle tissue for energy.

The overnight effects of casein were put to the test to determine its effectiveness (Res, P.T., et al., 2012). Participants of this study were placed into one of two groups. Both groups consumed a shake 30 minutes before bed, with one group ingesting a placebo shake and the other ingesting a shake containing casein. The study showed that the casein protein was digested and absorbed and resulted in a sustained increase in amino acid level throughout the night, leading to whole-body protein synthesis compared to the placebo group. Muscle protein synthesis rates, the key process behind muscle growth, were an impressive 22% higher in the casein protein group compared to the placebo group.

Another study examined the effects of casein protein when combined with a strength training regime for 12 weeks. One group consumed 27.5 g of casein protein with a 15 g carbohydrate drink before bed and the other group received a calorie-free placebo drink. At the end of the study, they re-tested various measurements including strength, muscle growth, and changes in the specific muscle fiber size, which tends to be a more accurate indicator of change.

As shown in Figure 1, they found larger increases in type 2 muscle fibers among the group that supplemented with casein protein compared to the placebo group. They also found the casein group added an additional 75 pounds to their lifts compared to the improvements seen in the placebo group.

When considering your supplement plan, don’t overlook the role casein can play. To bump up your daily protein intake and to keep your body anabolic, include one to two scoops of Kasein per day. Taking one scoop when you are going to be more than four hours without food and a scoop before you head to bed are two easy ways to optimize the benefits of casein protein.   

Vanilla KASEIN Berry Pudding

One of the best ways to end your day is with dessert, and with KASEIN you can enjoy this dessert-like meal.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 scoop Vanilla Shake KASEIN protein powder

1/3 cup fresh berries

1 TBSP nut butter (optional)

In a bowl, add Greek yogurt and KASEIN, stirring together until thoroughly blended. Add berries. If your macros allow, you can top your pudding with a TBSP of nut butter.

Don’t Skip the KASEIN

Kaged Muscle's product, KASEIN, will provide you with all the benefits of casein, and meets a high level of health standards. Specifically, the ingredients used are tested for purity and potency, meeting MicroPure standards. They’re tested by an independent third party for ethical and environmental factors to ensure the product is healthy for users and is produced in the best way possible. Another added bonus of KASEIN is that it’s flavored naturally instead of with chemicals, another way they put athlete’s health at the forefront.

In the same way, you shouldn’t skip leg day for yet another arm workout, you shouldn’t skip casein for whey protein powder alone. Similar to the way you alter your training with different rep schemes or include various nutrients in your diet, you will see the benefit of utilizing both forms of protein for the unique features they each provide.

References:

Demling, R. H., & DeSanti, L. (2000). Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 44(1), 21-29.

Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Veldhorst, M. A., Nieuwenhuizen, A. G., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., & Westerterp, K. R. (2009). Comparison of 2 diets with either 25% or 10% of energy as casein on energy expenditure, substrate balance, and appetite profile. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(3), 831-838. 

Phillips, S. M., Hartman, J. W., & Wilkinson, S. B. (2005). Dietary protein to support anabolism with resistance exercise in young men. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 24(2), 134S-139S.

Res, P.T., Groen, B., Pennings, B. A. R. T., Beelen, M., Wallis, G. A., Gijsen, A. P., Senden, J. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 44(8), 1560-1569.


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