Usually when you are taking part in any fitness routine, one of the biggest concerns is getting a good source of protein. Most people are concerned with taking something that fills their protein needs which acts fast that their body can use immediately.
The first thing that comes to mind is whey protein. If you are looking for a protein supplement to take right after a workout that your body can almost immediately digest and synthesize, whey protein is one of if not the best options.
But what about the rest of the day? What about at night time when your body’s metabolism naturally declines? This is where knowing how to properly utilize casein can really help you get over that “fitness peak” you can’t get over. You think that it is your genetics that are holding you back when the problem may be as simple as not getting the proper nutrition.
So What is Casein?
Casein is a protein derived from milk, in fact about 80% of the protein you get from drinking a glass of milk comes from casein. The other 20% comes from whey, which we so commonly associate with milk.
Casein digests at a much slower rate than whey, because of its molecular composition. The outside of the casein molecule consists of hydrophobic parts which make it hard to dissolve in water, the common solvent we use to digest our food. The casein forms clumps in our stomachs thus providing less surface area for our digestive juices to get at, further delaying the process.
Casein is also anticatabolic, meaning that it inhibits the breakdown of muscle, this in addition to it taking so long to digest makes it a great choice when you know you won’t be eating for awhile.
These characteristics make casein a better choice than other protein sources for a prolonged steady supply of protein to our bodies.
Different Types of Casein
When choosing what type of casein to buy that best fits your routine, it is important to recognize the difference between the three available choices.
Micellar casein: Micellar refers to the big globular chunks of casein we spoke about earlier. In this process, these chunks are removed from the whey, curds and lactose in the milk through a microfiltration process.
Each of these micells contain 5 different protein types, along with calcium, phosphorus and other micronutrients. This form of casein digests the slowest of all, and is the most nutritional form of casein.
This is the optimal choice if it is available to you.
Caseinates: this is the second slowest digestible form of casein. Caseinates are made by treating the curd which contains the casein with sodium or calcium alkaline agent to neutralize the protein. The substance that is left in the end contains lactose, carbohydrates and fat.
Caseinates are the least water soluble of the bunch and users report that it has a gritty taste as a result.
Casein Hydrolysate: This is the most easily digestible form of casein, because of the way it is prepared. This form of casein is essentially pre digested, allowing the body to more easily absorb the casein in the blood stream to quickly supply muscle tissues.
Even though casein hydrolysate acts in a much faster manner than the other two types of casein, it still takes the body about 4 hours to digest it based on amount consumed.
When Should I Be Using Casein
Arguable the best time to get the most benefit out of your casein supplement is at night. Your body goes in to the longest stretch of time where it receives no nutrients or water during sleep, so it only makes sense to eat a slow digesting protein beforehand.
This ensures that your body has a steady supply of protein throughout the night, so that your muscles are not left deprived overnight. This means a better recovery time and faster overall muscle growth. You will probably notice a significant increase in your energy levels when you wake up as a result too.
You Still Have To Train!
Casein can really help to assist you in reaching your weightlifting goals but you have to remember to put in the effort. Taking casein before you go to bed isn’t going to make you magically wake up all vascular and ripped; you still need to hit the gym.