Unless you’re able to shovel enough protein-packed foods down your gullet each day, you’re probably going to need some assistance maintaining optimum levels of this vital nutrient. That’s because protein provides the body with essential amino acids that serve as essential building blocks for the formation of new muscle.
While whey is still the big kid on the block when it comes to protein supplements, there’s the other milk-based protein that should be in every weight trainer’s diet. It’s called casein, and it continues to gain popularity as a superior protein supplement for enhancing muscle growth, and recovery.
Caseins are phosphorus-containing proteins and make up approximately 80% of the protein in cow's milk, with the remaining 20% coming from whey proteins. Along with having an exceptional amino acid profile, casein’s delayed protein absorption benefits make it a must for your weight training goals.
Muscle growth increases when a balance is sustained between protein synthesis and protein breakdown. To add muscle faster and more efficiently, your goal should be to increase protein synthesis while decreasing protein breakdown. Since casein is a muscle-sparing protein that is released in the bloodstream at a slow rate, it has a minimal effect on protein synthesis. However, it has a powerful effect on reducing protein breakdown, which makes it a highly potent muscle building supplement when taken at the right times.
A Baylor University study, found that men who drank a casein protein shake (mixed with whey) during a 10-week span gained considerably greater muscle mass than those who consumed a whey protein shake without casein.
While quickly digested whey protein is ideal immediately before and after your workout to help refuel recovering muscles, it’s not recommended for consumption at bedtime when your body typically goes without food for hours. A slow releasing protein will be much more beneficial to muscle repair and re-growth during your sleeping hours. Casein is exactly that - a slow digesting protein that takes 3-4 hours to reach peak levels in blood amino acids and protein synthesis, and 7 hours to become fully absorbed. And because casein also makes you feel less full than whey, it offers a great, between-meal protein snack.
To maximize the effects of casein protein supplementation, be sure to select one that contains micellar casein (the slowest-digesting casein you can buy). Take 30-40 grams right before going to bed each night. After workouts, try adding 10-20 grams of casein to your whey protein. Finally, use 30-40 grams of casein in any protein shakes you drink between meals.