Surely you’re familiar with whey protein, the most commonly used protein powder. Maybe you’ve also tried a soy or rice protein supplement. But what about casein protein powder? As you get to know different sources of protein, it’s worth taking a look at casein to learn what it is and understand why and when it is used. Turns out, casein protein has some benefits that may surprise you.
What is Casein Protein, Anyway?
Like whey, casein protein is an animal protein derived from cow’s milk. As such, it is a complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids your body needs for muscle growth and repair. Approximately 80 percent of the protein in cow’s milk is casein. Other types of milk—including goat’s milk and human breast milk—also contain casein. Casein is a major component of cheese and is often used as a food additive.
Here are five reasons you may want to consider adding casein protein to your nutrition and training plan.
1. Optimal Overnight Muscle Recovery
The main difference between casein vs. whey is a matter of timing. One of the key benefits of casein is its slow-release characteristic. While whey is a fast-acting protein, casein protein breaks down in the body much more gradually—over the course of five to seven hours. Because of this, casein protein is often referred to as a nighttime protein, commonly taken just before bed to maximize the slow-release benefits. Research like this study supports taking casein at bedtime for overnight recovery when muscles are at rest and the body can fully utilize the casein protein to rebuild and regenerate damaged muscle tissue.
Casein is considered an anti-catabolic protein, meaning that the essential amino acids it provides help to minimize the muscle breakdown associated with exercise. Therefore, not only does casein protein help your muscles recover and grow, it helps protect the muscles you already have.
2. Improved Weight Loss/Weight Management
Casein protein may help with weight loss by increasing the body’s Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Your RMR is the number of calories burned when your body is at complete rest. While at rest, your body still performs many functions that require energy (thinking, breathing, maintaining body temperature, circulating blood, etc.). The higher your RMR, the more calories you burn by simply existing. In this study, casein protein taken at bedtime was shown to increase the morning RMR in women (men were not included in the study).
Slow-release casein protein also tends to help curb the appetite, providing a sustained feeling of satiety. For this reason, casein protein can help prevent overeating and potentially aid in weight loss or maintenance. Casein protein can also help prevent blood sugar spikes.
3. An Ideal Bedtime Snack
Let’s face it—all the training you do makes you hungry, and oftentimes dinner just isn’t enough. If you long for a snack before bed, a casein protein shake is a great idea. Many athletes choose a shake or yogurt mixed with casein protein as a bedtime snack, looking to satisfy nighttime cravings while also gaining recovery benefits. Not only will it curb your hunger and help your muscles repair while you rest, it may even help you sleep. Anecdotally, many people report that casein protein taken at bedtime improves their Zs. Think of casein protein as the athlete’s equivalent of a glass of warm milk!
4. A Stronger Smile
Here’s another, lesser-known reason to smile: not only can casein protein help your muscles recover, it may help your teeth stay strong, too. A standard scoop of casein protein powder contains a whopping 50% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of calcium. Whey protein, on the other hand, provides only 8% of the RDI. Research has shown that calcium and phosphates in casein protein can be effective in boosting dental health by helping to prevent tooth enamel erosion.
5. A Thicker Shake
Casein powder creates extra-thick shakes, which—to the uninitiated—may seem hard to mix. But BlenderBottle® shaker bottle aficionados know that the right tool is all you need. Our top tips for mixing a perfect casein protein shake? Add a little extra liquid and mix it up in a high-performance BlenderBottle® ProSeries shaker, which utilizes our patented mixing system with the BlenderBall® wire whisk to mix even the thickest ingredients with ease. The bottle’s rounded base allows the BlenderBall® whisk to mix every last bit of stubborn powder, ensuring a smooth drink.
The bottom line is that casein protein, especially when properly timed, can be an extremely effective tool in repairing and maintaining healthy muscles, along with other health and nutrition benefits, for those able to tolerate dairy.
Looking to learn more about why protein matters? The pros and cons of different protein powders? What’s up with BCAAs and collagen? We answer these questions and more in our Ultimate Starter Guide to Protein.