Casein is a slow-absorbing and indigestible protein that athletic people may often take as a supplement. It also releases a chain of amino acids slowly, so people often take it before bed to help with recovery and reduce muscle breakdown while sleeping. Many studies have also shown that it helps promote muscle growth, along with many other benefits, so let’s get to know this popular supplement and everything related to it in this article.
Casein is derived from milk, as is whey
Milk contains two types of proteins, casein and whey.
Casein is 80% milk protein, while whey is 20%. Casein protein is slowly digested, while whey protein is rapidly digested. This is an important difference between these two common dairy proteins and like other animal proteins, casein is a complete source of protein.
This means that it provides all of the essential amino acids your body needs to grow and repair and also contains many unique proteins and bioactive compounds, some of which have health benefits.
There are two main types of casein:
- Micellar casein: This is the most common form and is slowly digested.
- Casein Hydrolyzate: This form is digested and rapidly absorbed.
A 33-gram spoonful of casein contains 24 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of fat. It may also contain several micronutrients (such as calcium), but the exact composition will vary depending on the brand.
Casein takes longer than whey
Casein protein is known as the “slow time release” due to its slow rate of absorption in the gut. This indicates that it is feeding your cells and muscles with amino acids at a low level over a long period of time. It can also help your cells synthesize protein, even during times your body might normally break down its muscles to fuel itself, such as when you haven’t eaten for some time.
For this reason, it is called an “anti-catabolic” as it helps reduce muscle breakdown. One study also tested the speed of digestion by providing participants with a whey protein shake or casein. The researchers monitored the amino acid content in the blood, specifically the main amino acid leucine, for seven hours after ingestion as the researchers found a faster and greater rise in whey protein.
In another study, researchers gave participants either whey protein or casein protein and then measured their digestion rate by analyzing circulating levels of the amino acid, leucine, over a period of seven hours. They found that circulating levels of leucine increased by 25% in the whey protein group, indicating faster digestion and this means that the casein group reduced the total amount of protein burned over a period of seven hours. This indicates an improvement in the balance of net protein, which is a major factor for muscle growth and retention.
Casein protein is very effective for muscle growth
Bodybuilders and athletes have used this supplement for decades. And like animal protein, it contains all of the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce naturally. Most importantly, it provides a high amount of leucine, which starts the formation of muscle protein.
If you consume a low or moderate amount of protein, this may help you boost muscle growth simply by increasing your protein intake.One study compared those who consumed casein to two other groups. One took whey and the other didn’t take protein.
The researchers found that the casein group experienced twice as much muscle growth and fat loss as compared to the placebo group. The casein group also experienced more fat loss than the whey group as casein may also boost muscle mass in the long term by reducing protein breakdown.
This process occurs daily when the body is low on energy and amino acids. It is speeded up during exercise or weight loss and for this reason, casein is often used at night to prevent the protein breakdown that may occur, because you go through a relatively long period without food during sleep.
In one study, a casein protein shake before bed helped men in strength training increase the volume of type 2 muscle fibers by 8.4 cm, compared to 4.8 cm in the training-only group.
Casein may have other great benefits for your health
- Antibacterial and Immune Benefits: Some cell studies indicate that it may provide antibacterial and immune benefits and reduce high blood pressure.
- Triglyceride levels: A study of 10 overweight people found that they lowered triglyceride levels after a meal by 22%.
- Reducing free radicals: Some of the peptides in casein protein powder may have antioxidant effects and fight the buildup of harmful free radicals.
- Fat loss: One 12-week training study found that the average fat loss among people taking the casein supplement was three times greater than the placebo group.
Does it have any harmful side effects?
The myth that high protein intake causes ill health has been debunked multiple times, with direct studies and reviews highlighting that there are no negative effects on healthy individuals.
The only exception are those with existing kidney or liver disease, who may need to limit their protein intake. If you take two or two tablespoons of casein daily, you will not experience any serious side effect.
However, most people may have an allergy to casein protein or an intolerance to lactose, which can often be found in small amounts with supplementation. Other people may develop bloating or have other digestive symptoms, but this depends on the individual. Like whey, casein is safe for human consumption. As discussed above, it may have some impressive long-term benefits for your health.
The dispute over A1 versus A2
Cows produce many forms and types of casein proteins that are slightly different. One protein found in casein (called beta-casein) exists in several forms. Most cow’s milk contains a mixture of A1 and A2 beta-casein, while the milks of certain strains contain only A2 beta-casein.
Some observational research is starting to link A1 beta-casin to some health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Other studies of A1 beta-casein have not found any harmful effects as research and debate continues on A1 and A2 beta-casein, but for now you probably don’t need to worry about that.
How to supplement your diet with casein and maximize the benefits
Most people who take casein take it before bed.For example, you can take 1-2 scoops (25-50 grams) of casein protein powder mixed with water. You can simply put the casein and water in a mixing bottle and mix them this way or in a blender with some ice.
You can also put it in a bowl and stir it with water until it has a pudding-like consistency, then place it in the freezer for 5 minutes. Then it will be like ice cream, especially with flavors like chocolate or vanilla. However, you can also get casein from natural dairy products.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are very high in this protein. Popular ways to get a lot of dairy protein without a lot of calories include eating high-protein natural cheese or yogurt.
What is the difference between casein and whey protein?
There is more than one protein powder on the market today, from rice to hemp, insects and beef. But there are two types of protein that have stood the test of time, and have remained respectable and popular over the years: casein and whey.
Although they are both derived from milk, they may differ greatly as this paragraph of the article explores the differences between casein and whey protein, their health benefits, and how to choose the right one for your needs.
They both come from milk
Casein and whey are two types of protein found in cow’s milk, and they make up 80% and 20% of milk protein respectively and they are high-quality proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids that you must get from food because your body cannot make them. Plus, it is easily digested and absorbed.
Your body absorbs casein protein more slowly than whey
One important difference between casein and whey protein is how quickly the body absorbs them as your body breaks down the protein into many small molecules called amino acids that circulate in the bloodstream until they are absorbed.
This is because the two proteins digest at different rates. Just like in cheesemaking, casein forms a curd when you are exposed to acids in your stomach. This curd prolongs the processes of digestion and absorption in the body.
So casein protein provides your body with a slow and steady release of amino acids, which makes it ideal before fasting states, such as sleep.On the other hand, since your body digests and absorbs whey protein much faster it makes the perfect end to your workouts excellent as it will start the process of muscle repair and rebuilding right after the exercise.
Whey is better than casein for muscle building
Whey is not only suitable for exercise due to its rapid absorption but also because of its amino acid properties. It contains more branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine, while casein contains a higher proportion of the amino acids histidine, methionine and phenylalanine.
While all essential amino acids are important for building muscle, leucine stimulates the anabolic process as well as whey protein, due to its high leucine content, muscle protein synthesis which is the process by which muscle grows more than casein, especially when taken in conjunction with workouts. However, it is not known if this greater stimulation of muscle protein synthesis leads to increased muscle growth in the long term. But what is certain is that the total protein you eat throughout each day is the strongest indicator of muscle size and strength.
They both contain different beneficial compounds
Casein contains many bioactive peptides that have been shown to benefit the immune system and the digestive system. Some of the bioactive peptides in casein also benefit your heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the formation of blood clots. It is a class of drugs commonly prescribed to control blood pressure.
Whey protein contains a number of active proteins called immunoglobulins that boost your immune system. The immunoglobulins in whey are known to have antimicrobial properties, they either kill or slow the growth of harmful microbes such as viruses and bacteria.
Animal and test-tube studies have also shown that these proteins have antioxidant effects and inhibit the growth of tumors and cancer. In addition, some immunoglobulins transport important nutrients such as vitamin A through the body and enhance the absorption of other nutrients such as iron.
The benefit of protein in your diet
Among these benefits:
- Enzymes: proteins that carry out chemical reactions in your body.
- Antibodies: They remove foreign particles, such as viruses, to help fight infection.
- Messengers: Several proteins are hormones that coordinate cell signals.
- Structure: This provides shape and support for your skin, bones, and tendons.
- Control of blood sugar: Protein, when eaten in place of carbohydrates, can improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Blood pressure: Studies show that people who consume more protein regardless of source have lower blood pressure.
What is casein sensitivity?
Casein is a protein found in milk and other dairy products and casein allergy occurs when your body mistakenly identifies casein as a threat to your body. Then your body will react to try to combat it. This differs from lactose intolerance, which occurs when your body does not make enough of the enzyme lactose. Is that lactose intolerance can make you feel uncomfortable after consuming dairy products. However, a casein allergy can cause:
- Sharp pain
- Poor absorption of food
- Breathing problems
What causes a casein allergy?
Casein allergy is more common in infants and young children. This sensitivity occurs when the immune system mistakes casein for something the body needs to combat. This provokes an allergic reaction.
Breastfed infants are less likely to have a casein allergy. Experts aren’t entirely sure why some children develop a casein allergy while others don’t, but they do think genetics may play a role. Usually, casein allergy clears up by the time a child is 3 to 5 years old. Also, some children never get rid of a casein allergy and may develop it in adulthood.
Where is casein found?
Mammalian milk, like cow’s milk, consists of:
- Lactose or milk sugar
- As many as four types of casein protein
- Other types of milk proteins
For most people with a true casein allergy, milk and dairy products in all their forms should be avoided, as even trace amounts may lead to a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Anaphylaxis is a condition that causes the immune system to release chemicals throughout the body.
Signs of anaphylaxis include redness, hives, swelling, and trouble breathing. This can lead to anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. The amount of milk in products can be very inconsistent. Therefore, it is impossible to know exactly how much casein is to be taken. Also, milk is the third most common food that causes anaphylaxis.
Foods to avoid when having a casein allergy include, but are not limited to:
- All types of milk (full fat, low fat, skimmed, yogurt)
- Butter, ghee, ghee, butter flavors
- Yogurt and kefir
- Cheese and anything containing cheese
- Ice cream, gelato
- Cream (whipped, heavy, sour)
- Fudge, custard
Casein can also be in foods and other products that contain milk or milk powder, such as biscuits and biscuits. Casein can also be found in less visible foods, such as non-dairy creams and flavors.
This makes casein one of the hardest allergens to avoid. This means that it is very important for you to read food labels carefully and ask about the contents of certain foods before buying or eating them.
In restaurants, be sure to alert your server about a casein allergy before ordering food. Products that contain milk or that may have been exposed to foods containing milk should be avoided if you or your child have a casein allergy. The food ingredient list will explain this.
In addition, some food packages may voluntarily include phrases such as “May contain milk” or “Made in a facility containing milk”. Therefore these foods should be avoided as well as they may contain traces of casein.
What are risk factors for developing a casein allergy?
One in 13 children under the age of 18 has a food allergy. Casein allergy usually appears by the time the infant is 3 months old and will resolve by the time the child is 3 to 5 years old.
It is not known exactly why this happens. However, researchers have found that some children with a casein allergy who are exposed to small amounts of casein in their diets seem to overcome their allergies more quickly than children who do not take casein.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against introducing cow’s milk to babies before one year because a child’s body cannot tolerate the high levels of protein and other nutrients found in cow’s milk.
The AAP also suggests that all babies only feed on breast milk or formula milk up to 6 months of age, as you can start introducing solid foods. At this point, avoid feeding your baby foods that contain milk, and continue to give him breast milk only or formula milk.
How is casein allergy diagnosed?
You should call your doctor immediately if your child exhibits any of the symptoms of a casein allergy and he will ask you about your family’s history of food allergies and do a physical examination. There is no specific test to diagnose a casein allergy, so your child’s doctor will run several tests to ensure that another health problem is not causing symptoms. These tests include:
- Stool tests to check for digestive problems
- Blood tests to check for underlying health problems
- Skin prick allergy test where your child’s skin is pricked with a needle containing a small amount of casein to see if there is a reaction
Your baby’s doctor may also give your baby milk and monitor it for several hours afterward to check for any allergic reaction.
How to avoid casein
There are several alternatives on the market for products containing casein, including:
- Soy milk, rice, or potatoes
- Italian sorbet and sorbet
- Some brands of soy-based products, like Tofutti
- Certain brands of creams and bleaches
- Most of soy ice cream
- Coconut butter
- Certain brands of soups
In recipes that require one cup of milk, you can substitute this cup for one cup of soy milk, rice, or coconut milk, or one cup of water with one egg yolk. You can also use the following to replace yogurt:
- Soy yogurt
- Soy sour cream
- Pureed fruit
- Unsweetened apple juice
Should you avoid casein even if you don’t have a food allergy?
Researchers have found that casein can boost inflammation in mice, and this has prompted some experts to question whether a casein-free diet would be beneficial for people with disorders exacerbated by inflammation, such as autism, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Currently, no definitive link has been demonstrated between a casein-free diet and the reduction of symptoms of disease or disorder. Studies are ongoing, and some people have found that cutting casein improves symptoms of some health problems. If you are considering a casein-free diet it is important to consult your doctor first.