Protein powder is one of the most popular supplements on the market. And that’s for a good reason – it has many uses, and it’s extremely beneficial for most people regardless of whether you’re gaining muscle, losing fat, or just trying your best to have a better, more nutritious diet overall.
With that said, there are many companies making all sorts of protein powders from various sources – you can find vegan ones, beef ones, and even egg white ones. However, the most popular and widely purchased type of protein powder remains the one derived from milk. The catch here is that, even though you may not know this, there are multiple types of milk-derived protein supplements. And today, we’re going to talk about them.
In this article, we’re going to turn our attention to whey supplements – particularly whey and casein protein powders and discuss their key differences, who they are made for, and what their benefits are. So, if that sounds like a topic you’d love to learn more about, then hold on tight, and let’s get started.
What do Casein and Whey Protein Powders Do?
If we have to note the two main differences between whey and casein powder, we can narrow it down to this. Whey protein powders are the “fast” type, as they get quickly digested by the body. On the other hand, casein powders are the “slow” type because it takes us longer to digest it properly.
Although both have high amino acid content, studies show that whey is more beneficial for muscle-building (more anabolic) as it has the ability to rapidly spike the levels of amino acids in our blood, which are essential for starting the muscle protein synthesis process. On the other hand, casein is an anticatabolic or muscle-sparing protein, as it gives our bodies a steady stream of amino acids over a longer period of time, which helps prevent muscle tissue breakdown.
As you can see both of these types of proteins have a role to play in the process of building and maintaining muscle. That is why both are considered to be beneficial for individuals who are aiming to create a better physique and are struggling to get and keep lean muscle mass. Having said that, let’s take a deeper look into both of these types of protein in order to learn more about how and when to consume them.
Whey protein is the quickest digesting protein of them all, and it’s estimated that it takes our bodies twenty minutes to digest it, absorb it, and metabolize it. After about an hour after we took it, it will have been used up for oxidation or for protein synthesis. No other form of protein gets our bodies to react that quickly, not even the one that comes from whole food sources.
This sudden spike of amino acids is what ends up stimulating and beginning the muscle protein synthesis so that instead of entering a catabolic state (where your muscles break down), you enter a protein synthesis so that your muscles can start rebuilding. This function of whey protein is what makes it the perfect meal to consume directly after a training session, and it’s the reason why you see it lining the shelves of almost any gym.
If you consume casein, it’s likely that you will reach a peak in protein synthesis and blood-level amino acids anywhere from 3 to 4 hours post-consumption. However, as you can already tell, this peak is a far cry from what happens when you consume whey. With that said, that’s not necessarily a negative thing. Even though casein doesn’t cause a spike of amino acids, it does help slow down the rate of protein breakdown, essentially preventing your current muscles.
That’s why it’s generally recommended to take casein before bed or in the hours prior to your training session when you want to be fuller for longer. Additionally, there are many whole food sources of casein, such as cheese, cottage cheese, and quark, which are also a good inclusion for your diet.
Can You Mix Casein and Whey Protein Powders?
There are some people who like to mix casein and whey together and take the combination immediately post-workout. The idea behind doing this is to get both slow and fast-digesting protein at the same time. However, this effect has not been proven, and it might not be working for your body, which is why you have to test it out – the most important thing is to get your share of protein immediately after your training session.
Do the Amino Acid Profiles Matter?
Many marketing strategies aim to promote particular amino acid profiles and showcase that their product has a better or more complete amino acid profile compared to the other ones on the market. However, in this scenario, you should ignore the hype and the advertising. Both casein and whey are derived from milk, which means that their amino acid profiles are technically the same – the only time you should look at this is if you’re getting a protein powder from a different source – vegan, beef, etc.
Hopefully, by now, you know that both casein and whey protein powders are extremely beneficial for lifters and for people who live an active lifestyle in general. With that said, they do play a different role in our nutrition and are there to help our bodies make and preserve muscles in their own ways.
Typically, if you’re serious about building more muscle mass and retaining your existing one, then it’s recommended to get both kinds of protein powders and to use them accordingly, keeping in mind the benefits we stated above. However, if you’re not a bodybuilder or someone who’s putting work to create an aesthetic physique, and you’re just a person looking to improve their health, then you should just get a whey protein powder and stick with it – it’s exactly what you need.