IF YOU FANCY a protein shake as a midnight snack, casein protein powder might be for you.
Everyone knows how important it is to get protein in after your workout. But, if you prefer to close out your day at the gym, and can't get yourself to down enough chicken or tofu to fill your protein needs, then you might need a powder option.
"While my preference is for my athletes and clients to obtain the majority of their protein from whole food sources that will provide a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, it’s not always realistic or practical for someone to meet their protein targets from whole foods alone," says Craig Moore, R.D., C.S.S.D., performance dietitian for Red Bull's Athlete Performance Center. So, a protein powder might be needed.
And there's an option for the night owls—casein.
How Is Casein Protein Different From Whey?
Though both are protein compounds of milk, "whey and casein have different chemical structures which influences how they behave when ingested," says Moore. "Casein is a slow digesting protein and forms 'clots' which results in it exiting the stomach more slowly and leading to a prolonged, less pronounced rise in amino acids in the blood."
Basically, whey is digested faster, and thus, stimulates muscle protein synthesis, or MPS, for around one to three hours. Casein does the same, but it can last for an upwards of six hours. "This is why casein is often recommended for consumption prior to sleep, due to its ability to maintain MPS and prevent muscle protein breakdown during a time we otherwise would not be eating," says Moore.
Though the science isn't fully conclusive, there may also be some evidence to suggest that casein protein can keep you fuller, longer than whey
What Should You Be Looking For in A Good Casein Protein?
Few additives, and plenty of protein, says Moore.
He recommends buying a brand that has at least 20 to 25 grams of protein per serving. It's okay to have some ingredients to ensure the powder doesn't taste like, well, powder. But watch out for unnecessary additives, like sucrose, that may add more calories than you need.
And always make sure your product is third-party tested. "Unfortunately, the supplement industry is a bit like the wild west," says Moore. "Many products don’t actually contain what they claim on the label, or worse, are contaminated with banned or potentially harmful substances."
USP, Informed Choice, and NSF are all trusted third-party certifications to look for.