Casein protein is a supplement many fitness enthusiasts wonder about. You see most of your gym buddies taking whey protein after workouts, and perhaps wonder why none of them are taking casein.
They are close in price, both offer over twenty grams of protein per serving, and they come in the same flavor. So what’s the difference?
Depending on your goals, casein powder might be the better protein for you.
In A Hurry?
Best Casein Protein Powders?
- OPTIMUM NUTRITION GOLD STANDARD
- Dymatize Elite 100% Micellar Casein
- Bulksupplements Casein Protein Powder
What is Casein Protein ?
Casein is a milk-based protein used as a workout supplement by athletes. They are used both as a post-workout supplement and throughout the day (for reasons we’ll explain in a minute).
Casein (like whey protein) is a byproduct of cheese production. When cheese is made, enzymes are added to milk that cause the casein proteins to separate. These are dried out and served as a protein powder (1).
What is Casein Protein Used For?
Casein protein is used as a workout supplement by athletes looking to gain muscle or bodyweight.
Casein protein contains all of the essential amino acids needed for muscles to grow, which makes it a popular supplement for weightlifters, CrossFitters, and other gym goers.
Because casein protein digests slower than whey protein, it is also a popular supplement to take before bed or in the morning.
Whereas whey protein is quick digesting (good for meeting the post-WOD “window of gains”), casein needs more time to break down in the stomach.
Casein Protein vs. Whey Protein—What’s The Difference?
Both casein protein and whey protein come from milk. But the two are very different.
About 80% of milk protein is casein protein, while the remaining 20% is whey protein (this article breaks down how not all whey proteins are created equal).
Due to a higher branch chain amino acid (BCAA) count, it’s thought that whey protein is a better supplement for repairing muscle after a workout.
Whey’s high leucine count is believed to stimulate muscle growth better than casein (2).
Casein digests slower and is better as a “throughout-the-day” supplement, particularly before bed or first thing in the morning.
Both whey and casein have about the same nutritional content. A scoop has roughly 24g of protein in it.
Casein Protein Benefits
Casein digests slower, keeping muscle-building proteins in your bloodstream for longer.
Casein protein is a good supplement option for adding muscle, recovering from tough workouts, and keeping your body in an anabolic state throughout the day.
Casein Protein Dosage
Consider these things when taking casein protein as a supplement.
How Much Casein Protein Do You Need a Day?
You should always remember the word ‘supplement’ when it comes to taking protein or other workout supplements.
Supplements are one of the rare exceptions where using the word in the definition helps you understand it. Here’s why.
Supplements, by their definition, are to be added onto everything else you’re already doing right. In fitness, this means eating well, working hard in the gym, getting quality sleep, and staying stress-free.
Six scoops of casein powder per day won’t make a difference if the “building blocks” of fitness are not taken care of.
That said, 1 to 2 scoops of casein powder is enough for a day. Casein is more expensive than whey protein, so any more will be costly.
When Should You Take It?
Take casein protein before bed or first thing in the morning if you can’t stomach real food right away.
How Long Does It Take To Work?
Studies vary, but one suggests casein takes up to seven hours to fully digest (4). Good if you’re sleeping, not great if you want to maximize your post-WOD window.
Casein Protein Side Effects
Casein is dairy, so if you don’t digest dairy products well it might not digest easily.
Unfortunately, there have been some contamination reports of casein powder (5). Keep in mind this is as likely with any other supplement as it is with taking protein powder (sadly).
Casein Protein Powder FAQ
Some quick-hitters on casein powder.
Is It Good to Take Casein Protein Before Bed?
Yes. Slow digestion is the main benefit of taking casein powder.
Is Casein Protein Powder Good for Weight Loss?
Many studies say that high-protein diets help people lose weight (6). As a protein supplement it might help you lose weight, but good diet and consistent exercise will factor more than any supplement you take.
What’s Better Whey or Casein?
Depends on your goals and application. Before bed, casein. After a workout, whey.
Does Casein Make You Gain Weight?
If you’re eating more calories than you’re burning, you’ll gain weight. If casein is tipping your caloric scale, then perhaps it will make you gain weight.
Top Casein Protein Reviews
Here are the three best casein proteins on the market.
OPTIMUM NUTRITION GOLD STANDARD
ON whey powder is one of the most sought after brands for CrossFitters, bodybuilders, and other fitness enthusiasts. Just check their 1,600 reviews on Amazon for proof.
This is mainly due to the fact that they keep their prices low and their quality high. Their casein comes in four flavors and costs about $.74/ounce.
Dymatize Elite 100% Micellar Casein
A little more expensive than Optimum Nutrition, but still priced reasonably. You might choose Dymatize casein for their 25g of protein per serving offering. Otherwise, they are pretty much the same as ON. In fact, they are $.6/ounce cheaper.
Bulksupplements Casein Protein Powder
No thrills, low cost casein protein. You can’t buy these in four or five pound tubs like ON or Dymatize, but their powder still ranks quite high for a more generic brand.
Casein protein is a slow-digesting, muscle enhancing supplement you might take before bed or first thing in the morning to pump essential amino acids into your body.
Whey protein may be better to take after a workout, but depending on your goals and the way you’re using the supplement, casein might be preferable.
It won’t help you gain or lose weight on its own, though. That’ll come down to calories in versus calories out and your fitness goals.
The best casein protein powders we reviewed here are all comparable and affordable, so give them a look and pick the one you think best meets your needs.
Check out more CrossFit and fitness-related nutrition articles so you’re fueling yourself with the right stuff for PRs!