Protein supplements are rising in popularity. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, looking to gain muscle, or just want to complement your diet with extra protein, looking for a protein supplement amongst all the options available can be daunting. Always be wary about the quality, ingredients and, most importantly, the source of protein present in the supplement. It’s important to know what you put into your body and, since it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options, we’re here to help.
When deciding what protein supplements to add to your diet, it’s likely that you will wonder about these two popular sources: casein protein and collagen protein. Below we’ve broken down the basics to help you decide which one is a better fir for your diet.
Casein protein is one of the two protein sources derived from milk - the other one is whey protein. Of the protein found in milk, 80% is casein and 20% is whey. When making casein, a curdling agent is added to milk to separate the solids and liquids. This causes curds to clump up and float to the top of liquid whey, where a gel-like material is made. Once the solids are removed, they are either made into cheese or dehydrated to become casein.
Although both derived from dairy, one of the main differences between whey and casein is that casein is a slow-digesting protein. When consumed, casein forms a gel in the stomach which releases slowly into the body. (We’re going to focus on casein protein in this article, but feel free to browse through our other blog posts to learn more about whey).
Casein protein is a complete protein source, meaning that it has all essential and non-essential amino acids. Casein protein is considered to be “anti-catabolic” since, as previously mentioned, it is a slow-release protein that will basically feed your cells with amino acids at a low level, over a long period of time (generally up to four hours). This constant stream of amino acids and protein supply results in delayed muscle breakdown. This is why many experts recommend taking casein protein before bed as it will protect the muscles from being broken down overnight.
Casein is a popular choice amongst bodybuilders and athletes because of its role in muscle growth. The slower breakdown period of casein allows the body, and muscles, to recover for longer periods of time. Many individuals not only consume this protein at night to prevent protein breakdown, but also to remain full for a long period of time while they’re in a calorie deficit period (or fasting). Since casein helps curb appetite, it can help prevent overeating and aid in weight loss maintenance.
On another note and completely unrelated, casein is great for dental health! Casein helps prevent cavity-causing bacteria by sticking to the tooth surface. Casein, when combined with calcium and phosphorus, can help with the remineralization of tooth enamel by providing the tooth with a protective film, which reduces the risk of decay. Dairy, in general, is great for oral health due to its antibacterial properties.
Unfortunately, casein has some notable drawbacks. Primarily, casein protein may cause digestive issues, like gas and bloating. For people with lactose or dairy intolerance it’s better to avoid this protein in general. Also, in terms of composition, casein is very similar to gluten, so individuals who are sensitive to gluten might also need to avoid this protein.
Casein is comprised of proteins called casein micelles, which include αs1-, αs2- and beta-caseins (A1 and A2). Milk that contains A1 and A2 beta caseins worsen gastrointestinal symptoms and increases inflammation markers that just A1 beta-casein milk.
Make sure to read labels to see the amount of casein you’re consuming; moderation is key. If you’re allergic to casein or have negative side effects like bloating or upset stomach, definitely discontinue its use or opt for a protein source that fits better with your diet.
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