Protein is essentially the building blocks to muscle gains, maintenance and recovery. You know how important it is, whatever your past-time or athletic achievement. When broken down, protein’s amino acids build and repair your muscle tissue, which has been damaged by the designed wear and tear of athletics and weightlifting.

Protein is widely available from dietary sources, but in addition to a high protein diet, it is broadly recommended that protein supplements are utilized to ensure your body is getting all that it needs to live up to your busy, active lifestyle. The general dosage recommendation for bodybuilders is roughly 1 – 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day.

While you will already know some of the aforementioned facts or have experienced the benefits of protein over both short and long terms while regularly training, you might not be familiar with the different types of protein and the various ways they could benefit your gym ambitions.

Here we will be comparing whey protein and casein protein and which may be the best one for you.

Both whey and casein are the major proteins you will find in milk, and they each provide a high-quality source of the aforementioned essential amino acids.

What Is Whey?

Whey protein contains a large amount of those all-important branch chain amino acids (BCAA). Along with those, it is an excellent source of minerals and vitamins, along with lactose and fats.

Whey is the liquid residue that is produced during the creation of cheese from milk. Around 20 percent of the protein you get in milk is whey protein.

Whey also has great antioxidant properties as it enhances your body’s glutathione levels. The tri-peptide, glutathione plays an important role in protecting your skeletal muscle from oxidative damage.

What is Casein Protein?

Casein protein makes up approximately 80 percent of the protein in milk. It forms structures called ‘micelles’, which increase solubility in water. When milk is being processed at high temperatures, or with acid, casein peptides and these micelle structures are denatured to create simpler forms. It is from this gelatinous substance that casein gets its ability to slowly release amino acids into your circulation.

One of the fundamental differences between casein and whey protein is the speed at which your body digests them. Casein is known as the slowly digested protein, while whey is utilized to get much-needed protein digested and into your system after exercise when you need it quickly.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Whey and Casein

The benefits of casein’s slow digestion means that it clots in the stomach, making it anti-catabolic. Anti-catabolic properties are those that protect your muscle mass from being broken down. In other words, this is very good news for athletes – and particularly bodybuilders – fearing the loss of that hard work for muscle mass.

Think about it: before and after a lifting session you are acutely conscious of losing gains and of making sure you get all the protein and nutrition you can to ensure your body is fuelled to build. But then at night when you sleep your body is essentially undergoing a mandatory eight hour fast. Casein protein is often recommended to be taken at night before sleeping so that you get this slow but steady release of amino acids into your circulation. Likewise, it is ideally taken ahead of a long stretch in which you won’t be able to snack, for example, during work hours, or on a long hike.

The major benefit of whey protein is its ability to increase protein synthesis. It is fast-acting, which means it is efficiently emptied from your stomach and increases the amount of plasma amino acids in your circulation. Whey also contains leucine, an amino acid that promotes the synthesis of protein. Essentially, by repeatedly consuming whey, you sustain the higher levels of amino acids in your blood and contribute to repeated bursts of protein synthesis, which greatly benefit your muscle protein balance.

Because of its fast absorption time, whey is recommended for taking around the time of your workouts. You can particularly benefit from whey protein immediately after exercise when your body is in urgent need of protein. This is one area where whey trumps casein, as casein’s slow digestion is not useful when you’re trying to get amino acids into your system as quickly as possible.

Other negatives for casein include bloating and gas for people with problems with lactose. Whey, on the other hand, has not been proven to be effective at decreasing protein degradation.

The answer, then, except for anyone with lactose intolerances, is to make the most of both. Use whey protein to rapidly build those blocks via protein synthesis, and take casein to stop the breakdown of protein.

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has an MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.