What is casein protein? Is it different from whey protein? When should I use it? These are questions that tend to pop up from time to time. Casein protein, found most commonly as micellar casein, is a great addition to any healthy eating lifestyle and due to its incredible versatility, can be added to nearly anything.
Micellar casein is derived from milk and accounts for about 80% of the total protein. Casein proteins are a group that consists of alpha casein, beta casein, gamma casein, delta casein, and kappa casein. When they are in a watery substance, they naturally form into micelles. These micelles create what is known as a micellar protein.
When one of the caseins in the group is removed, the protein starts to denature and becomes destroyed. Micelles have a higher bioavailability because denaturation doesn't occur.
In simpler terms, bioavailability is how readily your body can use a nutrient. Caseins are often exposed to chemical processes to make them easier to incorporate into certain foods. This process causes denaturation which is a breakdown of the protein molecule.
Denaturation lowers the bioavailability of the protein which means you'll be getting less of the protein molecule into your system. Lower bioavailability means less of the actual nutrient is getting used to help fuel your body.
The most notable and relevant fact to know is the absorption rate. While whey protein has a relatively quick absorption rate that assimilates into your system in under an hour, casein proteins have a much slower digestion rate often taking up to eight hours to digest fully.
When casein enters your stomach, it naturally clumps together. The clumping slows down the absorption process drastically but yields several benefits in the process.
Unlike whey, a slow absorbing protein like casein delivers a slow and steady release of amino acids your body needs. The slow release will allow your body to continually repair itself over a longer timespan. In fact, Leucine, which is an amino acid that is critical in muscle repair, have been found in much higher numbers after seven hours when consuming casein instead of whey.
Right before your workout is the only time when casein wouldn't directly be beneficial. With whey's faster absorption rate, it would be a better choice pre-workout.
With casein's slower digestion rate, it is a great protein to consume anytime to increase your protein intake. It is also popular as a nighttime protein as it will continue to feed your body throughout the night.
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