There are more types of protein powder on the market today than ever before - from rice and hemp to insects and beef.
But two types of protein have stood the test of time, remaining well-regarded and popular over the years: casein and whey .
Although both of these types are derived from milk, they differ significantly.
This article explores the differences between casein and whey protein , their health benefits, and how to choose the right one for your needs.
Casein and whey are the two types of protein found in cow's milk, making up 80% and 20% of milk protein, respectively .
These are high quality proteins, as they all contain essential amino acids , which you need to get from food because your body can't make them. Moreover, they are easily digested and absorbed .
Casein and whey are by-products of cheese production.
During cheese making, enzymes or special acids are added to the heated milk. These enzymes or acids cause the casein in the milk to coagulate, or turn it into a solid state, separating from a liquid substance.
This liquid substance is whey protein, which is then washed and dried into a powder form for use in food products or dietary supplements .
The remaining casein curd can be washed and dried to create protein powder or added to dairy products , such as cottage cheese.
whey protein is not only better suited for training because it is quickly absorbed but also because of its amino acid profile.
It contains more branched chain amino acids (BCAA), leucine, isoleucine, and valine, while casein contains a higher portion of the amino acids histidine, methionine, and phenylalanine .
While all of the essential amino acids are important for building muscle, leucine is the one that kickstarts the process .
Partly due to its higher leucine content, whey protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis – the process by which muscles grow – more than casein, especially when consumed in tandem with your workouts .
However, it is unknown whether this increased stimulation of muscle protein synthesis leads to longer muscle growth.
What is certain is that your total protein intake during each day is the best predictor of muscle size and strength .
Both casein and whey protein contain different bioactive peptides, which are compounds that benefit your body .
casein contains several bioactive peptides that have been shown to benefit your immune and digestive systems .
Certain bioactive peptides found in casein also benefit your heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the formation of blood clots .
These peptides work similarly to angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, a class of drugs commonly prescribed to control blood pressure.
They also bind and transport minerals like calcium and phosphorus, improving their digestibility in the stomach .
Whey protein contains a number of active proteins called immunoglobulins that boost your immune system .
Whey immunoglobulins are known to have antimicrobial properties, killing or slowing the growth of harmful microbes, such as bacteria and viruses .
Animal and test-tube studies have also shown that these proteins exert antioxidant effects and inhibit the growth of tumors and cancer .
In addition, some immunoglobulins transport important nutrients - such as vitamin A - through your body and improve the absorption of other nutrients like iron .
Protein plays many important roles in your body, which makes it incredibly important for your health.
These roles include :
- Enzymes: P roteins that carry out chemical reactions in your body.
- Antibodies: These remove foreign particles, such as viruses, to help fight infection.
- Messengers: Many proteins are hormones , which coordinate cell signaling.
- Structure: They provide shape and support to your skin, bones and tendons.
- Transport and storage: These proteins move substances, including hormones, drugs, and enzymes, through your body.
Beyond its basic nutritional functions in your body, protein has several other benefits, including:
- Fat loss: The protein aids in fat loss decreasing your appetite and boosting your metabolism .
- Blood sugar control: The Protein, when eaten in place of carbohydrates, may improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes .
- Blood pressure: Some Studies show that people who eat more protein—from any source—have lower blood pressure .
These benefits are associated with higher protein intake in general, not necessarily with casein or whey.
Despite their different bioactive components, whey and casein proteins vary little when it comes to their nutritional data.
Per standard scoop (31 grams), whey protein contains :
- calories: 110
- Lipids: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Proteins: 24 grams
- Iron: 0% of the Daily Reference Intake (RDA)
- Calcium: 8% of ROI
Per standard scoop (34 grams), casein protein contains :
- calories: 120
- Lipids: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 4 grams
- Proteins: 24 grams
- Iron: 4% of ROI
- Calcium: 50% of ROI
Keep in mind that this nutritional information may vary depending on the specific product you are purchasing, so be sure to read labels carefully.
In addition, there are other factors to consider:
- Casein protein powder is generally more expensive than whey.
- Whey protein powder tends to mix better than casein.
- Whey protein powder often has a better consistency and taste than casein.
You can also buy protein blends, which typically contain a combination of casein and whey, giving you the benefits of each.
Alternatively, you can buy both powders individually and take whey protein powder with workouts and then casein before bed.
How to use them
You can mix each with water or milk . Milk will make your protein shakes - especially those with casein - thicker.
If possible, mix your protein powder and liquid with a blender bottle or another type of blender instead of a spoon. This will ensure a smoother consistency and more even protein dispersion.
Always add the liquid first, followed by the protein scoop. This command prevents the protein from sticking to the bottom of your container.
Casein and whey protein each have unique benefits. Y ou can also consider cost, mixability and taste. Moreover, it is possible to mix the two types.
Both casein and whey protein are derived from milk.
They differ in digestion times - casein digests slowly, making it good before bedtime, while whey digests quickly and is great for workouts and muscle growth.
Both contain different bioactive compounds that can boost your immune system and provide other benefits.
Choosing one over the other won't necessarily lead to better athletic results or significantly improve your health, so pick your favorite or buy a mix that contains both.
Above all, remember that your total daily protein intake matters the most.
Although casein and whey have their differences, they each play an important role in your body and provide numerous health benefits.