Whey Isn’t the Only Way
When you see a container of protein powder that contains milk-based protein, the source is usually whey protein. But that doesn’t mean it should be your only source of supplemental protein!
If you imagine looking into a yogurt container, whey is the watery liquid that often separates on top. For a long time, whey was generally considered a waste product from the yogurt- or cheese-making process. Eventually, however, it was discovered that whey protein was easily digested and utilized by the body for muscle building and repair.
As a result of whey’s popularity, the other major milk-derived protein, casein, now has a much smaller market share in the fitness community. But casein has its own benefits and could very well play an important role in your supplement regimen.
Benefits of Casein
Casein is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey protein. Because casein only begins to break down fully once it enters the small intestine, it is less readily available to the body than whey protein. Consequently, casein may not be ideal immediately after a heavy lifting session, but it’s a good choice when the goal is to ward off hunger and stay satisfied from one meal to the next.
This is why casein protein is often recommended at night for athletes to prevent muscle breakdown during the long overnight fast following a hard training day.
Both milk-derived proteins offer an excellent source of amino acids for the body. For a powerlifter or strength-focused athlete, I would recommend whey protein immediately after a workout for its bioavailability, while slower-digesting casein is the better choice before bed, when your next meal might not be for another 8 hours.
For endurance athletes and the general population, keeping whey and casein together (i.e. drinking milk-based products or eating yogurt) is just fine!