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When to take Casein Protein for Weight loss?

casein protein powder

Buying a protein powder in today’s marketplace can be very confusing.  There are so many different brands and types and they’re all seemingly promising the same thing.  They’re the best.  

This article is going to help your decision process by explaining what protein source you should have at your home.  More importantly, it will tell you why you should be taking it and how to best consume it.  

“It’s” known as casein protein.

I’m not going to say it’s the best protein powder supplement…but it just might be!

What is Casein Protein Powder?

casein powder

Protein powders are just as varied as protein sources; milk, beef, soy, pea, etc.  The quality of your protein powder is ultimately determined by its source.  This means that casein protein powder is just a protein powder that uses casein protein.

That’s simple enough…but what is casein protein?

Casein protein is a protein that is found in the milk of mammals. Even humans. However, most casein protein powders get their protein from cows milk.  This is for a few reasons.

The first is that it is cheap.  Cows are already one of the most widely used livestock today, including dairy cow.  Second, cow’s milk has a much higher ratio of casein than other animals.  80% of milk protein from cows is casein protein while the other 20% is whey protein.  Yes, this means that whey and casein come from the exact same source!

 In fact, it is actually the casein protein that gives milk its white color.

How long does casein take to digest?

Casein is a slow-digesting protein that is caused by its behavior when it hits the stomach.  While casein proteins are able to dissolve in milk, they turn into little curd balls once they reach the stomach.  These balls of casein take a little longer to break down, thus, giving a slow release of amino acids. 

This slow rate of digestion is the defining feature of casein that allows it to stand out over other sources, such as its sister protein whey. It’s also what gives casein protein powder many of it’s unique benefits. 

Casein Protein Powder Benefits

casein protein powder

So what does casein protein powder do? Why should you take it?

Take your pick! There is a list of benefits that belongs to casein. Let’s start with the physiological benefits first:

1) Weight-loss Protein can be a beneficial aid in weightless programs. It can be used either alone, or in conjunction with exercise programs. Casein powder may even hold additional benefits over other protein sources. We will touch more on this later.

2) Excellent Source of High-Quality Protein– Not all protein is created equal. Some are low-quality, some are high-quality. Casein is definitely the latter. Casein has a max score of 1.00 on the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCCAS). PDCAAS measures the quality of a protein by looking at the available amino acids AFTER digestion.  

3) Prolonged Protein Synthesis- It’s generally believed that whey protein can provide a much higher level of protein synthesis acutely; this is why it is used post-workout. Still, some studies have shown that casein and whey actually cause the same level of protein synthesis.

Regardless, our muscles don’t always require such an elevated level of protein synthesis.

Due to its slow digestive process, casein elicits a much smaller spike in protein synthesis, BUT for a much longer time. This why it is considered to be a better option as a “general protein powder”.  

4) Higher Leucine Balance A major study put casein and whey head-to-head to compare their impact on protein synthesis.  

More interestingly, they monitored the leucine balance after consumption and found that casein protein resulted in significantly higher leucine levels; even 7 hours after consumption! 

This is of interest as leucine is the amino acid that triggers protein synthesis and is universally believed to be the most important amino acid responsible for muscle growth.

The effects that casein has on your body physiologically are enough to convince most that they should have some in their kitchen. Still, there are plenty of practical benefits to using casein protein powder.

1) Cheap!Some people will look at the initial price of a tub of protein and not buy it because it’s “too expensive”. However, when adjusted for serving size, most proteins are no more than $1 a serving. Add that with $0.30 of milk (probably cheaper) and you have a delicious, protein packed snack for $1.30!  

2) Convenient– Convenience is one of the most critical factors in sticking with a diet or habit. This is especially true in regards to your protein intake. Being able to meet your total protein intake daily will have huge effects on your muscle gain.

That’s fine as it doesn’t get much more convenient than scooping some powder into a drink and stirring it. Making a casein protein shake is about as convenient as it gets.

 3) Versatile- Casein can be used as a simple snack or can be used as a meal replacement i.e. the famous breakfast smoothie!  

Using casein protein powder along with other foods is easy way to make a “nutritious and delicious” meal.  Popular add-ins are oats, berries, bananas, peanut butter, and kale. This is a great way to get in your greens and fruit or to just increase the nutritional content of your smoothie.

Still, casein has 1 more unique benefit….pre-sleep feeding!

If you have been in the fitness scene for any length of time, you are aware of the emphasis and research that is put into protein intake.  Should you take protein all at once?  Every 3 hours?  What’s the optimal intake per serving?  However, all of this research has been directed towards one thing…daytime.

Sleep has been completely ignored.  This doesn’t make sense as it takes up about 6-9 hours of your time (or it should, if not, get more sleep!). This is why one of the more recent areas of research in sports nutrition has been looking at the effects of pre-sleep protein intake.

And due to it’s slow-digestion, casein is believed to be the best protein source for job. Being the best pre-sleep protein actually brings many of its own additional benefits

1) Enhance Recovery From Exercise– Studies have shown that protein synthesis drops considerably as we sleep. This makes sense as we are essentially in the process of fasting and our bodies are lacking adequate amino acids in the blood. This can be further exacerbated depending on how long you eat before bed and that meal’s protein content.

This means you are literally wasting 25-30% of your time that could be used to repair your muscles from training.  The obvious answer to fix this is to eat protein before you sleep! And this is what researchers have been studying.  

For example, one study had participants perform heavy resistance training and then consume either a placebo or 40g of casein protein powder 30 minutes before bedtime. The results showed that the casein intake group had increased amino acid levels AND increased protein synthesis throughout the night.

2) Increase Muscle Mass and Strength– The increased recovery spoken above can mean serious gains in the gym when done consistently. After all, the adage goes, “Muscle is broken down in the gym and grows in the bed”. 

One study compared two different groups who followed the same exact resistance training program for 12 weeks; the only caveat is that one consumed a beverage containing 27.5g of casein protein while the other did not. At the end of the 12-weeks, the casein group had significantly greater increases in both strength AND muscle size!  

Casein gets you big while you sleep!

3) Increased Morning Energy Expenditure– As we just mentioned above, ingesting casein before sleep elevates protein synthesis and the available amino acids. In order to get these amino acids, casein must be digested. Because increased protein synthesis and digestion are both complex processes, they require energy to do so.  

After casein ingestion, this increase in needed energy has been shown to elevate what’s known as our resting energy expenditure (REE) (how many calories we burn resting) the following morning. This can put our bodies at a metabolic advantage when we first wake up and help maintain healthier weights.  

4) Doesn’t Increase Fat– While not necessarily a benefit, a special note must be made to address the belief that anything eaten after “insert random time here” will become fat. We just saw that pre-sleep casein can actually help in maintaining a healthy weight WHILE building muscle.

Now, let’s look at a study that specifically looked at the effects of casein protein on fat and fat metabolism when taken before bed.  

It was found that pre-sleep casein had no effect on the metabolism or breakdown of fat, concluding that pre-sleep casein should have no short or long-term effects on fat gain.

Just to be sure, here is another study which examined casein protein intake during the day and pre-sleep.  The researchers found that time of consumption made no difference on the breakdown of abdominal fat with both having no effect.  They also concluded that pre-sleep casein protein consumption should have no effect on the accumulation of fat.

When to take casein protein for weight loss?

casein protein

As mentioned, high-protein diets have been associated with weight loss for some time now. When used with a proper weight training program, researchers were able to show that increasing protein intakes in athletes resulted in more fat loss, more muscle gains, and better overall improvements in body comp.

Even amongst the regular population, high-protein diets have been found to be beneficial for fat-loss. Even among different high-protein diets, it is noted that satisfaction with a diet is higher as the protein increases.  

In one of the more extreme cases, sport researchers found that extremely high protein diets resulted in no gain of fat….even though they were in a surplus of 800 calories!

Protein’s role in weight-loss is multifaceted.

1) Thermal Food Effect (TFE)– Digestion of food is an extensive process that needs the energy to perform. TFE simply refers to this phenomenon. It’s almost like “free calories”. 

Out of all three macronutrients (Protein, carbs, fats), protein has the highest TFE at about 23%, and that’s a more conservative estimate. One study found that a high-pro meal (45% protein) had 30% greater TEF than a low-protein meal (15% protein)

2) Satiety – Satiety refers to the sensation of being full, or content. This is what is attributed to the higher satisfaction in the diets with higher protein diets above. Out of all 3 macronutrients, proteins comes out on top again for creating the highest satiety

4) Where casein stands out– Casein is VERY filling. Due to it’s composition, when mixed with water or milk, casein powder becomes very thick, much thicker than whey. This makes drinking a casein shake more akin to drinking a thick milkshake….except it has the same calories as whey! A casein protein shake can as satisfying as eating an entire meal.  

Now….lets answer the question.

It is best to consume protein throughout the day to maintain the high satiety effects. The more satisfied you are, the less you are going to eat. 

Still, there are 3 specific times you can eat your casein protein powder to help with weight loss.

1) In the early afternoon after fasting!- Many people like to use casein to make a big smoothie. Starting your first meal after a fasted state with quality casein protein can help keep you full and mitigate hunger cravings later on in the day which prevents over-eating.

2) As a snack– One easy practice is to use casein protein as a planned snack or anytime you get hungry. Mixing casein powder with some milk can make a very filling snack that’s under 200 calories. Plus, in today’s market, casein protein powders actually taste delicious.

3) Before a big meal- We still need to eat real food. However, one of the hardest things to conquer is controlling our portion sizes which results in over-eating. Drinking a casein protein shake 30 minutes before a meal can help you feel satisfied and help any impulsive eating.

You can choose to utilize casein at all of these times, or one of them. Every day, or when you need the extra help. The important thing is to know that a casein protein supplement is a viable tool that can be used to help you reach your goals.

How to Take Casein Protein

There are a few guidelines you can follow to get the most out of your casein protein supplement.

1) Your first job is to calculate your specific protein needs. Suppose you are engaged in athletics or resistance training. In that case, it is estimated that you consume 1.4-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight daily.  

Remember that you will want to eat at the upper end of this, or even higher when you are cutting weight or need assistance with weight loss.

2) Once you have your total daily intake, you will want to divide it into 4-6 servings. While total protein intake does seem to be most important, enough research exists to suggest benefits from spreading out your protein intake throughout the day if possible. This can help maintain a steady increase in protein synthesis as well as the satiety effects.

3) You can now plan when and how much casein powder to take. Whether you will use it as a snack or make an entire meal replacement with it. 

4) Remember your pre-sleep protein shake. Most studies recommend 40 grams of casein protein taken 30 minutes before sleep, but others have also used as low as 25 grams. Just remember to factor this into your total caloric intake

Now You See Why You Need Some Casein Protein!

A casein protein powder supplement is quickly becoming the preferred protein for professionals, athletes, and everyday trainees alike.  And it’s easy to see why.  Casein protein has benefits that just can’t be replicated by any other protein on the market; it’s in a league of it’s own.

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