It seems that we’ve all been bowing down to Whey as the best protein supplement to build muscle since..well..forever! It makes sense – I mean whey protein has the highest bio availability of any protein source and the highest yield of all of the amino acids to help our muscles recover and more importantly, GROW!
But this has left a VERY important protein for muscle building in the dark as a result – This protein is CASEIN!
Why Casein Protein?
“Why not?” is a better question! Why not enjoy a slow releasing protein that gradually nourishes your muscles with protein over the course of a few hours? I don’t know about you but I don’t like getting out of bed to eat every 3 hours just to keep my muscles happy! (I get wound up just having to getting up in the middle of the night to go for a pee let alone food!)
Casein is the next best thing! It provides a steady release to your muscles while you catch those all important ZZZ’s! (Waking up in the middle of the night is counterproductive to your growth hormone levels anyway, which peak in a deep sleep..GH also helps your body to recover and build muscles!)
The great news is that studies have shown that Casein can keep amino acids (protein) slowly releasing into your bloodstream for up to 7 hours! That’s a good night’s sleep right there!
Casein vs Whey
Comparing the two initially may seem foolish – Whey has a higher bio availability which means more of the protein can be used by your muscles for repair. However, the body uses this protein quicker than you can say “muscles please!” (ok maybe not quite THAT fast but you catch my drift.)
So why would you take this before bed? Or at any other time in the day when you would rather have a sustained release of protein to your muscles? Not to mention there are now talks that whey protein actually causes a spike in insulin..something you don’t particular want during the day (not a huge spike anyway).
So Casein, which is derived from milk (Around 80% of milk is Casein protein!) for me is looking like a surprise winner here.
Now there is a time when our muscles SCREAM at us if we don’t give them access to protein quickly (I spoil mine, I really do!) and that is straight after a workout.
You should know this already but a quick lesson in what happens when you train with weights with any kind of intensity – You create micro-tears in your muscles and empty out the muscles protein and glycogen (energy) stores. Your MOST important meal of the day (yes, more important than breakfast but ALL meals are important for muscle building!) will be your post-workout shake which MUST consist of fast acting whey protein isolate (preferably, but concentrate will do also) and a high amount of fast releasing carbs (we’ll talk about types of carbs on a whole new post).
This is the situation when whey is the best protein supplement to build muscle.
At all other times, I’ve started using Casein where I wasn’t before. Incidentally, since I’ve started replacing whey with Casein I’m the biggest I’ve ever been. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m positive the extra muscle is being built while my muscles get smothered with protein while they sleep!
Ultimately, my supplement cupboard now consists of both whey protein for my all-important post-workout shake and now Casein for the rest of the day.
This is what I recommend you do as well to keep your muscles getting an optimal stream of protein all day long..and therefore giving yourself the best chance to grow.
On a final note, whilst they’re both as important for different reasons the best protein supplement to build muscle for me is Casein – Simply for the fact that it should be the protein supplement of choice for most of the day (when you’re not consuming whole food of course and apart from post-workout) but both should be in your supplement cupboard!
Protein And Its Role In A Healthy Lifestyle
The role of protein in our lives is well understood by most of us. It’s an essential nutrient. Proteins are made up of long strings of amino acids, called polypeptides. When we consume proteins, our digestive system breaks them back down into their constituent amino acids for subsequent use by the body. We use amino acids in some shape or form for nearly every bodily process. They are the pre-cursors, or ‘ingredients’ we need to be able to manufacture hormones, enzymes, body tissues and body structures. They are used to repair cells and can even be used as fuel to keep our cells running.
Proteins – An Essential Source Of Amino Acids
Tyrosine for example is used to produce melanin, our skin and hair pigment. The essential amino acids valine, isoleucine and leucine are used to build and repair muscle tissue. Arginine is used to make nitric oxide, a vasodilatory mediator that plays a vital role in keeping our blood pressure healthy and our heart muscles contracting regularly. Creatine, despite its popularity as a muscle-building supplement, is naturally produced in our bodies using arginine and glycine. You can read more about Creatine supplements, and whether they’re worth the hype.
Protein Supply – It’s All About Diet
Most of us get enough protein from our diet. Even those of us who perhaps don’t eat as healthily as we should! Proteins are obtained from all manner of dietary sources. Some of these foods are referred to as complete protein sources, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids and many of the non-essential ones as well. What is an essential amino acid? All amino acids are ‘essential’ in the sense that we require all 20 of them in varying amounts. However, the 9 amino acids deemed ‘essential’ are those that must be obtained via our diet because we can’t manufacture them ourselves. In other words, they are an ‘essential’ part of our diet. Non-essential amino acids are those we can manufacture ourselves provided we have the raw ingredients.
Most animal proteins are complete protein sources – meat, dairy, eggs, fish. Therefore, people who eat these proteins regularly are unlikely to require special protein supplements unless they’re into heavy bodybuilding. Even then, those additional protein requirements can usually be met by increasing dietary intake of proteins.
Even Vegetarians And Vegans Get Enough Dietary Protein
Even vegetarians are mostly OK for protein because they still eat diary and eggs. The group at most risk of not getting enough protein are vegans, who only eat non-animal foods. However there are many plant based sources of proteins that contain these essential amino acids, which debunks the protein myth that we need to eat meat as a source of protein! Hemp and soy proteins for example contain all 20 amino acids. Other good plant based sources of protein for vegans includes nuts, seeds, and legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils etc. In fact, one cup of cooked beans provides the same quantity of protein as 2 ounces of meat! Mushrooms are another good source of protein.