The Compelling Case For Casein
The Case for Casein
Invaluable in the quest for the accrual of lean muscle tissue, for as long as athletes have purposefully moved weights from point A to B, they have sought to consume protein, and a lot of it, in various forms. From steak to chicken, from milk to eggs, protein in copious amounts has always been priority number one for bodybuilders.
Forefathers of the iron game like Papa Joe and Rheo H. Blair blazed a trail in the early years by creating the earliest supplemental protein powders. These were wondrous products back in the day for dedicated bodybuilders looking for the most efficient means of enhancing their daily protein intake. Unfortunately, they were often a chore to consume. Diehards found themselves choking down a chalky blender of crude powder or an oil can-like thick sludge, simply because this was the best the food technology of the time was capable of creating. Taste was rough, digestion often rougher, but the bottom line was, they added protein to your diet.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and sports supplements began to boom with the mainstream fitness craze. More of a premium began to be placed on taste and digestibility. The science caught up to the magazine hype and the quality of formulas greatly improved. Most protein powders being made were actually high-protein blended macronutrient products, and while there were some relatively sugar-laden weight gain powders, this was also the advent of the meal replacement powder, or MRP. MRPs sought to combine the best muscle-building nutritional constituents into a single serving of a powder that could be substituted in place of a meal. This engineered nutrition process isolated the various protein forms in a way that hadn’t been done before. This shined light on what were the most worthwhile components of a very basic and rudimentary protein source, milk, showing these factors used separately to be extremely beneficial to the anabolic process.
Whey, once considered a worthless dairy byproduct, immediately became a prized bodybuilding possession. Revered for its ability as a “fast” protein, one that could quickly deliver easily assimilated amino acids into the bloodstream, whey became a must-have protein. Whey is now found everywhere, and for good reason. Casein, on the other hand, has remained more of an “insider” secret. The most abundant protein found in milk, casein is known to digest more slowly. As such it has been widely regarded as the ideal choice for a protein feeding before bed and in between meals. High casein content is the reason you often see bodybuilders opt for a serving of cottage cheese as their last pre-slumber meal.
The touted slow digestion of casein is of paramount interest to bodybuilders, as it allows for the steady and prolonged nourishment of the muscles. Where whey provides a quick blast of easily-absorbed aminos to starved muscles, casein supplies a slow burn--a trickling of amino acids into the bloodstream over a longer duration, sustaining the growth process over stretches of hours. If your goal is to constantly remain in a muscle building state, this slow and steady amino delivery has many advantages.
But not just any form of casein will do. Some forms of casein are better than others. Micellar casein is that prized, premium form of casein. Higher in quality and therefore higher in prize, it is regarded for various other noteworthy anabolic benefits including improved nutrient absorption, heightened immunity and, most importantly for bodybuilders, enhanced nitrogen retention and the inhibition of the dreaded muscle-wasting state known as catabolism. Pasteurization and homogenization of raw milk typically destroys the growth factors and amino acids present in casein. Micellar casein though is the undenatured form of casein found in milk, prior to being processed. It is a naturally filtered byproduct of milk that is obtained without using chemicals. This delicate protein source is extracted fully intact and as such comes at a premium and is in high demand.
So should you go with whey or micellar casein? That's the million dollar question. The ideal answer is both. As each protein has unique properties, the smart bodybuilder will incorporate both whey and micellar casein into their supplement program. Depending on the right application, you'd choose whey over micellar casein and vice versa. For more on that, wait for the second installment.