What Is the Difference Between Whey and Casein Protein?

Author: Nicole Adler   Date Posted: 1 September 2016 

Whey and casein are probably the best known protein supplements on the market today, but what is the difference between the two? If you feel lost choosing between whey protein concentrate, isolate or casein protein powder, be sure to read the information below to discover the differences and benefits of whey and casein protein.

Where Does Whey and Casein Come from?

Casein and whey are considered to be dairy-based protein , so it is therefore no surprise that both these proteins are obtained from dairy products. Approximately thirty-eight percent of solids inside milk is pure protein. Of that protein, eighty percent is casein and twenty percent is whey. 

Are Whey Protein and Casein Protein Both Quality Supplements?

Both whey and casein are popular supplements  because of their high quality nature. Each of these supplements has a high bioavailability, which means they are easily absorbed by the body to be used for your fitness goals, but also contain a tremendous amount of branched chain amino acids; this means that supplements such as whey protein concentrate and casein protein powder can both be used for muscle growth and repair.

So Where Are the Differences Between Whey Protein Concentrate and Casein Protein Powder?

The difference between a supplement such as whey protein concentrate and casein protein powders can be found in the digestion rate. Whey protein concentrate is a supplement that will be digested fairly quickly, as is the case for all whey protein supplements. However, casein protein is digested a lot slower, subsequently earning a reputation as a slow-release protein. Therefore, casein will need at least five to seven hours to fully digest.

Quicker digestion is not always the best option though, so do not automatically assume that whey protein supplements are better for you. Athletes with a fast metabolism will get more benefit out of casein. Given the fact casein protein takes longer to digest, people with faster metabolisms are less likely to miss out on the protein they have consumed. However, if the same people would take a whey supplement, they would miss out because of the speed in which whey is digested. In conclusion, the best protein supplement will depend on the speed of your metabolism, as well as your fitness goals.

There is also a difference in the function of the amino acids that can be found in both casein and whey. The amino acids inside whey are considered to be of a more anabolic nature, which means these amino acids are better at building muscle because of them being able to increase the amino-acid levels in the blood quite quickly. However, this does not mean that casein protein is not effective, because casein has amino acids that are considered anti-catabolic, which means they are more used to prevent the breakdown of muscles, considering casein provides a supply of amino acids over a longer period of time.

What Is the Best Time to Take Casein and Whey?

Because of the many differences between casein and whey, it is obvious they should be taken at a different time during the day. Considering whey is quicker to digest, athletes can take whey just before, during and even after their training. However, casein is best used before bed time or when you know you are not going to have any food for some time. Casein will give you a sustained release of amino acids, making you feel full, but also promoting muscle repair while you sleep or are inactive.

What Is the Best Way to Use Casein and Whey?

Athletes who use whey will find that this protein is quite versatile, so there is more than one way to use whey. Most athletes will mix their whey protein with some water or milk, but they can also mix whey protein with oatmeal, yoghurt and even peanut butter! Of course, the way you make your shake will somewhat depend on the number of calories you eat and your specific fitness goals.

Casein can be taken in a similar way as whey protein, but considering it is usually taken before bedtime, it is usually best not to mix it with anything that needs quite a bit of digesting. Casein is best mixed with water or milk before you head to bed, although you can also mix it with Greek yoghurt if you decide to take the protein supplement during another time of the day.

Can I Use Whey and Casein at the Same Time?

Whey and casein protein powders are often combined, because athletes love to take advantage of the quick-release and slow-release qualities of whey protein and casein protein at the same time. If you decide to do this, you can use a 50-50 blend after your workout. However, other ratios can also be a possibility, so always check with a health professional or nutritionist to get advice that is best for you.

Should I Choose Casein or Whey Supplements from Nutrients Direct?

Your choice between casein and whey, or both, will depend on your fitness goals. Those focussed on muscle gain tend to go for whey, while those struggling with severe muscle soreness after training tend to choose whey. Although, if you would like both these benefits, a combination of whey and casein might be the best.

Beginners may find it hard to find their way through all the supplements Nutrients Direct has to offer. To make it a little easier on beginner athletes, Nutrients Direct created a separate category called “stacks”. In this category, you can find packages of supplements that will help you to reach your fitness goal. 

Fitness goals included in the “stacks” category are the lean muscle stack, muscle builder stack (advanced), muscle builder stack (starter), sports performance stack, weight loss stack, and women’s fitness stack. Simply pick a stack that matches your goal and stick to a regular exercise routine. If you do, the results are bound to show!

Data based on vanilla flavour ND Total Whey WPC ND Mass Muscle WPI Calcium Caseinate
Protein per serve (g) 22.2 23 26.2 26.7 28.1
Take For
Type of protein/s Whey Whey Whey & Casein Whey Casein
Carbs per serve (g) 3.4 4.2 26.5 1.9 0.8
Fat total per serve (g) 1.3 1.3 1.6 0.6 0.2
Sugars per serve (g) 3.2 3.2 10.4 1.4 0.3
Serving Size (g) 35 30 60 30 30
Serves per kilo 28 33 16 33 33
Additional Premium Ingredients Amino blend, colostrum, creatine, glutamine   Amino blend, carb blend,colostrum, creatine    
Notes Complete muscle-building formula The least processed budget powder Ultimate Post workout bulking powder Fast absorbing powder Slow release high density powder
Flavours Chocolate Vanilla Chocolate, Vanilla, Honeycomb, Strawberry, Banana, Natural Chocolate Vanilla Chocolate, Vanilla, Honeycomb, Strawberry, Banana, Natural Chocolate, Vanilla, Natural

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