Are you thinking of using a protein powder and wondering where to start?
Whey and casein are the most commonly found protein powders available. Whey and casein are the two proteins found in milk. What's the difference between the two?
If you're considering using a protein powder to help build muscle, reach or maintain a healthy weight, to get more protein in your diet, or as a meal replacement option, here's what you need to know about these two popular options.
Whey Protein Powder
Twenty percent of the protein found in milk is whey protein, which is a fast acting protein.
Whey protein can be quickly metabolized in the body. Your body is able to quickly break down whey and absorb the amino acids that activate muscle protein synthesis. That’s why whey is often the protein powder of choice for people looking to increase muscle mass.
Whey protein can also help replenish your body’s levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps repair oxidative damage caused by strenuous exercise.
Whey is optimally effective for improving body composition when taken pre, during, or immediately after a workout.
Casein Protein Powder
Casein is the most abundant protein found in milk; 80% of milk protein is casein. Unlike whey, casein is slower to digest and metabolize. It slowly release amino acids into the bloodstream over time.
This prolonged release makes casein beneficial for people trying to prevent or slow the breakdown of protein.
Casein is higher in glutamine than whey, which may be preferred by endurance athletes trying to replenish glutamine stores. Casein is best taken with meals, where it can be combined with other proteins, or at bedtime.
Whey vs Casein: a Quick Summary
- Whey’s fast-acting ability to stimulate protein synthesis makes it the most popular protein powder on the market for people looking to lose weight and increase muscle.
- Casein is often the protein of choice for people looking to reduce muscle loss.
- Both whey and casein can be used at different times of day for different purposes if your goal is to dramatically increase muscle mass.
Is Concentrate Better than Isolate?
Most people choose whey protein powder to help them achieve their goals of reaching a healthy body weight and increasing their muscle mass. Whey protein can be found in either concentrate or isolate form.
What’s the difference?
Did you know that whey protein is actually a byproduct of the cheese making process? For thousands of years, the art of making cheese from milk has resulted in the production of whey.
This whole food product, whey concentrate, contains protein and trace amounts of lactose and milk fat. Because the fat hasn't been filtered out, whey concentrate contains healthy fats such as MCT and CLA.
If you take whey concentrate and filter out most of the lactose and milk fat, you end up with whey isolate.
Whey isolates are typically higher in protein compared to concentrate.
It’s interesting to note that whey isolates are typically used in studies that explore the benefits of whey protein powders, including:
- Increased antioxidant production
- Increased muscle growth
- Reduced blood pressure
- Moderating blood sugar
- Increased satiety (fullness after a meal)
- Boosting metabolism
Takeaway: If you’re interested in a more whole-food approach to supplementation and have no known allergies to lactose, whey concentrate may be a good choice for you. If you’re more interested in getting the most protein out of your protein powder, you may consider a whey isolate supplement.