Should I Drink Protein Shake Before Bed?
Ever heard of Casein? It is a substance that is in milk and quite a high content of it, actually. Its concentration is even higher in cheese 🙂 It shouldn’t be too surprising because, as we know from my article about whey protein, whey is a byproduct of cheese production so the continuous connection with dairy and cheese in particular shouldn’t surprise us anymore.
Casein actually makes the most of the protein content in cow’s milk – up to 80%, the rest is whey.
Remember the part where special enzymes are added to milk to make it separate into liquid and solid state? The liquid part being whey and the solid part being Casein.
But what difference does it make to your body?
When ingested, both whey and casein (or any protein for that matter) gets broken down into smaller components called amino acids which then get distributed around your body through a circulatory system wherever they are required.
The main difference between them two is the rate at which they get absorbed.
Whey protein gets absorbed very quickly – in around 90 mins after ingesting which makes it perfect for a post workout shake. It delivers the extra protein that your muscles need to repair themselves fairly quickly. That’s why most labels will instruct you to use the protein powder within around an hour after you finished your session – to get the nutrients to your muscles quickly.
Casein, on the other hand, takes good few hours to break down in your belly. It could be anything up to five hours! The reason for this is the fact that after you ingest casein and it comes in contact with your stomach and its acids, it returns to the “solid” state (it’s not exactly solid, more like a curd). Our stomach, therefore, cannot break it down as quickly as the liquid whey and we end up with a steady release of amino acid into our blood stream. Great for an overnight recovery or staying fuller for longer during the day.
How well does it build muscle?
Casein’s amino acid profile is rather different to whey.
Whey contains a high amount of Branched Chain Amino Acids Valine, Isoleucine and Leucine – the last one is believed to be particularly important in muscle building (studies say that 2.5g of Leucine after a workout session can help muscle hypertrophy). All BCAAs are very important in muscle metabolism, function, repair and growth. Without any doubt, whey is a very notable helper in muscle building.
Casein, on the other hand, contains high concentrations of:
- Histidine – important for tissue growth and repair. Main importance is the fact that it protects our nerve cells and enables smooth transmission of neural impulses
- Methionine – important for protein synthesis
- Phenylalanine – essential for hormone production (dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenaline)
Amino acids don’t have just one single function within human body, they often perform dozens of tasks.
All three amino acids are involved in muscle protein synthesis but not to the same extent as BCAAs (muscle protein synthesis is basically their main function).
As much as Casein might not be so hot on building muscle, it is an excellent supplement on those days when you feel like your session was a little too hard or heavy. On those days I always make sure I have my Whey or Soy (for vegans) protein straight after my workout to get that muscle reconstruction started, followed by a nice clean meal full of complete protein (protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids) and a lot of vegetables. I am not big on a big portion of potatoes, I’d rather have meat and salad or a quinoa bowl. Later on, just before bed, I make myself a nice chocolate casein shake, preferably with milk (any type, doesn’t have to be cow’s) – it’s a lot better than mixing it with water! It ends up having a really smooth chocolatey flavour and texture, It almost feels like having a milkshake just before bed. But without all the nasty stuff.
I found out it helps a lot with recovery and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It definitely makes them less painful, however the protein itself won’t be a miracle. You have to make sure you stretch properly after your workout, that is the best way to scare off DOMS.
I always have a packet at home in case I have not managed to take my whey protein in time or in case my session was just a bit harder than I intended 🙂
Which Casein Should I Pick?
You will probably run into a similar situation as with Whey. There are three types of casein, the first one being the most common.
- This is your regular type of casein, the cheapest and the best option
- Don’t let yourself be confused by the fancy word “micellar”. This is basically less processed casein and it’s what you get after enzymes are added to milk, causing it to separate. The word “micellar” only reflects the fact that after ingesting and coming into contact with fluid, casein forms Micelles which is a fancy way to call a lump in chemistry 🙂
- Micellar Casein is the most common one and if you type “Casein” in Google, this is the one that will probably come up. It is also the slowest digesting form.
- Calcium Caseinate
- More processed in order not to form micelles in human body, which I suppose can be good if your digestive tract is a little sensitive but if you have no problems digesting casein or whey, I suggest going for good old micellar.
- Same amount of protein as Micellar
- More expensive
- Does not taste very good due to the fact that it is more stripped and processed which results in more additives and sweeteners
- Hydrolysed Casein (Casein Hydrolysate)
- Same as Hydrolysed Whey – predigested to speed up absorption
- Waste of time in my opinion – we buy casein because we want a slow and steady income of amino acids to either work overnight or to make us feel fuller for longer, if I wanted a rapidly absorbing protein I’d choose Hydrolysed Whey!!!
- About the same price tag as Calcium Caseinate
Casomorphins and Addiction
This is more of an interesting addition to this article but I felt like It would be good to mention since this topic is a little more discussed these days.
As we know, when food is ingested, it gets broken down to smaller components. Casein is broken down into amino acids but also the effect of digestive acids cause it to break down into something called casomorphins.
They are essentially peptides (fats) that are a little on opiods side 🙂 When they enter blood stream they attach to dopamine receptors in your brain which effectively means that they tell your brain to release dopamine – pleasure hormone.
There have been theories about these opioid peptides saying that eating cheese is an addiction. To be fair, I find it hard to argue with because as much as I have given up buying cow’s milk and yogurts, I haven’t managed to give up cheese at all 🙂 There is something about cheese and wine that I just cannot resist.
These theories about addiction have not been proven however and there is a good argument saying that cheese is so difficult to give up not because its addictive properties but because it’s deeply embedded into our culture – how often you see a cheeseboard in restaurants or social gatherings? Wine shops and tastings? It’s everywhere.
So I guess we should restrain ourselves a little before we throw cheese in the same bag with cocaine or morphine.
Yes, Yes, Yes!
You should definitely give Casein a go. They taste great and they are a delightful addition to my supplement shelf. Quite often I forget to take a shake to work with me, or I am on the go and cannot fit a whole meal in my daily schedule. Casein has, for a long time, been regarded as a “Bedtime Protein” and as much as this is very true, It can be used in different situations. Have long day at work ahead of you? Is food in your workplace hardly considered healthy? Or perhaps they don’t offer food at all? Do you often go to a vending machine, pick up a chocolate and feel guilty afterwards? Take a bag of Casein to work!!!
Why is it for you?
- You are on a weight loss program
- You are prone to snacking on high carb/high fat food between meals – casein takes a while to break down in your stomach, remember? That means it also keeps you fuller for longer so you won’t feel the need to snack.
- You have heavy sessions at the gym and need extra protein in your diet – Casein is great as a shake before bed, especially the Chocolate one 🙂
Why should you give it a miss?
- Your stomach is overly sensitive
- You are lactose intolerant
- You have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)