If you are serious about your training, then you’re also serious about your nutrition. And even with a well balanced diet, you’re probably taking, or have taken nutritional supplements to help with your training and recovery.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. According to Euromonitor, the global market for sports nutrition was valued at $4.6 billion (US) in 2009. Protein-based sports nutrition products (bars, powders, ready-to-drink beverages, and other products fortified with protein) being the preferred performance enhancers of the masses, accounting for about 90% of the total market.
Protein is popular for all types of sports and training because protein is required to build new cells in your body. This includes muscle cells that require rebuilding after games, weight training, sprints and so on..
However protein supplements also happen to be a large product category, with many choices. In this article I cover the two most popular types of protein and their use.
Whey protein is a higher quality protein than regular whey (milk serum), milk, egg or soy. And because whey is packed full of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) – leucine, isoleucine, valine – it may help preserve lean muscle tissue between workouts or when dieting.
Whey protein is also low in carbs, fat and calories, and digests faster than other proteins, which makes it perfect for athletes and people in training.
Whey comes in two common forms – concentrate and isolate. A “concentrate” is 80% protein and an “isolate” is 90% protein. There is no other real difference between the two, except that isolates go through an extra filtering step to remove even more fat and carbs. The protein quality is identical.
NOTE: If a product is called 100% whey protein, this usually refers to the protein source used, meaning only whey protein is used, not egg, soy or milk protein. Therefore, a product that is named 100% whey protein (if it’s from a concentrate) would still only contain 80% protein.
Recommendation: Whey proteins are perfect for those with low carb diets. Isolates are great pre and post workout as they are absorbed quickly and can supply the muscle the nutrients needed to help recover and grow.
Casein is a slower release protein than whey. This means that casein might not stimulate muscle protein synthesis as powerfully or quickly as whey. Because it digests slowly, casein is less anabolic (muscle-building) than whey when compared gram-to-gram.
However the slow release of casein makes is perfect as a pre bed supplement. Casein takes anywhere from 5-7 hours to fully breakdown which keeps your body absorbing and utilising the nutrients even while you sleep.
You can also use casein during the day to help stay full and to keep a constant supply of protein in your body to supply the muscles with proper nutrition for hours after drinking the shake.
Recommendation: take casein protein at night before going to bed to stave off catabolism (muscle breakdown). Casein is also incredibly useful for people with allergic reactions to protein sources like whey or egg.
You should not look at it as a competition. Whey and casein are different products. The timing and the right type of protein are the keys when looking for the best results. For the best of both worlds, consider combining a slow release casein with a rapidly digested whey.
Cameron is the Director of Pro Training Programs