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By: Gina OstarlyIt started as just another status update on my Facebook page. I asked my followers on the Gina Ostarly: The New Forty Page: What type of protein is best before bed and why? To my astonishment, it wasn't until 20-something responses later that I got an answer worthy of an A+. In the end, this seemingly simple question raked in more than 60 comments of what's and why's.
While it appeared my health enthusiast friends were aware of protein, and the importance it plays in their overall fitness goals, few were educated on the varieties of protein or how they should be incorporated. I realized after that Facebook status posting, the protein story isn't played out after all!
With so many protein supplements available, it's easy to be confused. Deciding what the best protein before bed is doesn't have to be a coin toss!
First of all, why protein is important?Protein is an extremely important element of any well thought out fitness plan. Fitness plans and protein go together like peas and carrots! Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gains or maintenance, getting enough protein, understanding the different blends and when to take them could be the difference between ho hum results and mind-blowing progress!
Protein, the main structural nutrient in your body, makes up the bulk of your muscles and organs. It is essential for proper hormone function and immune system health. Most importantly, for our purposes, protein promotes healing, repairing and growth of muscle tissue after strenuous exercise.
To adequately take advantage of protein's benefits, know the basics, the types available and how to best implement them into your individualized fitness program. Buying any old 2-pound tub of protein powder won't get you the results you want.
So which is it?Now, to answer the Facebook question I posted that generated so many responses: what's the most beneficial protein to take before sleep? The answer is casein protein.
Although casein has been shown to be slightly inferior to whey in its muscle-building ability, it's still your best bet when it comes to a bed-time protein source. The reason? Your body needs to be sustained for six to eight hours during sleep without food. During this time of extended sleep, our bodies risk a catabolic state, a very unfavorable condition in the body created by a combination of over-training, lack of good nutrition and rest that leads to muscle loss and fat accumulation.
Casein has been shown in studies to offer a strong anti-catabolic effect. You don't want your hard-earned muscle being broken down in your sleep, so a protein that is slowly released over time is your best defense.
What is casein protein?Casein (pronounced kay-seen) is the predominant protein found in milk. It is made by separating the casein from the whey in dairy (milk protein is 80 percent casein and 20 percent whey). There are three main types of casein protein: micellar casein, milk protein isolate and calcium caseinate. On average, one scoop (30 grams) of casein protein powder has approximately 100-120 calories and 25 grams of protein.
What are the benefits of casein, bedtime or anytime?Research shows that when you consume casein, you will reach a peak in blood amino acids and protein synthesis between three to four hours. The total release of amino acids in the bloodstream, however, can last as long as seven hours after ingestion of casein protein. This is the reverse of whey protein supplements, which are metabolized quickly and recommended immediately after training and first thing in the morning. That's a whole other article, so check back to read it.
Besides its slow-digesting benefits, casein is invaluable for its high glutamine content. Of all the protein powders available, casein has the highest concentration of this amino acid. Glutamine provides a multitude of functions, which include increasing levels of the branched chain amino acid leucine in muscle fibers, enhancing protein synthesis and therefore, muscle growth. Because the immune system requires glutamine to function, consuming extra glutamine prevents the immune system from stealing it from muscle fibers, further averting catabolism. Glutamine also boosts growth hormone levels and can even aid fat loss by increasing the amount of calories and body fat burned both at rest and during exercise.
While all food has a thermic effect, research proves that lean protein sources have the most thermogenic punch. Your body burns more calories digesting proteins than carbs or fat. Protein also satiates: you feel full longer after eating a protein-rich meal (which also helps for weight loss goals).
Do whey proteins offer the same effect as straight casein?Either protein supplements are straight whey, soy, egg or casein; or they are a combination of any or all of these kinds of proteins, making them blends. What can a blend of proteins offer that a straight protein cannot? Basically, different rates of digestion. This means you can take a blended protein any time to get quick, medium, and prolonged absorption of protein.
Max Muscle Sports Nutrition's High 5 Synergistic Protein Complex is a blend with its five ideal protein sources, including casein. This ideal proprietary balanced formulation provides up to four hours of maximum protein uptake and utilization.
But, I really like my whey protein supplement.Turn your favorite whey protein shake into a slow digesting one by simply mixing with milk, preferably low fat or skimmed. While casein protein is optimal before bed, don't forget that milk is 80 percent casein, adding it to any whey protein will slow down its absorption. Adding a fat such as natural peanut butter, flax or other healthy fat can further slow digestion, thus mimicking casein protein.
While casein, nor any other supplement, is the secret to building muscle or your silver bullet for weight loss, it is an invaluable ingredient to your recipe for success! And something that does great things for your body while you sleep. MS&F