Whey and casein are two dietary proteins your body absorbs and processes in different ways. Knowing which type to consume and when allows your body to better utilize the nutrients. Read on for the 411.
You need at least 1.5 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight each day. This amount can be reached by eating five or six small meals, each with about 20 grams of protein. And while you need protein throughout the day, the best time to take it is before, during and after exercise. Otherwise, you miss out on the benefits of what scientists refer to as "nutrient timing," which is when nutrients are rapidly absorbed so they can be quickly used. Waiting more than two hours after a workout to consume protein will reduce its potential benefits.
Amount and timing shouldn't be your only concerns, however. Pay attention to what kind of protein you're downing, as you need both whey and casein. Both are derived from milk, but that doesn't mean they are the same. According to research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, whey is considered a fast-absorbing protein, whereas casein is slowabsorbing. The same research also found that casein and whey affect muscle gain in the body differently. Whey protein produced peak levels of amino acids 60 to 90 minutes after ingestion. Essentially, this means whey is the ideal protein to consume after working out, because it's rapidly absorbed, ensuring your body recovers quickly and adequately. Eating whole foods immediately after training may not be as advantageous, so opt for a shake with whey protein.
Save casein for later in the day. That's because the study found that casein produced a slower and less dramatic rise in amino acid levels. They also tend to clot in the stomach, so it's better to consume casein as part of a meal replacement shake prior to bedtime, as it will provide muscle-building amino acids throughout the night.
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