Difference between casein and whey protein

The ultimate guide to understanding the difference between casein and whey protein, their benefits and how to consume these two types of protein.

difference between casein and whey protein

Protein is an essential component that has to be included in our daily consumption. Consuming adequate protein increases satiety and might also help reduce the over-intake of calories. Although many foods have little or more protein content, the essential components, called the ‘essential amino acids’ of a protein, are important for various metabolic functions and are not synthesized by the body. Few of the essential amino acids called ‘Branched Chain Amino Acids’ or ‘BCAA’ are found to help with the growth and repair of the muscles. 

Foods with a complete amino acid profile come mostly from animal sources, except for soy. While it is always ideal to consume daily protein from foods, one may avail a supplement with complete protein if they are unable to meet the protein requirement through food alone. The two most common complete protein supplements that are available include casein and whey. Read on and understand more about these two proteins. 

What is casein?

Casein is a protein that is present in milk. It contains all the essential amino acids. The amount of casein protein in milk constitutes around 80%. Once consumed, the casein is digested and absorbed very slowly. Hence, it is called ‘slow protein or ‘slow absorbing protein. This slow absorption rate helps in releasing the amino acids slowly, making them available to the body after 3-4 hours approximately.

What is whey protein?

Whey is again the protein that comes from milk, which also contains all the essential amino acids. While casein constitutes 80% of milk protein, the rest of the 20% is whey. Whey is available to the body immediately after consumption. It is absorbed faster compared to casein and is termed as ‘fast protein’ or ‘fast absorbing’ protein. The whey is available in the bloodstream for up to 90 minutes.


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How are casein and whey protein prepared?

Both casein and whey are the proteins of milk. When milk is processed with certain enzymes or agents, it curdles. This is also the process of making cheese (or paneer in Indian households). The curdled thick portion has casein and the remaining water contains whey. The thick portion is extracted and processed into powder form, which can be used easily. The whey water is also further processed more to make it available in powder form. The extracted powder forms are then available for easy use and consumption.

Difference between casein and whey protein

  • Casein and whey differ slightly in their amino acid profiles. 
  • Whey has a little higher content of leucine, which helps in the growth of muscle and recovery.
  • Once the whey is consumed, the amino acids released stay in the bloodstream for approximately 90 minutes whereas casein stays for around 3-4 hours, which makes casein suitable for consumption in conditions such as fasting and before bedtime. 
  • Since the muscles need to be fueled soon after a workout, whey is advised to be consumed post-workout as it has high leucine content and a fast absorption rate.
  • Whey has three different forms, namely concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. The difference in each form is the number of carbohydrates and fat. 

Let’s also say whey helps in building muscles by quick absorption, and casein helps in keeping muscles healthy without breaking down.

Benefits of casein and whey protein

difference between casein and whey protein

  • Some studies show that whey is more satiating than casein. Whey has bioactive compounds which are shown to signal satiety. 
  • Studies had shown that whey has the potential to decrease postprandial glycemia by stimulating insulin secretion and slowing down gastric emptying, which suppresses the appetite.
  • In a few other studies, casein was also found to be satiating and help reduce daily energy intake. 
  • Casein helps in reducing the breakdown of protein in muscles due to its slow absorption rate, keeping protein synthesis intact. 

The timing and dose of protein intake also play an important role in understanding the better benefits of each of them.

Which is better: Casein or whey protein?

If you are into strength or weight training and looking for optimal muscle growth and recovery, whey protein could be the best option. It also induces appetite, helping treat obesity and weight management. If one has more appetite, particularly late-night cravings, then casein would be the best option for long-time fullness. Casein helps in reducing hunger and promotes weight loss. Casein is also ideal for people who are into fasting regimes. It might be useful as sip feeds for people who are sick and also for the elderly. A number of studies have shown the effectiveness of whey as a dietary intervention like a functional food for diabetics, phenylketonuria patients, old people, athletes, and also in infant formulas.

Both the protein types show the satiety effect, promote muscle growth, help in recovery, and have a good amino acid profile. The best way is to make sure there is an adequate daily intake of protein. 

In the end, it is always ideal to consume daily protein from foods and rely on protein supplements when it is practically not possible to have it through food for various reasons.

How to consume casein and whey protein?

Casein and whey proteins can be consumed by ideally blending with water, either with cold or normal water. Fruits also can be added to improve the flavor. They can also be mixed with milk. Casein might form lumps in water, and adding in milk will make it thicker. It is also preferable to blend the powder against mixing with a spoon so that it dissolves well. Add them to curd or Greek yogurt.  Many other recipes too can be made with whey powder, such as cookies and bars.

Diploma in Nutrition and Fitness

If you have a deep interest in nutrition and fitness, you should check out our Diploma course. We, at INFS, provide a ‘Diploma’ in nutrition and fitness which is the only course of university-level standard with 40 credits (CEUs). The entire course is self-paced and divided into various modules, the first of which starts with all basic concepts of food, nutrition, and exercise. This basic module is designed for everyone from various backgrounds and is aimed at helping them understand in layman terms.

Once, the basic module is cleared, they continue to learn core, advanced concepts, and practical approaches towards various cases. Every unit and module has quizzes and skill-based assignments for practice.

The course has live lectures for each topic in every module where the scholars can interact with the faculty and clear their questions and doubts. The scholars can choose to attend these live sessions on weekdays or weekends, at their convenience.

Author: Praveena Kuchipudi (INFS Faculty)


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