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Mailbag: Whey or Casein, or both, and when?

December 8th, 2008

Speed is over-rated!

Speed is over-rated!

Dear AllStarHealth,

I need advice, please. I am trying to lose about 25 lbs. I do cardio 3 days a week and weights 3 days week.  My friend and I pooled our AllStarHealth order to save on shipping and since he got some Casein Protein, I ordered some too. He was saying it was better than Whey protein powder, but I forgot why.  So when I went and read up on it, from what I have read everyone seems to say whey is better because it absorbs faster.   Is that true and does it make a difference which one I use?


Lisa Connors,

Springfield, MO

Whereas people used to just use one type of protein powder, it’s very common now to see people using 2 or 3 types and buying different flavors of one type. They’re just more popular now than ever and people can take advantage of the different types.

It’s true that whey absorbs faster than casein protein, that’s the gist of it,  but it’s not necessarily better for that reason.  In fact, this is true of supplement absorption in general; faster isn’t necessarily better. Basically, whey is best anytime you want a fast-absorbing protein, not necessarily one that’s going to fill you up for a long time or sustain growth while you sleep. So for most people, whey is best for good for a breakfast shake, a preworkout shake, or post-workout shake.

Casein, the slow release protein, is a better choice when you want something to fill you up and hold you for a longer period of time. So it might make a better basis for a meal replacement shake (add some fruit and some healthy fats)  or breakfast shake if you wont have a mid-morning opportunity for another protein feeding.  Casein is not so good as a pre-workout shake, but definitely better as a pre-bedtime shake, to help maintain lean body mass while you sleep.

But these are generalities, I wouldn’t agonize over it, because the differences between one and the other -whey and casein – are not great enough to make or break your weightloss success.  Now, if you were an elite athlete, counting every calorie, trying to shave 1/100th of a second off your sprint time, it might make a difference. But for the rest of us mortals, you can really use either one at any time, but are better off using casein before bed or in meal-replacement shakes, and whey for breakfast, post-workout shakes, and between-meal protein feedings.

You might also want to read a little more about protein here and review some older blog entries that talk about protein shakes and recipes.

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