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Casein protein is absorbed by the body at a slower rate, although it is also very effective at helping your body lay down muscle tissue. That slower absorption rate does have some advantages. Casein protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, so it’s a better choice than whey protein for weight loss and meal replacements. It’s also more effective than whey for muscle maintenance.
The Benefits of Casein Protein
While whey protein may be a better choice for your pre and post workout shakes, casein works very well as a late night snack. Studies show that a casein shake at bedtime helps your body to continue to build muscle overnight, maximizing the benefits of your workouts. It will also keep you feeling full overnight which many people find leads to better sleep.
So now you know the benefits of casein protein and how it fits in with your fitness or nutrition plans, how do you choose which casein protein powder is right for you? Well, there are few things to consider.
What Flavors and Consistency that You Prefer?
If you don’t like your protein powder, you won’t use it. It’s important to find a product that you actually like, both in terms of taste and consistency. Experiment with different flavors to find what you like best.
But be aware that if you change brands, you mind find that even the same flavor tastes different – what was a yummy chocolate from one brand might be very different from another brand’s chocolate flavor.
The consistency is important too, and depends a lot on what you will mix your powder with. Powders dissolve very differently in water, milk, or milk alternatives like soy or almond milk. While some products will advertise if they are designed to work better with one material or another, you may have to experiment a bit to find what you like.
Regardless of your main materials, you will want a product that dissolves quickly and completely – there’s not much worse than a gritty or lumpy protein shake!
Find a Product in Your Price Range
There’s a wide range of products, and while you generally get what you pay for, it’s not always the case. There are value-priced products that are excellent quality, and high priced products that aren’t made, stored, or shipped well.
Chances are, if casein protein is gong to be a major part of your diet or fitness program, that you will be purchasing in significant quantities. And price is likely to be factor. If you can determine that a range of products are well made and of high quality, then cost can help you make your final determination as to which is right for you.
The Quality of the Product Is Important
Choosing a casein protein powder from a reputable supplier with a recognized brand is one of the best ways to make sure you are getting a high quality product. You will want to be certain that what you are purchasing really is what’s inside the packaging, and that it was produced in clean conditions, and stored and shipped correctly to preserve the effectiveness of the product.
You might want to choose only from products with a particular country of origin, as national regulations can help ensure quality.
Pay Attention to the Ingredients
When choosing your casein protein source, you want to check the ingredients carefully. First, if you have any allergies, you will want to make sure there are no fillers or other ingredients that will cause you problems. You might need a gluten or dairy free version, for example, and most protein powders will be labeled accordingly, at least for the most common concerns.
However, you might also need a vegan product, or prefer one made with organic ingredients, or you may just want to satisfy yourself that there are no unnecessary ingredients like artificial flavorings, colors, or preservatives.
Don’t be alarmed by the additional amino acids you’ll see reported on the labels as these are naturally occurring in casein protein. However, some people may find that some of those (like tryptophan) can make them a little sleepy – not a problem if you plan to take your casein at bedtime!
With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at five top picks for a casein protein supplement.
Optimum Nutrition’s casein protein is carefully produced, so this product is a favorite for its high quality ingredients and its super smooth consistency. The ‘mixability’ of this protein is definitely one of its strengths, as it seems like no matter what you mix it with you get a thick, creamy shake.
This makes Optimum Nutrition a perfect choice if you plan to mix your protein with water or a ‘light’ milk like almond milk, or if you don’t want to use a shaker but need something that will dissolve just with a glass and a spoon. However, if you want to mix your shake with full fat milk, you might find yourself end up with something even thicker than a shake!
The ‘Gold Standard’ on the label refers to Optimum Nutrition’s premium micellar casein, which breaks down very slowly, keeping you feeling fuller for longer, and maximizing the amino acid uptake by your digestive system.
It’s low calorie (120 calories per serving) and packed with other naturally occurring good stuff too – you get 24 grams of slow-digesting micellar casein in each serving, but you also get the naturally occurring 60% of the daily value of calcium, even before you add any milk (also great if you prefer to mix with water).
You’re also getting a very clean and reputable product with Optimum Nutrition. Their products are completely American made, and gluten, GMO, and soy free. The company is quick to answer any questions you might have about their products and their production methods, so you can be assured you are getting a really top quality product.
If ‘clean’ products are important to you, then Naked’s casein protein powder is the perfect choice. This product is only what it says on the jar – just 100% micellar casein protein. No fillers, no additives no sweeteners.
Naked prides itself on non GMO, hormone-free farming sources for its products, making this the ideal option for vegans or anyone with a dietary sensitivity. It’s entirely American made, so you can be assured that it’s true to its label. It’s also cold-processed, which means there are no chemical preservatives or other production additives.
Like Optimum Nutrition, you are going to get a lot of good stuff from this casein protein, with 26 grams per serving, and the naturally occurring branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that are found with casein.
There is a little bit of sweetness to the product, which is from naturally occurring sugars, but nothing added. That means that whatever flavor you choose – and it comes in vanilla, chocolate or unflavored – it may take a little getting used to. You might even prefer to add a tablespoon of honey or blend this with some berries or bananas to make it a little more fun to drink.
If there’s a downside to choosing a totally clean product, it’s that it isn’t as mixable as some of its competitors. If you want a product to mix with water, you might find Naked casein protein just won’t give you the shake-like consistency you’d expect. Mixing with full fat milk works well, but if you need a product for lactose-free mixing, you might want to choose a richer or more soluble product.
If you want an affordable balance between taste, consistency, and quality, then Muscle Feast Micellar Casein is a great choice. Like its quality competitors, it’s pure micellar casein. But they’ve added a little stevia (a natural, calorie-free sweetener) to make the product a bit tastier.
Other than that though, you are getting a very clean, simple product, with all natural flavoring (in the chocolate and vanilla versions). If calorie control is important to you, and you don’t want to add sugar or honey to an unsweetened product, then that touch of stevia could be perfect.
There are also no added fillers, but that means that like Naked’s casein, Muscle Feast’s casein isn’t the most mixable. If you need a casein protein that will mix with water, this isn’t going to work for you. But with milk and some milk substitutes, it dissolves pretty well. You’ll also want to use a shaker or blender. So if you need a cup and spoon type product, you’ll end up with lumps with this one.
Muscle Feast is American made, and they are very public about their source farms and ingredients. Like Naked’s casein, they use a cold filtered production method. The product is produced under the strictest of standards, and yet it’s one of the more affordable, ultra-clean casein protein powders.
If you are struggling to find a casein protein that mixes well with water because you can’t, or don’t want to use milk products or milk substitutes to keep calories down, then Dymatize Nutrition’s Elite Shake Casein might be perfect for you. It’s just about the smoothest, most mixable casein product around.
Dymatize casein competes well on quality and content, with 24g of protein, and it captures the naturally occurring calcium and amino acids that you’d expect to see in a product of this quality. It’s American made, but it isn’t as free of additives as some other products. But that’s also what makes it so creamy.
Naturally occurring sweeteners in the cinnamon or the cookies and cream flavor also make this a very sweet tasting product, yet without a load of added calories. Although at 130 calories per serving it’s not the lowest on the market either.
However if the tasty flavor means you aren’t adding honey or sugar yourself like you might to another product, and you aren’t mixing with full fat milk, you will likely find that your total calorie level is lower once you count everything you might add.
It is also competitively priced. So if taste and texture are important to you, and you find some of the ‘cleaner’ casein powders unpalatable, then Dymatize Nutrition’s tasty, mixable options are perfect.
Muscle Pharm’s Combat Casein Supplement is one of the most protein-packed versions on the market, and its 28g of protein per serving tops its competitors. If getting a maximum load of casein protein is your goal, then this is the winner, making it a great choice for strength athletes.
Muscle Pharm doesn’t market this product on its limited ingredients, and as a result you get a thick, tasty shake where some ‘cleaner’ products are less palatable. However, it really isn’t the most mixable, so while you’d expect it to work well with water, it really needs at least some milk or a milk substitute.
It dissolves well with almond or soy milk, but ends up too thick with full fat dairy milk. An ideal blend is part water, part milk. But that may too much hassle for a bedtime snack.
It’s oddly insoluble too. So while the flavors are great and there’s no need to add any additional sweeteners, it’s a bit tricky to get the right consistency. That said, if you find simpler products a bit bland, the taste here is great, even though it isn’t all natural.
Muscle Pharm is a reputable enough brand, but it sources its products much more widely than some of its competitors. If the provenance of your protein is important to you, you might prefer a different supplier where the sources and quality of ingredients is published.