In an effort to maximize protein synthesis, bodybuilders require at least twice as much protein as the regular sedentary Joe. Thus, it is no mystery why protein supplementation is necessary to make significant lean mass gains. Over the past few decades, research investigating protein source and timing has exploded, leading to the development of an array of different products targeted at maximizing and maintaining an anabolic muscular environment, all the while keeping catabolism (muscle breakdown) to a minimum.
Just about anyone who's ever walked out onto a gym floor knows they need to supplement with a fast-acting, highly anabolic protein source to spur growth post-workout and stave off counterproductive catabolism. However, once that growth window has closed, a continuous flow of aminos to muscle tissue is still required to maintain the positive nitrogen balance in muscle tissue that functions as the ideal environment for maintaining the muscle mass you've worked so hard to achieve. This is especially important overnight, as sleep is essentially a seven or eight hour zero-calorie fast.
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A micelle is a large colloidal particle and micellar casein is the purest form casein protein. Its unique ability to form a gel in the stomach makes it a very efficient supplier of nutrients over an extended period of time. Like whey protein isolate, micellar casein is isolated using microfiltration and is therefore undenatured and retains its native structural properties. Casein is most noted for its anti-catabolic properties and its slow release of amino acids into blood circulation (for up to seven hours). Due to casein's ability to keep blood amino acids elevated, it has been shown to blunt catabolism by over 30%. Notably, micellar casein promotes large increases in blood leucine levels, which leads to sustained increases in anabolism.
Sometimes Slower Is Better
Whey protein is never going to lose its place at the top of the protein pecking order, but a slower-release protein like casein also performs an essential function. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism found that after 4 hours, the amino acids from casein were better assimilated and retained by participants' muscles when compared to whey. The slower digestion profile of casein also makes it an ideal candidate for late-night supplementation.
The night-time benefits manifested by casein over whey derive from the absorption differences in the two proteins. Since casein is absorbed more slowly it would make sense to have it before bed when you aren't going to be eating for a while. Another study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2012, found that 40 grams of casein taken before bed increased muscle protein synthesis rates by 22% over the course of the study participants' 7 1/2 hour sleep time. This makes a compelling case to show that the slower absorption profile of casein is most apparent at night.
The Evolution of Casein
While you may think that casein protein supplements are a recent innovation, this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, some of the earliest protein supplements (dating back to the 1960's) used casein protein in their formulations. These primitive formulations contained significant proportions of crude, inactive protein fractions of little or no use to muscle tissue. They also, unfortunately, developed a reputation for unpleasant taste.
The most recent innovations in the protein supplement category, however, are sustained release protein powders, which aim at keeping blood amino acids elevated for long periods of time. Most contemporary sustained-release protein supplements use a blend of different protein sources with differing absorption rates. However, once again, products in this category tend to contain low-quality ingredients with no evidence to back their claim that they are, in fact, sustained-release protein supplements. Notably, research shows that nothing works better for keeping blood amino acids peaked for hours than a high-quality casein supplement.
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As we've noted, until a few decades ago, protein supplements were hit and miss, and recommendations on how to use them were based on gym lore and anecdotal evidence. Recent scientific innovations in protein extraction and purification have led to significant improvements in protein quality and purity. With the advent of these new and improved protein sources came the renewed popularity of micellar casein. BioQuest's premium-quality Ultimate Casein is the leader in this new category.
Ultimate Casein is formulated to be the purest, most potent casein supplement available industry-wide. It is processed using an advanced microfiltration technology that yields the most undenatured form with the highest amounts of bioactive peptides and other growth factors. This superior anabolic/anti-catabolic matrix has also been enhanced with added BCAAs for even greater muscle growth support. The elite manufacturing protocols that contribute to Ultimate Casein's power, purity, and potency are particularly remarkable when compared to the short-cuts and ingredient compromises made by less scrupulous manufacturers.
In fact, you have to be very careful when choosing a casein protein supplement. Calcium caseinate or sodium caseinate are examples of substandard forms of casein commonly found in lower-quality sustained-release protein formulas. These forms of casein are prepared either by rennet coagulation (a process that uses enzymes to coagulate milk in cheese production) or by isoelectric precipitation with an acid (also used in cheese production). Although these methods of purification are less expensive than microfiltration, they require heat and chemicals to yield the final product. As such, caseinates are less pure and less bioactive than micellar casein. No other commercially available casein supplement even approaches the high standards for ingredient quality and manufacturing integrity established by BioQuest's Ultimate Casein.
Casein Throughout the Day
Although micellar casein has been primarily marketed as a bedtime protein supplement, there are several advantages to using Ultimate Casein throughout the day. First, it is a great product for those on a budget or just starting out. Using Ultimate Casein as a standalone protein powder is cheaper than using numerous different products throughout the day. For beginners, this takes the guesswork out of supplementation. Second, with its robust amino acid profile and sustained action, Ultimate Casein gives an ideal protein boost for those who don't have the time or opportunity to eat every two to three hours. Finally, Ultimate Casein is great for competitive athletes doing two-a-day training sessions or tournaments, as its works to keep blood amino acids elevated all day to avoid catabolism and help recovery.
Finally, while inferior forms of casein have become associated with poor taste and texture, the premium grade of casein in Ultimate Casein has a smooth, creamy, luscious taste and mouth-feel completely unprecedented in a casein supplement.
Overall, Ultimate Casein represents the gold standard for sustained release protein formulas. Its high purity micellar casein, great taste, and high protein content make it the ideal choice for those who seek to keep blood amino acids elevated throughout the day and through the night.
Res PT1, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen AP, Senden JM, VAN Loon LJ. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Aug;44(8):1560-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31824cc363.
Soop M1, Nehra V, Henderson GC, Boirie Y, Ford GC, Nair KS. Coingestion of whey protein and casein in a mixed meal: demonstration of a more sustained anabolic effect of casein. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jul 1;303(1):E152-62. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00106.2012. Epub 2012 May 8.
Have you tried new Ultimate Casein yet? What have your experiences with it bee like so far? Let us know in the comments field below!