Casein Protein Before Bed?
If you asked me a few years ago what I thought about supplementing with casein protein, I would have told you that it’s a great idea to take a few scoops casein protein before bed to prevent the body entering a catabolic (muscle burning state) while sleeping. The reason being is that a few years back, it was thought that casein protein was superior to whey protein in terms of keeping the body in an anabolic state for longer because of it’s slow rate of absorption.
To be completely honest, I didn’t have a very wide knowledge of protein and nutrition back then and just threw out what I read in magazines or what I heard from people in the gym. Now that I’m more knowledgeable than I was back then, and more recent studies have been done to disprove many myths and previous theories, I realize that the biggest misconception that people still have in relation to protein, is the digestion and absorption rate. Many people will advise consuming a whey protein for pre and post workout because of it’s fast rate of absorption and a casein protein at night because of the slow rate of digestion and absorption. The complete truth is that all protein, whether it be whey or casein, is digested in the body at a gradually slow pace. So that protein shake you have before your workout will still digesting and fueling your body after the workout, so there is no need to rush home to eat or reach for a post workout shake most of the time. On top of that, casein protein is not absolutely necessary before bed to prevent entering a catabolic state.
According to a recent study (read here), whey protein is found to be absorbed at a rate of 8-10 grams per hour, while casein clocks in at about 6-7 grams per hour. On top of that, the types of foods that are combined with protein such as fats and carbs, will also affect the protein absorption rate. As long as you are consuming a diet that contains enough protein for muscle growth (0.8 to 1.2 grams per lbs of body-weight) you will receive a steady stream of amino acids to fuel muscle growth and the absorption rate does not really matter.
So if you are supplementing with a casein protein at the moment, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and you can continue to do so if it fits your budget. But for all of you that find that casein protein doesn’t really fit your budget, a good whey protein supplement should not affect the rate of your muscle growth, or have any significant rate on your anabolic or catabolic states over night. It takes longer than a few hours without food to go catabolic, so there is nothing to worry about there.