You probably use whey protein powder.
You have probably also heard of casein protein. If you have, the chances are that you have been told you should have it before bed to keep “drip-feeding” your muscles with protein through the night.
So, the question is, will having casein before bed build muscle?
Researchers have tried to answer this question…
…But first, a quick bit of background info. Casein and Whey are both derived from milk. Casein makes up about 80% of the protein in milk. Whey covers the remaining 20%.
The major difference between them is the speed of absorption.
Whey is digested much quicker than casein.
This is why the “drip-feeding” theory has caught on.
One study found that having casein before bed resulted in a higher muscle protein balance during sleep. So far so good!
Another study followed up on this and found that pre-bed casein improved strength and increased muscle mass over a 12-week period.
However, questions were raised over this study because total daily protein intake was not matched between the pre-bed casein group and the placebo group. So, it might just have been the higher total protein, rather than the casein, that made the difference.
In summary, at this stage it was not clear that pre-bed casein was the difference maker. It might just be that more protein per day made the difference whether that be from casein before bed or any other source/time of day.
For reference the difference between the groups in the study on total daily intake was substantial. The placebo group only had 1.3g of protein per KG of body weight per day. Meanwhile, the casein group had 1.9g per KG. Given I generally, recommend 2g per KG it is easy to see why the improved gains in the casein group might not be due to caseins magical properties, but just because the participants were finally eating enough protein and calories to support muscle growth!
To support the view that casein is NOT magical, another study matched total daily protein, but had one group consume pre-bed casein. There were no significant differences between groups.
So, it seems that the key is to get enough total protein per day rather than trying to utilise special types at specific times.
Based on others studies it seems that if you are not consuming a minimum of 1.6g of protein per day then you might miss out on muscle growth. Some studies indicate more than this as being optimal for hard training individuals. As a result, I suggest you aim for 2g per KG. If you are doing that consistently then, it is unlikely there will be any added benefits of pre-bed casein.
If you want to take the “no stones left unturned” approach to your nutrition you could utilise casein pre-bed. If you do and you want to save some money then you could just choose cottage cheese which has a very similar protein and absorption profile to casein.