Casein Protein V/s Whey Protein. What’s the Difference?

Published by Surajit jana on


This article explores the differences between casein and whey protein, their health benefits, and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Casein and whey are the two types of protein found in cow’s milk, making up 80% and 20% of milk protein respectively.

They’re high-quality proteins, as they contain all essential amino acids, which you must get from food since your body cannot make them. In addition, they’re easily digested and absorbed.

Both casein and whey are byproducts of cheese production.

During cheesemaking, special enzymes or acids are added to heated milk. These enzymes or acids cause the casein in the milk to coagulate, or change to a solid-state, separating from a liquid substance.

This liquid substance is whey protein, which is then washed and dried into a powdered form for use in food products or dietary supplements.

The remaining curds of casein can be washed and dried to create a protein powder or added to dairy products, such as cottage cheese.

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Your Body Absorbs Casein Protein Slower than Whey.

One of the significant differences between casein and whey protein is how quickly your body absorbs them.

Your body breaks down protein into many small molecules called amino acids, which circulate in your bloodstream until they’re absorbed.

Levels of these amino acids stay elevated in your blood for four to five hours after you consume casein but only 90 minutes after you consume whey.

This is because the two proteins digest at different rates.

As it does in cheesemaking, casein forms curds once exposed to the acids in your stomach. These curds lengthen your body’s digestion and absorption processes.

Therefore, casein protein provides your body with a slow, steady release of amino acids, making it ideal before fasting situations, such as sleep.

On the other hand, because your body digests and absorbs whey protein much quicker, it makes the perfect bookend to your workouts, as it will kickstart the muscle repair and rebuilding process.

Whey Protein is better than Casein for Building Muscle

Whey protein is not only better suited for workouts because it’s quickly absorbed but also due to its amino acids profile.

It contains more of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine, while casein contains a higher portion of the amino acids histidine, methionine, and phenylalanine.

While all essential amino acids are important for building muscle, leucine is the one that jumpstarts the process.

Whey protein has higher leucine content, which stimulates muscle protein synthesis — the process by which muscles grow — more than casein.

However, it’s unknown whether this greater stimulation in muscle protein synthesis results in more muscle growth long term.

Both Contain different beneficial Compounds

Casein and whey protein contain different bioactive peptides, which are compounds that benefit your body.

Casein Protein

Casein contains several bioactive peptides that have been shown to benefit your immune and digestive systems.

Some bioactive peptides found in casein also benefit your heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the formation of blood clots.

These peptides work similarly to angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, a class of drugs commonly prescribed to control blood pressure.

They also bind to and carry minerals like calcium and phosphorus, improving their digestibility in your stomach.

Whey Protein

Whey protein contains a number of active proteins called immunoglobulins that boost your immune system.

The immunoglobulins in whey are known to have antimicrobial properties, either killing or slowing the growth of harmful microbes, such as bacteria and viruses.

Casein Protein V/s Whey Protein. What's the Difference?

The Benefit of Protein in Your Diet

Protein serves many important roles in your body, making it incredibly important for your health.

These roles include:-

  • Enzymes: Proteins that carry out chemical reactions in your body.
  • Antibodies: These remove foreign particles, such as viruses, to help fight infection.
  • Messengers: Many proteins are hormones, which coordinate cell signaling.
  • Structure: These provide form and support to your skin, bones, and tendons.
  • Transport and storage: These proteins move substances including hormones, medicines, and enzymes through your body.

Beyond its basic nutritional functions in your body, protein has several other benefits including:

  • Fat loss: Protein aids fat loss by decreasing your appetite and boosting your metabolism
  • Blood sugar control: Protein, when consumed in place of carbs, can improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Blood pressure: Studies show that people who consume more protein — regardless of the source — have lower blood pressure.

These benefits are associated with a higher protein intake in general, not necessarily with casein or whey.

Which one is best for You?

Despite their different bioactive components, whey and casein protein vary little when it comes to their nutrition data.

Per standard scoop (31 grams), whey protein contains :

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 2 grams
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Iron: 0% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Calcium: 8% of the RDI

Per standard scoop (34 grams), casein protein contains :

  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrate: 4 grams
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Iron: 4% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 50% of the RDI

Keep in mind that these nutrition facts may vary, depending on the specific product you buy, so be sure to read labels carefully.

What’s more, there are some other factors to consider:

  • Casein protein powder is generally more expensive than whey.
  • Whey protein powder tends to mix better than casein.
  • Whey protein powder often has a better consistency and taste than casein.

You can also buy protein blends, which typically contain a combination of casein and whey, giving you the benefits of each.

Alternatively, you can buy both powders individually and take whey protein powder with workouts, then casein before bed.

How to Use

You may mix each with either water or milk. Milk will make your protein shakes — especially those with casein — thicker.

If possible, mix your protein powder and liquid with a blender bottle or other type of blender instead of a spoon. Doing so will ensure a smoother consistency and more equal dispersion of protein.

Always add the liquid first, followed by the scoop of protein. This order keeps the protein from sticking to the bottom of your container.

Casein Protein V/s Whey Protein. What's the Difference?
The Bottom Line

Casein and whey protein are both derived from milk.

They differ in digestion times — casein digests slowly, making it good before bedtime, while whey digests quickly and is ideal for workouts and muscle growth.

Both contain different bioactive compounds that may boost your immune system and offer other benefits.

Above all, remember that your total daily intake of protein matters most.

While casein and whey have their differences, they each play important roles in your body and provide numerous health benefits.

Surajit jana

Written By - Surajit Jana.


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