When it comes to protein, it used to be simple. Casein used to wear the crown as the king of slow-digesting proteins. Its unique ability to gel in the stomach and release its amino acids over a long period of time made it the perfect choice for athletes looking for a simple way to combat muscle catabolism – particularly overnight.
Whey on the other hand, has always held the crown as the best fast-digesting protein and the most anabolic protein. This powerful protein has high levels of leucine and stimulates protein synthesis better than casein.
And that’s all there was to it. You consumed your casein at night, and took your whey pretty much every other time of the day – but especially after your workout. That’s been the order of things for as long as most of you have been lifting.
In the sports nutrition game, there are very few sacred cows. Things change and every few years science has a funny way of taking everything you know about something and turning it on its ear.
What is gospel today is often tomorrow’s bro science. After all, it was not long ago that many athletes believed that carbs were bad; and there was a time when if you wanted to lose fat you avoided fat. We all know how silly that sounds now, but 10 years ago athletes were avoiding carbs like the plague, and 20 years ago, they were doing the same to fat.
We also used to believe that whey protein was a fast-digesting protein that was pretty much only useful as a post-workout recovery protein. Taking whey protein at night is almost unheard of nowadays.
But it’s time to have another look at whey. Thanks to some of the brightest minds in our industry, a world-class company has done something to whey protein that will not only change how bodybuilders and other world-class athletes view this protein, but will also alter how you use it and when. View full study here.
The whey vs. casein comparison is well-covered ground. In short, casein is made up of long chains of amino acids that don’t dissolve in water. In the stomach, casein forms a mass that is digested relatively slowly, and while slowly digesting, the amino acids are released over time and appear in the blood for many hours after ingestion.
Whey is nearly the complete opposite, consisting of shorter amino acid chains that dissolve easily in water. The amino acids from whey appear quickly in the blood after ingestion, releasing nearly all at once. Because of this “spike” in amino acids, when we look at the amount of protein synthesis that is stimulated by each protein over an hour after digestion, whey protein is far more anabolic than casein, and it’s only after several hours that casein eventually matches whey from an anabolic standpoint.
This is why most athletes will typically reserve casein to provide anti-catabolic support and bridge the time periods where pre-, intra- and post- workout nutrition is not an issue – such as before bed.
Generally the thought process behind this is sound, but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. Casein, for all of its incredible ability to trickle-feed aminos to your muscles, has its shortcomings. As noted above, the slow release of aminos reduces the peak anabolic response (protein synthesis). Casein also contains less leucine, the primary amino acid that triggers protein synthesis. The overall result is that the net increase in protein synthesis over 6 hours is greater with whey compared to casein. View full study here.
So that’s great, you’ll just discard casein and drink nothing but whey! Problem solved! And yet, it’s not that easy. Whey, despite all of its incredible benefits, isn’t perfect either. First there’s its speed of digestion. While quickly dumping a whole host of anabolic aminos into the system is great if you’re not going to be eating for long periods of time, it’s not a great choice for those time periods where you’re basically fasting – such as when you sleep. Simply, the long-term ability of whey protein to keep your body in an anabolic state is poor.
Secondly, you’re somewhat limited by your body’s ability to take full advantage of the speed at which whey digests. It takes about an hour and a half for viscous liquids to pass through your system and be absorbed. The maximum rate that whey, and other proteins, can be absorbed is between 8–10 grams per hour. The math doesn’t really work in whey protein’s favor, with liquids rushing through the GI tract too quickly and not nearly enough of the whey protein being absorbed during normal transit time. That begs the question: What if there was an efficient way to slow the absorption of whey just enough so that you can still reap all the anabolic benefits of it, but still make full use of the serving over a longer period of time?
There are some impractical solutions to this. You could sip your whey protein shake over a number of hours and drink a few mouthfuls every 15-20 minutes. You could also buy two tubs of protein; one whey and one casein, and mix them (or use blended protein powders). Or you could ingest more calories by combining the whey with a complex carbohydrate like oatmeal. All three methods are either extremely inconvenient and somewhat impractical for most people, or they water down your anabolic potential by forcing you to consume time-release proteins like casein and milk proteins that don’t match the protein synthesis stimulating ability of whey.
Researchers looked at this issue from another perspective. What if you could alter the whey protein molecule itself? Increasing the size of the actual protein molecules would theoretically take them longer to digest and could allow the anabolic whey aminos, including leucine, to release in a manner similar to casein. Allowing the amino acids to release more slowly into your bloodstream could offer long-term anti-catabolic support, while retaining the higher leucine content offering long-term anabolic support as well. It would be like having the power of whey at the speed of casein!
THE MODIFICATION OF WHEY PROTEIN
That’s what some of the top researchers had in mind when they started working on this new project in 2012. Their goal was to develop a highly anabolic protein that releases slowly and is able to trickle-feed muscles key absorbable aminos over 6 hours. Through modifications to whey protein processing, they wanted to create a whey protein that has a slow the rate of digestion that it is comparable to Micellar Casein, ultimately creating a highly anabolic slow-release protein. What they succeeded in creating will change the way you think about sustained-release protein! Gone are the days when you have to rely on casein or lower biological value proteins to sustain you through the night or long periods without food. The result of the work by the research team is the first really novel protein in years – Micellar Whey.
The Age-Old Whey vs. Casein Debate Micellar whey at its heart is 80% undenatured whey protein concentrate (WPC). The WPC used to make micellar whey is put through two levels of ultra-filtration and another micro-filtration process before it becomes modified by an advanced proprietary process. This process is an advanced and top secret protein polymerization technology. The end result however, is whey protein particles that are double the molecular weight of regular whey protein particles.
Pre-clinical in-vitro research was conducted to determine how rapidly this new protein was digested. The research team took various proteins (WPC, micellar casein and the new micellar whey) and incubated them while they were digesting via protease activity at a pH of 2 (which matches the pH of the human stomach). The team measured samples of the proteins every hour for analysis. Each sample was analyzed for the degree of proteolytic hydrolysis of each protein. What they found confirmed that their research and development of micellar whey was a success: they found that micellar whey showed similar protease digestion when it was compared to micellar casein over 6 hours.
Micellar whey showed similar protease digestion when compared to micellar casein. And when compared to whey protein concentrate, micellar whey was more resistant to protease digestion. What this means is that these larger whey protein molecules take as long as micellar casein to digest, thus allowing the amino acids to release more slowly into your bloodstream. Meanwhile, the higher leucine content of micellar whey when compared to casein proteins means that you can stimulate higher protein synthesis and provide overall higher anabolic potential for a longer length of time!
The unique molecular structure of micellar whey makes it the perfect protein for overnight anabolic/anti-catabolic support. When you hit the sheets for a night of shut-eye your body begins a six- to eight- hour process of rest and repair. Hypertrophy is the net result of muscle protein synthesis versus degradation, and during the night muscle protein breakdown can exceed muscle protein synthesis. This is bad news for making the most gains in the shortest possible time.
Micellar whey is the perfect solution. While casein offers the sustained-release aspect of micellar whey, it lacks the total leucine content, making it more suitable for stopping catabolism, but not great at turning on the switch that builds muscle.
A typical finished, flavored scoop (36g) of micellar whey provides around 3.2g of leucine, whereas a typical scoop of flavored high-quality 100% micellar casein only gives you about 2.8g. A two-scoop serving widens the gap by over a full gram. The vast majority of casein supplements don’t use micellar casein exclusively, so that number will be significantly less from a typical casein product and would be even lower in a blended protein that also includes other lower-quality proteins.
Do you really want to take a protein that could have 3–4 grams less leucine per multiple scoop serving? Not if you have any aspirations of reaching your ultimate potential, you don’t. In fact, it’s not just leucine that micellar whey is loaded with, it also has more BCAAs per serving!
This hammers home the key advantage that micellar whey has over casein and other protein blends, and why it’s the new king of sustained-release proteins.
Micellar whey also makes the perfect between-meal protein. In an ideal world an athlete will never have to go more than a few hours without eating, but most don’t have a desk job that affords unlimited breaks to make a meal or mix up a shake. Now you can keep protein synthesis levels elevated for longer periods between meals!
With the invention of micellar whey, athletes now have another weapon in their arsenal for making the fastest gains possible!
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Mix 1 serving (1 scoop) with 8 oz. of cold water in a glass or shaker cup. Use after your workout. Do not exceed 1 serving in a 24-hour period. Drink 10 glasses of water daily for general good health. Read entire label before use and follow the directions provided.