Casein is a type of protein found in dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, chocolate, ice cream and some processed foods. You can get casein protein in supplement form too, as it's often marketed as an alternative to another dairy-based protein -- whey protein. Casein protein, whether it comes from food or from a supplement, could be a useful addition to your diet with several potential benefits.
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One of casein protein's main benefits is its digestion speed. Casein is a slow-digesting protein and can take up to seven hours to digest, according to nutritionist Aaron Cattell on the fitness training school website, Ludus Magnus. While you may want a fast-digesting protein after a gym session to quickly replenish your muscles' energy stores, casein's slower digesting speed makes it a better choice for a pre-bed snack because it will keep your stomach from rumbling through the night.
Improve Your Weight Loss Efforts
Protein and protein supplements tend to be associated with gaining weight and building muscle mass, but a study published in a 2009 edition of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" suggested that casein may also aid weight loss. Two diets were compared -- one in which 10 percent of energy intake came from casein and another in which 25 percent came from casein. The 25 percent casein diet showed an increase in energy expenditure and satiety. The researchers concluded that an increased casein intake could be beneficial in managing weight and improving body composition.
Muscle and Might
When building muscle mass, adequate protein intake is vital to aid growth and recovery. A study published in "Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise" in 2004 found that subjects who ingested 20 grams of casein after a resistance workout had increased muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein net balance, both of which are beneficial for muscle growth. A positive muscle protein net balance means your body is synthesizing more muscle than it's breaking down.
The Deal with Dairy
Should you decide to look to whole-foods for your casein needs rather than supplements, you're looking at a host of extra benefits. Casein-containing dairy foods like milk and low-fat cheese also contain high amounts of vitamin D, calcium and potassium. This combination may improve bone health, cut your chances of developing osteoporosis and diabetes and help manage blood pressure.