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Fact checked by Robert Iafelice, MS, RD, LDNFACT CHECKED
March 05, 2023
There are thousands of choices when it comes to buying protein powder. In addition to all the different brands, there are numerous distinct categories. These include plant and animal-based protein sources. But, by far, the most popular is dairy protein.
There are two types of dairy protein; whey and casein. They both come from the by-products of the cheese-making process. While whey protein powder is the biggest seller on the market, casein has a valuable part to play. Casein is a slow-release protein, in contrast to fast-acting whey. That makes casein ideal as a nighttime protein source that provides a slow release while you sleep (which happens to be when most of your muscle repair and muscle protein synthesis takes place).
This article reviews the nine best casein protein powders on the current market. We will also analyze the benefits of using a casein protein powder and provide a buyer's guide.
**There may be affiliate links in this post where we might receive a small commission on purchases you make. We only recommend products we think you will find valuable.**
Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Casein is produced in the Transparent Labs CGMP-certified factory in Utah. This company has built a reputation for clear labeling and pure ingredients, and this product is another example of that. There are no artificial ingredients, flavors, or sweeteners in the formula.
We've tried and tested dozens of casein protein powders and in our experience Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Casein is the best as far as taste, quality and value goes. When clients ask us about what casein protein they should try we always recommend this without hesitation.
Every batch of Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Casein is 3rd party tested by an independent laboratory for purity and potency. You get 25 grams of protein with every serving at an energy cost of 120 calories. There are 30 servings, or a month's supply, in each container. There are four grams of carbs, three of which are sugar, with the other gram being dietary fiber.
Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Casein also includes calcium, iron, and potassium. It is available in chocolate and vanilla, both of which mix well to produce a creamy, tasty protein shake.
The cost of Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Casein works out to about two dollars per serving.
The "naked" in Naked Casein refers to the fact that this is a pure, single-ingredient, unadulterated supplement. The one ingredient it contains is micellar casein. When you buy any supplement from Naked, you can rest assured that it won't contain any artificial ingredients, preservatives, or sweeteners.
Every 30-gram serving of Naked Casein provides you with 26 grams of protein and 110 calories. That protein count includes 5.9 grams of branch-chain amino acids, the three most important aminos for protein synthesis and muscle growth. It is also a great source of calcium, with every two-scoop serving providing you with 60% of the DV. In addition, it is considerably lower in sodium content than many competing protein powders, with just 30 mg per serving.
There are zero carbs, sugars, or fats in this product. The casein protein used in this supplement is sourced exclusively from US farms. The protein is processed using a cold press system. It is prepared at extremely low temperatures, and no bleaches or acids are used. This produces an end product that is free of impurities.
Naked Casein is available in vanilla and chocolate flavors.
BulkSupplements Casein Protein Powder is available in various quantities, including a popular 1kg bag. This one provides you with 33 servings at a per-serving size of 30 grams. It's low in calories, with just 106 per serving. Even better, it's got less than one gram of carbohydrates per serving. That makes this a good choice for people trying to lose weight.
BulkSupplements Casein Protein Powder provides 25 grams of micellar casein protein powder per serving. As with most BulkSupplements products, there is just one ingredient in the product; micellar casein protein. It is free of added sugar, yeast, gluten, and additives.
Working out to about a dollar per day, BulkSupplements Casein Protein Powder represents very good value for money.
Kaged Casein shines in its solubility resulting in a smooth, frothy, grit-free protein smoothie. It also serves as a great baking protein, mixing seamlessly with other ingredients. Another standout feature of Kaged Casein is that it has some genuinely delicious flavors, with the following options:
Unlike many protein powders, Kaged Casein actually tastes like a milkshake when you mix it with milk (though it also mixes well with water). That is no doubt, thanks to its superior mixability.
You get 26 grams of steadily digesting micellar casein protein with every 120-calorie serving of Kaged Casein. This includes 4.75 grams of BCAAs. There are 3 or 4 grams of carbs depending on the flavor. It also contains less than one gram of lactose per serving.
The cost of Kaged Casein breaks down to about $1.50 per serving or approximately 4 cents per gram of protein.
BSN SYNTHA-6 Edge is a blend of both casein and whey protein powder. Here are the different types you get:
This protein matrix provides 24 grams of protein, 11 grams of branch-chain amino acids, and essential amino acids. The mix of protein types gives you a good balance of fast and slow-release amino acids. That makes BSN SYNTHA-6 Edge a good choice both as a post-workout and a before-bed protein.
Each container of BSN SYNTHA-6 Edge contains 48 servings. The carb count varies according to the flavor but is generally higher than most other brands on this list. For example, there are 6 grams of carbs in the chocolate flavor.
As well as sunflower creamer, there are quite a few artificial flavors and sweeteners in this product. The powder blends well to produce a creamy, rich protein shake.
BSN SYNTHA-6 Edge is 3rd party tested to ensure that it does contain any banned substances.
Legion Casein+ is sourced from free-roaming Irish cows living on small, sustainable dairy farms. Every serving provides you with 26 grams of micellar casein protein. It is manufactured in the United States in a CGMP and NSF-certified facility.
There are also 5.2 grams of branch chain amino acids, zero sugars, and two grams of carbohydrates. The only other ingredients, apart from micellar casein protein, are natural flavors, stevia, and sea salt.
Legion Casein+ is available in four flavors:
Each of these flavors has positive responses from reviewers. They all mix well, both in water and milk, to produce a grit-free, smooth protein shake.
Legion Casein+ contains soy lecithin, which will be problematic if you have a soy allergy. This is also a pretty expensive protein.
Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein is, according to Ascent itself, the purest casein protein you can get. That is because they actually manufacture their own protein. This contrasts with the vast majority of protein powder 'manufacturers' who purchase their protein from an actual manufacturer. On top of this, Ascent does not use any artificial sweeteners, flavorings, or preservatives.
A one-scoop serving of Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein contains 140 calories and 25 grams of protein. There are also 6 grams of carbs and 1.5 grams of fiber. You also get 45% of the DV for calcium.
In addition to micellar protein, Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein contains peanuts, cocoa, natural flavors, a blend of three types of gum (guar, acacia, and xanthan), sea salt, sunflower lecithin (for mixability), monk fruit extract, and stevia leaf extract.
Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein is gluten-free. It also contains no soy. It does, however, have peanuts in it, so people with a nut allergy need to stay away.
Because this casein protein is completely naturally flavored, it is not going to be as tasty as artificially sweetened powders. Despite this, the chocolate and chocolate peanut butter flavors are decent. It also comes in vanilla flavor, which is a good option if you want to add your casein powder to baking recipes.
This casein protein supplement is tested by Informed Sport to ensure that it does not contain any banned substances. A bag of Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein works out to about $1.65 per serving, which puts it on the slightly high side.
Dymatize Elite Casein is manufactured in Dallas, Texas, by popular supplement manufacturer Dymatize. All Dymatize products undergo 3rd party testing for purity and potency. Every 36-gram serving of this micellar casein provides you with 25 grams of protein and 130 calories. It is a little high in sodium content, with 180 mg in every serving. There are also 2 grams of unsaturated fat and 3 grams of carbs, and 45% of the DV for calcium.
In addition to micellar casein, the ingredient panel includes a creamer created from sunflower oil, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, sodium citrate, and tricalcium phosphate. It is flavored with artificial flavors, salt, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum (a thickener and stabilizer), and potassium chloride. There are also a couple of artificial sweeteners included in this product:
Dymatize Elite Casein is certified by Informed Choice. That guarantees that it is free of any banned substances. If you are a competitive athlete, you should look for the Informed Choice label on any supplements you are buying.
This protein powder comes in some really tasty flavors. A standout is Cinnamon Bun, which gives your taste buds the flavor of an actual cinnamon bun but without guilt. It also makes a fantastic casein pudding.
The cost of Dymatize Elite Casein varies depending on where you buy it. The average cost is around $1.50 per serving.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Casein is a favorite of bodybuilders and athletes, being NSF certified for sport. Every batch of this product is 3rd party tested for quality. You get 24 grams of protein with every 120-calorie serving. There's also 50% of your DV for calcium and just 4 grams of carbs, only one gram of which is sugar.
Most casein protein powders do not come in very many flavors, so the four flavors that you get with Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Casein are worthy of note. Even better is the fact that those flavors are very tasty. You can choose from the following:
A standout feature of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Casein is that it contains an enzyme blend called Aminogen. There is scientific research to support the claim that this blend improves the rate of protein absorption. On the downside, the range of flavors means that Optimum Nutrition has had to include some artificial sweeteners and flavorings in the product. It also contains soy lecithin, which may not be to the liking of some people.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Casein is available in a 2 or 4-lb tub.
Casein protein is the most abundant protein found in cow's milk, representing 80% of the total protein content. The other 20% is whey protein. The key difference between the two types is that casein is digested more slowly than whey.
When it enters the system, casein has the capacity to produce a gel in the stomach. This lowers the pace at which the amino acids enter the bloodstream.
There are three varieties of casein protein:
Micellar casein is casein in its most natural form. Calcium caseinate is more quickly digested than the other two types. Milk protein isolate also contains some whey and micellar protein.
There is some research to indicate that because it has the slowest rate of amino acid release, micellar casein is the best form to take for muscle gain and workout recovery.¹
Because casein protein digests slowly, taking it at night to offer a gradual release of protein while you sleep makes a lot of sense. Although it enters the bloodstream slowly, its protein efficiency rating is unaffected by this.
Casein is crucial in halting the degradation of proteins. We recommend using both whey and casein or choosing a protein powder that contains both whey and casein to maintain the appropriate ratio of rapid and slow-digesting proteins.
Both whey and casein are manufactured from pasteurized milk. To cause the milk to curdle, enzymes are introduced. The liquid whey is left behind and might be spray-dried, while the solid portion is sorted out and used to create cheese or casein. About 53 gallons of milk are required to make 2.2 lbs of whey protein powder, and the same volume of milk can make 13.2 lbs of casein protein powder.
Casein protein is valued for its sustained release, its excellent amino acid profile, and its ability to blend very well with other substances. Here are seven research-attested benefits that you will get from taking a casein protein powder.
When you work out with resistance equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, or weight machines, you are putting stress on the muscle fibers. With proper rest and the right nutrition, the muscle is able to grow back a little bigger and stronger. Protein supplies amino acids, which are the building blocks for this repair job. Your body disassembles protein into its component amino acid parts when you eat it. They then transform into fresh proteins and are delivered to your muscle cells to mend the micro tears brought on by your training.
The damage that your workouts cause to the muscle fibers also promotes so-called satellite cells. These satellite cells inundate the injured area, where they spread out and attach themselves to the damaged muscle fibers. They then set about repairing the damage (and making the muscle a little bit bigger and stronger).
If you don't get enough amino acids to make the proteins that serve as the building blocks of this entire process, your muscles won't be able to repair themselves or get stronger. In fact, your muscles are likely to begin catabolizing or eating away at themselves in the absence of protein.
Casein provides a sustained release of all nine essential amino acids in the right ratios to promote protein synthesis. Most of your body's muscle repair work takes place at night when your body is in a sedentary state. Taking casein protein before you go to bed will provide a constant supply of amino acids to fuel that process.²
Casein has been shown to digest far more slowly than whey protein. That is because it forms a gel-like substance in the stomach when mixed with stomach acids. It takes roughly twice as long as whey for casein protein to be digested as a result. This provides a slow, sustained release of amino acids into the bloodstream that helps to maintain a positive nitrogen balance.³
Increasing strength levels is important to the vast majority of people who work out. While you've got to work hard under the iron to build strength, what you are putting into your body is equally important.
Many people consider whey protein powder to be the superior choice for strength gains. However, there is research to show that casein may be the better option.
In one study, casein and whey were compared over a 12-week period. It was shown that supplementing with casein protein in conjunction with weight training resulted in the doubling of strength in the chest, quadriceps, and biceps muscles. This was significantly higher than in the whey group. The researchers concluded that "the significant difference in body composition and strength is likely due to improved nitrogen retention and overall anticatabolic effects caused by the peptide components of the casein hydrolysate."⁴
Recent research out of the Netherlands suggests that micellar casein may significantly boost metabolism. A study group who consumed two and half times more casein than another group had a higher rate of metabolism while sleeping, helping them to burn off more body fat while lying in bed. The reported fullness levels upon waking were also 33% higher in the casein group.⁵
Research shows that casein protein supports the immune system. All nine essential amino acids support the immune system, but the three branched-chain amino acids are especially beneficial.
Immunoglobulins contained in casein protein have been shown to boost the immune system.⁷
Recent animal studies suggest that taking a casein protein supplement can reduce the effects of oxidative stress and free radical damage on the body's cells. However, human studies are required before this can be stated as a definite benefit.⁸
Protein, in general, is a very satiating macronutrient. Because it releases its amino acids slowly, casein may fill you up more than whey or other types of protein. This helps to ward off the hunger pangs and cravings that are often responsible for people falling off the weight loss wagon.
Casein protein has a high thermic value. That means that it takes a lot of energy to digest the protein. In fact, you will burn up a third of the calories in casein in the act of digestion.
For a long time, it was widely believed that taking high levels of protein was damaging to the body. It was believed that it could result in osteoporosis, but this and other claims have been proven wrong.⁹
People with healthy kidneys also do not need to worry about protein intake causing kidney damage. However, if you currently have liver issues, you should consult your doctor before taking a casein supplement.¹⁰
Casein contains small amounts of lactose or milk fat. If you are lactose intolerant, you might experience such side effects as bloating, gas, and digestive interruption.
Apart from these situations, casein protein is perfectly safe to use.
Every casein protein powder manufacturer will claim that their product is the best you can take to build muscle, recover from your workouts and improve your strength gains. As a discerning buyer, you must look beyond the hype to get to the objective facts. Here are six areas that you should consider when buying casein protein supplements:
Look at the list of additional ingredients on the nutrition panel. Everything that went into making the product must be listed by the manufacturer. Put it back on the shelf if it contains a high concentration of fats, carbohydrates, or fillers. You also want to avoid any product that contains glycine. This is a lesser type of protein that is added to boost the protein content.
No amino acids should be included separately on the ingredients list. Separately listed aminos is an indication of a technique called "amino acid spiking," which inflates the protein composition of the protein powder artificially.
By law, the ingredients label must list the ingredients in order of descending quantity. So, if you see a product where casein protein is not listed as the first ingredient, put it back on the shelf.
Some casein protein powders include enzymes that help in the amino acid digestion process. This is an advantage, and you should look for it on the ingredient label. Casein protein powders that include around 5 grams of branch chain amino acids, as well as added vitamins and minerals, are also a bonus.
The best casein protein powders will go through a third-party testing process before being released onto the market. This involves the manufacturer employing an outside laboratory for purity and potency. Brands that follow this practice will display a 3rd-party tested sticker on the label.
The product should be made in a CGMP-approved facility. This indicates that the factory has been regularly inspected by the government for quality control. Look for the CGMP sticker on the label.
When it comes to transparency on the product label, you should avoid manufacturers who use proprietary blends. This is when they group a bunch of ingredients together and only provide the total, rather than the individual, dosage. This is usually done to hide the fact that the bulk of the dosage count is made up of cheaper, inferior products.
When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how effective a casein protein powder is if you can't stand the taste. Fortunately, most brands offer a wide range of flavors to keep your taste buds satisfied. Just be careful that you're not getting unwanted sugars and artificial flavors with that great taste.
If you want to add your casein protein powder to your baking recipes or add a scoop to your dessert, your best option is to go for a vanilla flavor. That way, there will be minimal interference with the original flavor of the food you are adding the powder.
The protein dosage per serving is a critical factor when choosing a casein protein powder. You should look for a brand that provides between 20 and 30 grams per serving.
The price of casein protein is generally slightly higher than whey protein. There is quite a wide range of prices, with no-frills brands like BulkSupplements being priced at a little over a dollar per serving, while premium brands may break down to nearly double that per serving cost.
By checking user reviews of casein protein powders, you are able to get insight into some of the intangible things that you cannot tell from the product label. These include the taste, mixability, consistency, and whether it produces any nasty side effects such as gas and bloating.
The timing of your casein protein intake depends on what your training goal is. If your main goal is muscle gain, you should take a protein shake within two hours of your workout and again before bed. After the workout, you should take either whey or a whey/casein combination. In the evening, though, you should take a casein protein due to its ability to slowly release the amino acids over the course of the night.
Casein protein powder delivers all nine essential amino acids that your body needs to build and repair muscle. When it enters the stomach, casein protein mixes with stomach acids to form a gel-like substance. As a result, it takes about twice as long as whey protein to be fully digested. This provides you with a slow, steady release of amino acids into the bloodstream.
Neither whey nor casein is better than the other. They each serve different purposes because of their rate of amino acid release. Whey is a fast-acting protein that is ideal straight after a workout. Casein, on the other hand, with its slow amino acid release capability, is much better as an evening protein powder.
Yes, casein does spike insulin levels but not as much as whey. It takes about 35 grams of protein to trigger insulin release. Because it releases far more slowly, it is less likely that you will have 35 grams built up in the bloodstream at any one time through casein supplementation.
If your goal is weight loss, you should take casein protein powder with water to reduce the overall calorie count. For muscle gain, we recommend taking your casein with milk. At the end of the day, however, it boils down to personal preference.
Casein makes up 80% of the protein in cow's milk, with the other 20% being whey. It is a good idea to take both whey and casein protein each day if you are working out to build muscle. Consuming casein at night makes a lot of sense as it releases very slowly into your bloodstream. This allows for a steady release of amino acids into your bloodstream overnight, which is the body's optimized time to repair and build muscle.
The best overall casein protein powder on the market is Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Casein. This protein powder provides 25 grams of instantized micellar casein from 100% grass-fed cattle in every serving, is naturally sweetened, and contains no added sugars, fillers, or artificial junk.
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September 21, 2023
September 21, 2023
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