Micellar casein is the untreated version of casein protein, one of the two major types of protein in milk. When taken as a supplement it provides an excellent source of slow-release amino acids, which will maintain elevated levels of these essential nutrients for long periods of time. Studies show that micellar casein is particularly effective at preventing protein breakdown an maintaining an anabolic state. Because of this property, it is particularly beneficial to take in the evening.
The night is the longest period your body goes without food. As a result after a few hours of sleep your glycogen reserves are depleted, and your body needs to look for other sources of glucose. It is true that some of the body’s energy needs can be met by burning fats, however, glucose must still be produced. This is mainly because the brain is very limited in the fuel it can use, the major source of energy for the brain is glucose. When glycogen stores are depleted glucose is produced from amino acids in the liver. After a few hours of sleep, amino acid levels in serum are usually very low as well. To obtain free amino acids the body resorts to breaking down muscle proteins. If you workout during the diet and watch your diet to increase your lean muscle mass, I’m sure you’re rather unhappy to hear that your muscles are breaking down to produce glucose while you are asleep at night.
The situation is made worse by hormone levels early in the morning, which are controlled by the circadian rhythm. Many hormones peak at particular times during the 24 hour cycle. For example growth hormone levels rise considerably as soon as you fall asleep. Since GH is a powerful anabolic hormone, this is an anabolic period, during which a lot of protein synthesis and growth takes place. However, first thing in the morning the GH peak fades and cortisol, the stress hormone, is at its peak. Cortisol is a strongly catabolic hormone, causing protein breakdown to create glucose.
The way to protect against this catabolic state, of course, is to ensure that your amino acid don’t fall too low at night. However, eating a protein-rich meal in the evening, and even taking a normal protein supplement might not be enough. The proteins will digest in a few hours, and the amino acids will be used up before you wake up in the morning and have breakfast.
This is where the special properties of micellar casein come in. It acts as a slow release amino acid formula. Casein is a somewhat hydrophobic protein and is not very soluble in water. In fact it is naturally found as a suspension of tiny particles known as micelles (giving rise to the name micellar casein). However, when casein hits the highly acidic environment in the stomach, its solubility decreases dramatically and it precipitates, forming a gel in the stomach. This is slow to digest, however it doesn’t mean that it has low bioavailability, since it also has slow gastric clearing. What all this means is that when you take an Organic micellar casein supplement it will stay in your stomach for a long time, slowly releasing amino acids. Studies show that casein can enhance amino acid levels for up to seven hours after ingestion. This is perfect for maintaining a positive nitrogen balance and preventing a catabolic state during the night when you take it in the evening.
Micellar casein is a complete protein, which means that it has all the ten essential amino acids that need to be obtained from the diet since our bodies don’t synthesise them. It will provide you with the branched chain amino acid leucine, which is important for its role in stimulating protein synthesis. However, because of the slow-release nature of the supplement you will not get maximum benefit by taking it after a workout. At this time a fast-release formula such as whey protein is best. To derive the most benefits from casein you should take it when you know you won’t be having a meal for several hours, such as in the evening before bedtime.
To derive maximum benefits you should choose casein produced from organic milk. Cows reared in natural conditions produce far superior milk, rich in a variety of nutrients than intensively farmed animals. The best supplements are not only organic but also undergo minimal processing during the purification process. Organic micellar casein will not only provide you with amino acids, but will also have preserved the other nutrients uniquely found in milk.
Researchers have known for a long time that milk proteins resulted in a better muscle gain than, for example, hydrolysed soy protein, even though the two types of supplements don’t differ in the amino acid composition. It is now thought that the special slow-release properties of casein proteins are responsible for this enhanced ability to improve lean mass gain by preventing catabolism. Fast acting protein drinks, especially ones that are treated to contain free amino acids or very short peptides result in a big but transient increase in protein synthesis rates. The effect is remarkable but doesn’t last for very long. If you took one of those rapid acting supplements in the evening, during the night your amino acid levels would drop to a point where muscle proteins would begin to break down. The other types of protein supplements are good at stimulating protein synthesis, but do nothing to prevent protein breakdown at the end of the night.
Because of its slow digesting properties casein is the perfect slow release protein supplement to maintain steady levels of amino acids through the night and prevent muscle protein breakdown. Organic micellar casein protein supplement works best when taken at the beginning of a period that you know you will not be able to take in any food for several hours. The most obvious time for this is in the evening. You can’t really be expected to eat while you sleep, and it makes perfect sense to take supplements that will release amino acids slowly to keep their levels steady throughout the night and prevent a catabolic state. This strategy works best when combined with taking fast release supplements, such as whey protein at times when you know you will have a peak of protein synthesis, such as right after a workout. The fast release formulas will ensure maximum muscle gain after a workout, and the organic micellar casein protects the proteins from being catabolized during the night.
Micellar casein is better at preventing protein beakdown than whey supplements:
Milk proteins vs. soy supplements in promoting an anabolic state: