Casein Protein Shake?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 04, 2012 at 8:14 PM

I recently checked and noticed I have some casein protein. Is casein bad in paleo terms?

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on August 04, 2012
at 08:36 PM

Hey, Mario. If you digest dairy proteins fine, then casein should be of no issue with digestion either, as 80% of milk protein is casein (the other 20% is the beloved whey).

The primary difference between casein and whey is the breakdown rate. BEcause of the specific amino acid structure variations, whey protein breaks down and is absorbed rather quickly into the system, as well as resulting in a high insulin spike after consumption. Because of this absorption rate (and sometimes also because of the insulin response), people like to consume whey protein shakes around their workouts. Conversely, casein breaks down rather slowly (over approximately and 8 hour period) and results in an insignificant insulin response. Because of the slow digestion rate, many advanced weight lifters and athletes like to consume casein before bed, to prevent muscle catabolism over night.

However, there are some studies linking casein proteins to various forms of cancers, but these are in rats, and also fed in some extreme sense like 80% of calories or concomitantly with a high fat diet (used to induce insulin resistance in mice). An additional concern is finding a clean powder, as most have questionable additives in them like artificial colors/flavors and sweeteners.

On a personal note, I took 1 scoop of casein powder (20g protein) before bed several times a week for a couple years straight. When I eliminated the casein from my diet, I was slightly worried that I'd lose muscle mass or that my body composition would decline. Thankfully, none of that was the case. So, if you want to eat it, then go ahead, but just know that you do not need it for any reason, and that there may be some risks with long term use not only from the casein itself, but also from the additives. So, you're probably going to be fine not wasting this tub you have right now, but I wouldn't actually recommend buying a new one. I recommend choosing cottage cheese and Greek yogurt instead for the same effect, as both are mostly casein protein based and are much cleaner sources without additives and and artificial ingredients.

If you want a recipe though, mix 1 scoop with about 3-4oz of water and stir to pudding like consistency. Then, put it in the fridge for an hour. (optionally) Before eating, sprinkle some almonds over or eat with a little whipped cream. Very good with a respectable macronutrient breakdown as something to eat before bed.

Oh, and in paleo terms, no it's not paleo compliant. BUt it could be primal compliant, if you consider things like "Primal Fuel" compliant (which is partially casein based, but it actually uses a much cheaper, lower quality one version called calcium caseinate, as opposed to micellar casein). I would consider it as 10-20% food, if you follower the 90/10 or 80/20 rule.

I hope that helps you out, Bud.



on August 04, 2012
at 09:39 PM

I'm not a huge fan of casein as an isolated protein supplement, but it's better than some others. If you tolerate dairy I wouldn't worry about it in milk and cheese, but as a stand alone protein I would favor whey.

In rats and mice given carcinogens and protein supplements, the animals fed casein tend to develop more tumors than those fed whey protein (1,2,3,4). This may be in part because casein increases IGF-1 levels while whey doesn't (5) and there is some evidence that high IGF-1 levels negatively affect cancer risk (6). For the record, meat protein doesn't seem raise IGF-1 significantly (7).

Still, in some of these studies casein produces higher glutathione levels and prevents more tumors than soy protein (8). And compared to soy protein, casein has a better biological value as tested on humans (9). So I highly doubt that something like soy protein is a better bet than casein.

A study in rats found that casein and soy protein increased colonocyte DNA damage more than whey (10) and casein resulted in thinner colonic mucus levels than the other proteins.

Then you have the issues of A1 v. A2 casein, casomorphins, and casein intolerance. This is a complicated matter that I think many make into a bigger deal than it likely is, but I'll say of that if you have or suspect poor gut health, casein may be worth avoiding or at least experimenting to see how it makes you feel.

I guess my opinion of casein is that I would prefer whey or even eggs/meat for protein, but overall casein is probably fine.

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