The majority of people who exercise on a regular basis are more than aware of the importance of post workout nutrition. By consuming post workout protein you are able to build your muscles and improve your overall performance. Additionally, this is a fantastic way to maintain a positive nitrogen balance inside the body. The importance of whey protein in this process has been well documented, and it is widely accepted that whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) is absorbed most rapidly by the body. Therefore, WPH is considered to be one of the most efficient forms of protein that you can consume after your workout. However, the recent introduction of casein hydrolysate seems to be calling a stir amongst those in the know.
Hydrolysate can literally be translated to mean “the product of hydrolysis”. Hydrolysis can best be described as the chemical process which allows a substance to be broken down into smaller units. Therefore, a protein hydrolysate is a mixture of amino acids that is typically prepared by breaking down a protein with acid, alkali or enzyme. The reason an original protein is broken down is to make it readily digestible and therefore easier for the body to absorb.
In order to grow muscle there must be a positive nitrogen (protein) balance. However, we are now aware that basic protein is not enough on its own. Scientific research has shown us that a high plasma amino acid level in itself is insufficient to actually promote protein synthesis. It also tells us that we need a fair level of amino acids when the metabolic process demands it the most. This is, of course, post workout and it is important to keep both the levels of amino acids and plasma insulin high. In theory, a protein which the body is able to absorb faster would be the most efficient form of amino acid after a workout.
Scientific studies carried out in 2009 proved that the ingestion of a protein hydrolysate is far more likely to accelerate protein digestion and the absorption in the gut, then a normal protein. In fact a hydrolysate can increase the rate at which dietary amino acids are incorporated into the skeletal muscle protein. During this study the main form of hydrolysate that was used was casein hydrolysate. It was proven that this form of protein managed to increase the levels of insulin, which in turn, will increase the rate of protein synthesis. Additionally this is a fantastic way of putting carbohydrates into the muscles. So it appears that casein hydrolysate is an easily digestible and absorbed protein, it is also able to increase insulin and therefore will increase the rate of protein synthesis.
Many people strongly believe that casein hydrolysate is far more effective than whey protein hydrolysate. The reason for this is that certain amino acids are glucogenic, which will mean that during the metabolic process they will be converted to glucose. This will actually explain why certain amino acids are related to the insulin response mentioned above. However, whey protein is known to be lower in certain amino acids such as arginine, glutamine and phenylalanine. These are three of the major glucogenic amino acids. Whereas, casein is known to have a high content of these amino acids as well as threonine, which would indicate that casein hydrolysate will be far more effective than whey.
Unfortunately, there are no relevant studies that can back up this theory. There is also no information that compares the digestion rates of casein hydrolysate and WPH. Therefore we can only assume that casein hydrolysate holds an advantage over WPH. Casein protein that has not been altered is ideal to drink as a night-time shake. This is due to the fact that it is very slow digested and absorbed into the body. The molecules of casein protein are known to sit in the stomach together for a long period of time, thus slowing down the rate of gastric emptying.
Casein hydrolysates are mainly derived from the casein protein’s that is found in a cow’s milk. You will find that a typically good casein hydrolysate will contain approximately 85% protein. Casein will usually undergo enzymatic hydrolysis and then the solution will be treated by heat. Following this the solution will be concentrated and then spray dried. All of this sounds scientifically feasible, but will using casein hydrolysate make any difference to your post workout nutrition? The main advantage of casein hydrolysate is that it allows you to make the most of your post workout nutrition as it also contains carbohydrates. This will directly increase your blood insulin levels which, as mentioned, can make a significant difference to you post workout. Many people consider casein hydrolysate to be the best of all post workout proteins. However, many of us are wary of spending vast amounts of money on supplements that may prove to be worthless. With that said, there is plenty of evidence to prove that casein hydrolysate is useful and therefore it can do no harm to form part of your post workout nutrition.