For athletes protein is a key factor in building and repairing muscle. Athletes require more protein then the average person because of the need to rebuild muscle fibers after intense training and exercise.
People often ask me what the best source of protein is, Casein or Whey protein. To be honest there is no best choice, you really should be incorporating both into your diet.
Whey protein will always be supplement number one in my book. If you haven’t already been consuming this protein then go out and buy yourself a protein isolate. Whey protein isolate is the ultimate protein in terms of bioavailability and content of essential amino acids which an athlete needs to promote a healthy body and maintain muscle mass. You have a 30 minute window of opportunity to feed your muscles after your workout to prevent catabolism (the break down of muscle for energy). Food will not digest in time to feed your muscles so you must consume a fast dissolving protein such as Whey.
For athletes on an INTENSE training schedule I recommend consuming up to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight (212.5 grams of protein a day for a person weighing in at 170lbs). At this level of consumption I recommend three Whey protein shakes that are spread evenly through out the day to allow for efficient assimilation. The rest of your protein intake will be coming from your meals of course.
Now… what to do when you know your going to miss a meal or before going to sleep. This is where Casein protein comes into play. Casein is a protein that is derived from milk. Many people call it the “night time protein”. Unlike Whey, Casein is digested more slowly by the body and provides a steady stream of amino acids long after Whey has dropped off. It will take 4-6 hours to be fully metabolized by the body. Due to its high glutamine content this protein will help athletes preserve there muscle mass and aid immune system function.
I recommend anywhere between 30-50 grams of Casein protein before bed, or anytime throughout the day when there will be prolonged time between meals.