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Casein shake just before training doesn't work well

Casein shake just before training doesn't work well
Bodybuilders will get the most out of the milk protein casein if they take it in portions divided over the day. Using casein just before you train works less well. Finnish sports scientists at the University of Tartu came to this conclusion after doing a study of thirty young men aged between 18 and 19 who had not done weight training before.

Researchers and bodybuilding experts fight incessantly over the role of proteins in strength sports. A look on internet message boards will confirm this. Posters come to virtual blows during discussions on the amount of protein you need daily, good and less good proteins and the right time to take in proteins. One of the reasons that the arguments get out of hand is that the studies that have been done all come up with different conclusions.

The Finnish research, published recently in Nutrition Research, is no exception. The study contradicts previous studies which suggest that strength athletes will benefit most if they take their protein around the time that they train. In their experiment, the Finns gave their test subjects proteins – in the form of the protein powder Protec – in two different ways: a time-focused supplementation regimen or TFR [around the training time] and a time-divided supplementation regimen or TDR [as far as possible divided over the day]. The men trained from 4 o'clock to 5.30 in the afternoon.

Casein shake just before training doesn't work well

The researchers gave their subjects protein only – no carbohydrates or creatine. In many other studies, researchers used mixtures of nutrients. In total the test subjects got 70 g protein daily.

The subjects trained four times a week, and trained each muscle group twice.

Below you can see the effect of eight weeks of TFR and TDR on the subjects' fat-free mass and their 1RM for squats. Giving the protein around training time works less well than dividing it over the day.

Casein shake just before training doesn't work well

According to the researchers, their study means that the concept of consuming protein deliberately before training has been disproved.

We dare to disagree. The Finns used casein, a protein that the body cuts up slowly into separate amino acids. We reckon that the body needs four hours to cut up a portion of 35 g of casein. Even a fast protein like whey takes one and a half to two hours to be digested.

Digesting proteins costs energy, fluid and nutrients. The digestive organs get these from the blood. If you consume a hefty portion of slow protein just before and after a training session, it might just be that you actually decrease the supply of amino acids to your muscle cells. That's not beneficial, because during and just after a training muscle cells do best if they get an optimal supply of nutrients. Slow proteins, such as casein or boiled egg, are not suitable for time-focused supplementation. Fast proteins, such as those found in whey or soya, are suitable. And separate amino acids and small peptides are another story again. You can take these during the training.

Our theory: if the researchers had given their test subjects a portion of whey one and a half hours before the training session, they would have reached a different conclusion.

Nutr Res. 2009 Jun;29(6):405-13.

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