The 5 Best Casein Protein Powders of 2022, According to a Registered Dietitian

Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein has 25 g of protein and 60% of daily calcium

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Casein is a high-quality protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Casein is digested and absorbed much more slowly than other types of protein. Because of the extended absorption time, casein may be an effective tool to facilitate muscle recovery when taken right before sleep. Additionally, a serving of casein protein powder provides around 50% of your daily calcium needs, compared to just 10% in whey protein. When purchasing a casein protein powder, look at the ingredients list, how much protein it provides, and if the product has been third-party tested.

Protein is a macronutrient required to build and repair muscle and tissues. It is found in every cell of the body and acts as the building blocks for our muscles, bones, cartilage, and more. Protein is found in a wide range of foods, including animal products like meat, fish, and dairy, and plant-based foods such as beans, legumes, and whole grains.

It is best to meet your protein needs through your diet, but if you have difficulty doing so, you may benefit from supplementation with a protein powder. There are several types of protein powder on the shelves, but milk-derived proteins casein and whey remain two of the most popular and widely available. 

VeryWell Fit Approved

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Is a Casein Protein Powder Supplement Beneficial?

Protein needs vary based on a number of factors, including age, gender, activity level, and health status. However, most Americans get adequate protein through diet alone—which looks like 46-56 grams of protein per day, or about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Those who benefit from casein protein powder may include the following:

  • Athletes: Many athletes need more protein than the average person due to their high activity level. The additional protein in an athlete’s diet helps support muscle growth and recovery. Because of this, athletes are the main group of people who may benefit from taking a casein protein powder supplement if they cannot get enough protein in their diet.
  • Those who prefer protein supplements later in the day: Research shows that consuming milk-based protein after a workout can help promote muscle growth and recovery. Whey protein may be a better option if you want to take your protein supplement right before or after a workout since it gets broken down and absorbed faster than casein. If you prefer to have your protein supplement later in the day or before bedtime, we recommend opting for casein due to its slow absorption rate.

Who May Not Benefit from Casein Protein Powder

These groups may not benefit from taking a casein protein supplement:

  • Healthy adults meeting their protein needs through diet: For the average person who is meeting their protein needs with food, a protein powder supplement is not necessary and won’t provide noticeable benefits.
  • People on protein-restricted diets: There are certain medical conditions that require a person to eat a low protein diet, including chronic kidney disease and inherited metabolic disorders like phenylketonuria, homocystinuria, maple syrup urine disease, and tyrosinemia. If you need to limit protein in your diet, you should avoid using protein powder in general.
  • Older adults: As we get older, we naturally lose muscle mass and strength. One way to combat this is by increasing protein intake as we age, which is particularly effective when combined with resistance training. When it comes to protein supplementation for older adults, faster absorbing protein sources (like whey protein) may promote muscle growth more effectively than casein, a slow absorbing protein. For this reason, we recommend whey over casein for older adults. You may find it helpful to explore our roundup of the best whey protein powders.
  • People with a milk allergy: A milk allergy is an immune system reaction to milk proteins and is treated by avoiding milk and products that contain milk proteins. Since casein is one of the main proteins in milk, those with a milk allergy should avoid using casein protein powder. 
  • People on a vegan diet: Casein is an animal-based protein, so it does not fit into a vegan diet. If you are following a vegan diet, choose one of the many types of vegan protein powders instead of casein protein.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body is unable to break down the sugar in milk, known as lactose. This can cause stomach cramping, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Casein is a milk protein rather than a milk sugar, and casein protein powders contain varying amounts of lactose. Depending on your level of lactose sensitivity, casein protein could cause stomach discomfort. If you are lactose intolerant, look for a casein protein powder that is labeled lactose free.

Best Overall: Ascent Native Fuel Chocolate Micellar Casein Protein Powder

Ascent Native Fuel

Amazon

Pros
  • Informed Choice certified

  • No added sugar, sugar alcohols, or artificial sweeteners

  • Certified gluten free

  • 60% daily value of calcium

Cons
  • Not third-party certified


With its minimal ingredient list, our top choice casein protein powder is Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein Protein Powder. This supplement is Informed Choice certified, ensuring it does not contain any unsafe or banned substances in sports, making it a great choice for athletes. However, it is not third-party tested to ensure it contains the amounts of ingredients listed on the label.

Each serving provides 130 calories, 60% Daily Value (DV) calcium, and 25 grams of casein protein which includes 11 grams of naturally occurring branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These essential amino acids reduce muscle soreness after a workout. There are also 140 milligrams of sodium per serving which may be helpful to athletes for replacing electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise.

This powder contains zero artificial ingredients, added sugar, or sugar alcohols and is certified gluten-free. Besides chocolate, Native Fuel also has micellar casein protein powder in chocolate, peanut butter, or vanilla flavors.

Price at time of publication: $38 for 2 pounds ($1.51 per serving)

Serving Size: 1 scoop | Protein per serving: 25 grams | Additives: Natural flavors, guar, acacia, and xanthan gums, stevia leaf extract | Calcium per serving: 60% Daily Value (DV)


Best Unflavored: Now Foods Micellar Casein Unlfavored Powder

Now Foods Micellar Casein Unflavored Powder

Amazon

Pros
  • Informed Sport certified

  • Unflavored powder is versatile

  • No added sweeteners

  • Budget friendly

Cons
  • Lower protein and calcium content per serving

NOW Sports Nutrition Micellar Casein is about as good as it gets if you prefer a simple and unflavored protein powder. This protein powder contains just micellar casein protein and sunflower lecithin, which acts as a preservative and emulsifier to reduce clumping. 

We love that this protein powder is a budget-friendly option and is Informed Sport Certified. This ensures it is not contaminated with banned substances for sport, making it an excellent option for athletes. While NOW is not third-party tested, they do thorough in-house testing on all raw ingredients to finished products.

This unflavored protein powder mixes easily into water or can blend into a smoothie. One serving provides 19 grams of protein and just 90 calories and has 25% of your daily calcium needs.

Price at time of publication: $28 for 1.8 pounds ($0.82 per serving)

Serving Size: 1 level scoop | Protein per serving: 19 grams | Additives: Sunflower lecithin | Calcium per serving: 25% DV


Best Budget: Dymatize Elite Casein Chocolate Protein Powder

Pros
  • Large container with many servings

  • Informed Choice certified

  • ConsumerLab approved

Cons
  • Has artificial sweeteners

  • Longer ingredient list

If you are looking for a casein protein powder that is priced well, try Dymatize Elite Chocolate Casein Protein Powder. The large 4-pound canister contains 50 servings, costing less than a dollar per serving. The larger canister size may be most convenient for those who regularly take casein protein.

We like that Dymatize is Informed Choice certified making it a good choice for athletes. This casein protein powder is also an approved choice from ConsumerLab.

One serving provides 25 grams of protein, 130 calories, and 45% Daily Value of calcium. While it has zero grams of sugar per serving, this casein protein does have artificial sweeteners and a longer ingredient list compared to other casein protein powders. Besides vanilla and chocolate, Dymatize's unique casein flavors like cinnamon bun and cookies and cream may be a refreshing change of flavor.

Price at time of publication: $46 for 4 pounds ($0.91 per serving)

Serving Size: 2 scoops | Protein per serving: 25 grams | Additives: Sunflower oil, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, sodium citrate, tricalcium phosphate, natural flavors, salt, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, potassium chloride, cellulose gum, xanthan gum, sunflower lecithin | Calcium per serving: 45% Daily Value (DV)

Best Lactose Free: Vital Performance Vanilla Protein Powder

Vital Performance Protein Vanilla

Amazon

Pros
  • Source of collagen

  • Lactose free

  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • Informed Sport Certified

Cons
  • Calcium amount not listed

  • 5 grams of sugar per serving

  • Not suitable for those with a whey allergy

If you are looking for a lactose-free casein powder, Vital Performance Protein Powder is a solid option. Even though it is lactose-free, it is made from milk protein isolate, which is about 80% casein and 20% whey. In addition, it contains 10 grams of grass-fed collagen protein.

This protein powder is also ideal for athletes, as it is both NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Sport Certified, meaning each batch is tested for banned substances.

A serving of Vital Performance Protein Powder has 130 calories, 25 total grams of protein, with 10 grams of protein coming from collagen and 5 grams of BCAAs. It has no artificial ingredients and is sweetened with stevia leaf Reb M and monk fruit extract. Other lactose-free flavor choices besides vanilla include chocolate, strawberry, and coffee.

With five grams of sugar per serving, it is on the higher end of sugar compared to other casein protein powders. While casein protein is usually high in calcium, the exact amount of calcium per serving is unfortunately not listed.

Price at time of publication: $25 for 1.68 pounds ($1.21 per serving)

Serving Size: 2 scoops | Protein per serving: 25 grams | Additives: Tapioca dextrose, natural flavors, MCT oil, sunflower lecithin, stevia leaf Reb M, monk fruit extract | Calcium per serving: N/A

Best Grass Fed: Legion Casein+ Chocolate Pure Micellar Casein Protein Powder

Legin Casein + Protein

Walmart

Pros
  • Certified Grass-Fed

  • High in calcium

  • Zero added sugar or artificial ingredients

Cons
  • Expensive

If you are looking for a grass-fed sourced casein protein, Legion Casein+ could be a good option. We like that this protein powder is made from certified grass-fed dairy and in an NSF-registered facility. The milk used to make Casein+ comes from small, sustainable dairy farms in Ireland that do not use hormones or antibiotics for their cows. Legion states it does third-party testing for microbes, allergens, and contaminants, but there is no further information for these tests. There is also no third-party testing for the ingredient amounts on the label.

You can pick three other flavors besides chocolate for Legion Casein+: Vanilla, Strawberry, or Banana Cream Pie. In addition to casein protein, each flavor has just a handful of other ingredients and nothing artificial. 

The chocolate casein protein powder is slightly lower in carbohydrates than others on the market, with just three grams of carbohydrates per serving. Each serving provides 110 calories, 26 grams of protein, and a whopping 60% DV of your daily calcium needs. 

Price at time of publication: $60 for 2.24 pounds ($1.99 per serving)

Serving Size: 1 rounded scoop | Protein per serving: 26 grams | Additives: Natural flavor, sea salt, stevia leaf extract | Calcium per serving: 60% DV


How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent third-party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. When relevant, we also prioritize non-GMO, organic, and products free of unnecessary and potentially harmful additives. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look For in Casein Protein Powders

Third Party Testing

 Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  • Third-party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  • Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  • The third-party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  • Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  • Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Most protein powders naturally contain heavy metals in trace amounts, and consumers have expressed concern about heavy metal contamination when using these supplements. However, a recent study shows that consuming one to three servings of protein powder per day is unlikely to cause adverse health effects.

Heavy metal contamination is only a concern if the amount ingested is over a certain limit. It’s helpful to note that many foods in our diet naturally contain heavy metals that we consume every day at safe levels. A casein protein that has been third-party tested helps ensure heavy metals do not exceed the FDA-established levels for contamination.

Form

You might have noticed that four of the five recommended products on this list are made with “micellar” casein. This means that the milk used to make it has been microfiltered, which leads to a better-tasting product with a more pleasant consistency. Most casein protein powders are made with micellar casein because of this, so you get a more palatable product for protein shakes, smoothies, and more.

Ingredients and Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Because casein is a milk product, you should avoid it if you have a milk allergy.

Dosage

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for an average adult is 0.8 grams of protein per day per kilogram of body weight or about 46 grams of protein per day for women and 56 grams of protein a day for men. Research shows that Americans, on average, are getting more than enough protein in their diets—women are getting about 69 grams a day, and men are getting 100 grams a day, on average.

Though people meet their protein needs through food alone, individual needs vary based on different factors. Casein protein powder can help supplement your protein intake if you find it difficult to meet your protein requirements through your diet.

How Much is Too Much?

There is no Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) for protein intake. The risk appears to be very low for consuming excess protein from food. But with such limited data to show any adverse effects of a high protein diet from food and supplements, it is not recommended to consume more than the recommended range of protein for the average person.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can I make using casein protein powder?

    Casein can be used like other protein powders to make protein shakes when mixed with water or milk. It will also blend well into smoothies. 

    Casein protein powder is quite absorbent and thickens when mixed with liquid to make a thick protein pudding. Because casein is so absorbent, it isn’t the best protein powder to bake with. It will work best for no-bake options like shakes, protein pudding, yogurt, or overnight oats.

  • What are the benefits of using casein protein powder over other options?

    Since casein is a milk protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids—this makes it a higher quality protein source than some incomplete proteins like rice protein powder. It’s also an excellent source of calcium, an important mineral for bone and teeth health, muscle and nerve functioning, and more.

    Compared to whey protein, casein is digested and absorbed much more slowly. This “makes it an optimal choice for post-exercise muscle recovery. Consuming casein protein at night before sleep helps the muscles recover from an intense workout and be better prepared for a workout the following day” says Registered Dietitian and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist DJ Mazzoni, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS.

  • What are the drawbacks of using casein protein powder over other options?

    The choice to use casein protein powder over other options mostly comes down to the timing and when you plan to use the protein powder. For the same reason that casein is a slow digesting protein, “it's a suboptimal choice for pre-workout or mid-workout protein supplementation. It won't be metabolized as quickly as other types of protein like whey, and won't be able to deliver nutrition that enhances workouts as optimally as other types of protein,” says Mazzoni.

  • How do whey protein powder and casein protein powder compare?

    Aside from the major difference in the time it takes to digest and absorb them, casein and whey protein are relatively similar from a nutritional standpoint. When it comes to macronutrients, casein and whey protein do not differ a whole lot. A standard serving of each provides about 25 grams of protein, less than 5 grams of carbohydrate, and about 1 gram of fat.

    Casein protein powder does have significantly more calcium than whey protein—it provides about 50% of your daily calcium needs compared to about 10% in whey protein. 

    Another difference is that whey protein has more BCAAs than casein does. These essential amino acids are especially important for muscle recovery after a workout, so whey protein has a slight advantage over casein in that aspect.

  • Is casein protein powder better than vegan protein powder?

    This depends largely on the type of vegan protein powder and what you want from a protein powder. If the vegan protein powder you use is a complete protein source with all nine essential amino acids, it will be of a similar quality to casein protein powder.

    Similar to whey protein, vegan protein powders are digested and absorbed more quickly than casein. So vegan protein powder may provide some advantage over casein if you plan to use it pre-, mid-, or directly post-workout.

  • How expensive is casein?

    Casein protein powder pricing can fluctuate based on the global supply and cost of milk. As milk pricing increases, the cost of casein protein can increase. Currently, a general range of cost per serving for casein protein powder can be around $0.90 per serving to $2 per serving.

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