What you need to know about protein supplements


The fixation on protein supplements – particularly powdered drinks or ‘shakes’ –  continues to grow in the world of health, yet an internet search will provide plenty of opinions but no clarity to one simple question; are they good or bad for you?

Read on for our advice when it comes to protein.

cardiac rehabilitation, clinical exercise


Useful facts about protein

  • It is made up of chains of amino acids
  • It is the basis for muscle growth and repair
  • It is especially important for building strength and lean muscle. Lean muscle uses oxygen more efficiently, keeping your heart well-fed
  • The body cannot store excess protein, so it is converted to fat and/or excreted as amino acid
  • The creation of protein supplements came about when bodybuilders wanted large protein hits quickly after intensive workouts
  • We recommend protein being 25% of overall food intake


When it comes to nutrition, it’s important to know the facts so below we offer our professional advice on some of the many myths surrounding protein supplements:


+ Scientific data

Numerous peer reviewed scientific journals have studied whether protein supplements result in an increase in lean mass and muscular strength, and the consensus is that there is a strong relationship. Papers have established that whey and casein protein are the most effective when compared to a placebo, giving credence to the claims that protein supplements help develop lean muscle.


+ Quality

If you are looking to try protein supplements, these are the key features to look out for to ensure you buy a quality product.

  • Whey and casein protein types are recommended.
  • A supplement containing no more than 25g protein is sufficient.
  • Supplements containing other substances, such as creatine, arenot necessary.

These are the brands which we would recommend:

Proteinworks – https://www.theproteinworks.com/whey-protein-360 

Myprotein – https://www.myprotein.com/sports-nutrition/impact-whey-protein/10530943.html


+ Convenience

The major benefit of protein supplements is speed and convenience. Regular protein intake is important, and if you are unable to prepare a ‘proper’ meal due to time constraints, we recommend a high-quality protein supplement as opposed to not eating at all.


+ Protein supplements vs. food

The primary reason protein supplements work to help build muscle is the amino acid content – protein is made of amino acids; yet regular food contains the very same amino acids. In fact, some protein supplements do not contain the full amino acid profile required for the human body, whereas regular protein-rich food (e.g. eggs) contains all nine essential amino acids, and even some non-essential amino acids.

Regular food also contains other nutritional groups and bioactive ingredients along with protein that are impossible to replicate in protein supplements.


Caution: Not all supplements contain all amino acid groups required for dietary needs. The take home message is you can’t beat real protein-rich whole foods which provide a comprehensive range of nutritional benefits.


-Instant protein isn’t necessary

There is a myth of a ‘golden window’ immediately after exercise where it is most beneficial to intake protein for maximal lean muscle development.

However scientific consensus has found the most important factor is regular protein consumption and appropriate total dosage throughout the day. This means, whilst protein supplements are convenient for speed, they are not beneficial over a meal containing whole foods which takes 1-2 hours to make. Plus, a cooked meal is likely to taste better!


Our take-home message: If the option arises, protein supplements should not replace whole foods, which have adequate amino acids and multiple other nutritional benefits.

Our recommendation would be to aim to have a palm sized portion of protein at every main meal.

Make sure your diet includes protein-rich whole foods such as:

  • Eggs
  • White meat
  • Beans
  • Fish


If you are interested to learn more ask your CES in your next session and they will be able to give you some additional information or guide you to more literature on the subject.




Per meal dose and frequency of protein consumption is associated with lean mass and muscle performance. Lenneke et al. 2016.

NHS. Bodybuilding and sports supplements.