Protein powders and Supplements – do they work?

Protein powders were once predominantly in the domain of hardcore gym junkies. Now, various versions of protein powder are readily available for a variety of purposes, such as weight loss and to supplement your diet.

However, when are they really needed and under what circumstances will they work? Bust this myth and we’ll grant you this special badge to highlight your BS busting abilities.

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I doubt they are ever really needed! A balanced diet should provide what your body needs, perhaps with extra protein from the normal food sources if muscle building is required, or extra carbs and fat if you’re using a lot of energy for marathon length events. I know I certainly need to eat (and drink) a lot when doing 200+km cycle rides, but have never felt the need for protein powders!:mountain_biking_man: :mountain_biking_man: :mountain_biking_man:

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Agree with @gordon.

Only other comments are…

Any excess protein consumed would either be converted to fats in the body or excreted. There is evidence that the additional work required to process and excrete protein and its digested byproducts can cause kidney damage in the long term.

Any weight loss from high protein diets will be short term, and once a normal diets returns, so does the weight. Staying on the diet may cause long term complications like the above.

High protein diets are also known to cause one to have bad breath, constipation (due to lack of fibre intake) and dehydration.

The expansion of the potential protein powder consumers beyond weightlifting or athletes is possibly a way these companes to increase the demand for their products and hence their profits…this is especially the case in a saturated marketplace (for sports use)

Like many supplements, it is not needed, unless it is recommended by a doctor/medical practitioner for a particular condition…such as for elderly who may not be consuming enough in their diet and be suffering weight loss.

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Along with other supplements, protein powders are an essential part of corporate strategy to liberate funds from unsuspecting consumers wallets and purses and put them where they belong - with the shareholders and board …

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One take is that for 99% of Australians we already get more protein in our daily diet than the RDI. And for the more active, perhaps high performance amongst us given we typically consume twice the RDI of protein in a typical diet, the need for a protein supplement is minimal.


This article does suggest there may be a “convenience” factor for those in training, however excess consumption is also a risk factor, as is substitution of a supplement for a good diet.

A key significant observation is that sports persons should consult a sorts dietician and individuals medical expertise concerning higher levels of use or substitution (dieting).

For sports minded the AIS has an extensive resource at

Curiosity is what do our elite athletes have provided for their meals when in training camps? As individuals they may have their own supplies, but do the supporting experts put out tables of redbull, Gatorade, and protein shakes for 5 meals a day?

In days past if it was the Australian Cricket team, it may have been the sponsors favourite beverage. :joy:

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I track my nutrient intake (due to a health condition) and I average 2-times the recommended intake for protein. That’s without even trying. AND I describe myself as a ‘domestic vegetarian’ (= I eat meat occasionally, e.g at a friend’s house or a restaurant, but I’m vegetarian at home). So I reckon the average Aussie would be waaaay over the recommended intake for protein.
Watch any YouTube video about cheese-making you’ll understand why they want to sell whey. I’ve made cheese at home and you end up with SO MUCH whey. In videos, the professionals are in rubber boots, wading ankle-deep in whey that they just pour down the drains. So for them to discover a market for this waste product, they must be laughing all the way to the bank.
In my opinion if you’re eating a Western diet, extra protein is a complete waste of money.

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I have tried, and still use, protein shakes as a meal replacement for dieting purposes. Both my wife and I have tried numerous dieting strategies over time, and these protein shakes are quite effective as a means of losing weight. I find that if I have a shake to replace a meal, I do not feel the same hunger pangs and survive much more easily from mealtime to mealtime. I know they are maligned as a gimmick and many people do not feel they have value, but they can be quite useful as a weight loss strategy.

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I was advised by a dietician to use protein powder as a weight loss strategy as it produces a feeling of fullness when eating low calories. I still use it to make smoothies which keep me going from lunch to evening.

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More evidence that it does indeed work. When cleaning out after one of our fitness conscious young men moved out. We had at four part used large family sized buckets of the product left behind. All different! :smiley:

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Lol, I’m sorry, there’s some pretty bad stuff here…

I’m quite willing to dig out the studies but high protein diets beat everything else hands down. High carb, low carb, high fat, low fat, don’t care. Get your protein up and it will work. Protein shakes can be a part of this.

They are actually quite cheap ($30/kg) for Australian/NZ whey sold online; OK, you might call it a money making grab but it ain’t breaking the bank account.

Most serious coaches, athletes, etc. will advise that other protein sources are the first priority (meat, fish, eggs, beans) but hey, life happens. For those training at the edge, shakes around the workout window are proven effective.

Protein is the least likely energy source to be converted to fat; it’s a very inefficient process that wastes up to 25% of the caloric value (gluconeogenesis).

Kidney damage from high protein is an old wives tale that won’t die. Those with existing conditions don’t count.

Lol, the Conversation hatchet job didn’t really read the references they cite. From the ISSN:

  • When combined with a hyperenergetic diet and a heavy resistance-training program, protein supplementation may promote increases in skeletal muscle cross-sectional area and lean body mass.

  • When combined with a resistance-training program and a hypoenergetic diet, an elevated daily intake of protein (2 – 3× the RDA) can promote greater losses of fat mass and greater overall improvements in body composition.

Yeah, sounds terrible.

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Thanks everyone for the discussion here. We have an article on protein powders for different uses, and where they might be applicable. Make sure to check out the drop down boxes for more detailed info. We also have an article on high protein diets, although it is a little dated now.

@mountie, we appreciate hearing your perspective on this. As a advocate of a high protein diet, it would be interesting to see some sources on your reasoning if you have the time. We appreciate diets can be complex and that different people have varied experiences.

We encourage this discussion to continue, so we ask readers to please continue adding your thoughts and personal experiences.

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Hi Brendan, there’s quite a few, where to start…

This one’s recent (2017) and tested a whey protein breakfast in those with type II diabetes:

The results were basically phenomenal. Those on the high protein whey breakfast lost 7.6 kg compared to 3.5 kg on the high carb breakfast. And the whey breakfast also beat out the other high protein breakfast that excluded whey.

So that’s a decent one-two punch; high protein good, whey particularly good. Which goes to the heart of the initial post.

Only a small study sure; but I think you’d be hard pressed to ever find the opposite effect (i.e. high protein loses to anything else.) Maybe a larger meta-analysis for the next example.

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Thanks @mountie, interesting reading.

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While not perhaps what some see as a “high protein” diet, VLCD diets do work when used in conjunction with support from dietitians, psychologists, GP and or Endocrinologists. The higher protein intake they have compared to the carb amount is for two purposes mainly, one is to reduce hunger feelings as protein tends to make you feel satiated for longer than carb and stops or eases the insulin yo yo effect of high carb intake (yo yo effect increases hunger feelings). Number two is the amount of protein stops the body attacking it’s own muscle for energy and the body then relies on the fats stored in the body for the energy. Males are also more likely to require a higher protein intake than some of the VLCD products supply and may need to supplement with some additional lean protein eg chicken, fish, lean beef but this should be assessed by a dietitian skilled in the area. There is a limit to how much protein a person should consume a day and again this should be properly assessed and not self determined.

In my case it has led from a daily dose of long acting insulin in the area of 160 iu a day with 3 X 160 iu rapid acting down to about 5 iu long acting and 3 x 5 iu rapid and a great deal of weight loss. My Fatty Liver issue is almost eradicated as can be ascertained by the much reduced insulin intake. I also require regular blood tests to ensure that I don’t do damage to other organs while on the diet but I also am slowly moving to a more normal diet.

People who carry out these diets without proper help are also the ones who tend to regain weight after ceasing the high protein low carb diets. Keto diets as many call them are a useful tool but it also requires a person to alter their long term lifestyle habits so that the amount of energy from food consumed after the “dieting” ends is appropriate for the person and any underlying psychological issues are addressed so they don’t cause relapses.

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My son was recently gifted a protein food supplement as a Christmas present. I have at this stage managed to talk him out of using it, instead increasing his protein intake through real food, which provides obviously a lot more than just protein (Omega 3, vitamins, minerals, carbs etc)

My concerns are numerous, but there is one particular thing I wanted to share. My son thought this product was endorsed by Choice (’‘that magazine you read mum’’), because of the Choice tick on the back of the container. I informed him the tick on this particular label was something different. But I do wonder how many other people have thought similarly?

I know the use of these powdered food supplement’s is widespread, but it really concerns me that any supplement food shop owner, with no medical or dietetics background can give ‘‘advice’’ to people and encourage use of these money spinning products to people with little knowledge of what they really need if they wish to bulk up.

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Welcome to the Community @ToBeFair

I merged your post into this existing topic about such supplements.

Well done to recognise that form of misleading advertising/labelling and calling it out.

Well written and hopefully at least one reader will take it to heart.

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Welcome to the Forum, and thanks for highlighting this. What was the product, and can you post photos to show what you are talking about? [To attach a photo, use the 7th icon from the left - a rectangle with a mountain silhouette.]

[Edit: As a new member, you may not be permitted to post photos, so if it doesn’t work, that’s why.]

Was it the logo on the top left of this site: https://choice.wetestyoutrust.com/ ? @BrendanMays @jhook I think that the average person in the street may easily mistake this for ACA Choice endorsement as the word ‘Choice’ is predominantly standing alone under or beside the circle.

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Thanks for the heads up, I’ll raise this with the appropriate team. There are a few brands/organisations that also use Choice in their name, but just confirming this one is not one of ours

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I suspect this can be challenging to get ‘Choice’ trademarked as it is a common word in the English language and used widely in commercial applications.

Maybe Choice could tweak it to allow its protection. But, looks like others may have taken the obvious ones.

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Hi, The brand was Optimum Nutrition. Please see attached photo. Yes, the logo was the same as the link you posted. The product is now sitting obsolete in the garage, and my son is enjoying salmon, beef, chicken and legumes, available even during a global pandemic. We really are very fortunate in this country to have the quality of food available to meet our nutritional needs.

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