The What, Why And When Of Supplementing With Protein

By on April 27, 2015

Points Youll Takeaway

1 There are many different types of protein supplements; whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate, milk protein, casein, peptopro etc.

2 Protein has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, lean muscle mass, energy expenditure and satiety.

3 Protein requirements range from 1-1.5g/lb of lean body weight.

4 Simply put, if you are focusing on protein timing straight after your workout, before your daily calorie consumption and daily protein requirements you are missing the forest for the tress!


Proteins are molecules built up of long chains of amino acids, and the type of protein is dictated by the different combinations and sequences of amino acids. To build a protein, amino acids are connected into a long chain, this is known as the primary structure. The chain is then folded into a secondary, tertiary and quaternary structure forming a protein. The human body utilises 21 amino acids to make all the proteins it needs to function and grow.

There are certain amino acids known as essential amino acids, EAAs, which are essential because they cannot synthesised by the human body. Therefore it is essential that we get these in our diet.

Types of Protein Supplements

Whey Protein Concentrate 

Whey is one of the 2 proteins within milk, the other being casein. Whey is absorbed fastest compared to other forms of protein.

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey isolates contains a higher percentage of pure protein compared to whey protein concentrate and is virtually lactose, carbohydrate and fat free, making it more expensive.

Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Whey protein contains the intact long chains of amino acids which then have to be broken down in the body through digestion to be utilised. However, to reduce the size of the chains, manufacturers of supplements have now used enzymes to break the bonds between select amino acid sequences to yield smaller chains that your body can use. This leads to this type of whey being labelled as pre-digest”, and digestion occurring faster compared to the intact whey protein.


The other part of milk is casein. It is different to whey due to its absorption rate as it forms a gel in the stomach slowing down absorption. This makes it attractive to individuals who cannot eat for several hours or those looking for a pre bed supplement due to absorption lasting over a longer period.


Very similar to whey protein hydrolysate, PeptoPro® is unique in being a pre-digested milk protein, derived from casein, rather than whey.


1 Increased lean tissue

Eating protein stimulates an increase in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and suppresses protein breakdown. It is the balance between synthesis and breakdown which will determine if lean muscle mass will increase or decrease.

The body is constantly turning over (building and degrading) protein and if your goal is to increase or preserve lean muscle mass, then you want to provide your body with sufficient amino acids to allow protein synthesis.

Many studies have shown supplementing with protein to increase both MPS and subsequently muscle mass. (1-4)

2 Lowered risk of injury

An increase in protein in your diet can help increase lean tissue, and can result in stronger and better protected joints, ligaments and bones lowering your risk of injury.

3 Alterations in Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Protein has been shown to affect your total daily expenditure. Total daily energy expenditure is made of 4 components; basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of food (TEF,) non-exercise activity thermogenesis and physical activity.

Protein has been shown to have a higher thermic effect, the amount of energy lost through digestion, compared to carbohydrates and fat. (5) Along with stimulating the increase in lean body mass, which contributes to a slight increase in metabolism. So it can obviously increase your total energy expenditure.

An experiment carried out to show the effect protein has on energy expenditure when overfeeding in a metabolic chamber. (6) Diets all consisted of +40% calorie surplus from either from 5%, 15%, or 25% protein for 56 days with constant carb intake. Results showed that a lower protein diet did not acutely increase 24hr energy expenditure, but it slowly raised as body weight increased. Excess energy from a high protein intake acutely (short term) stimulated 24hr energy expenditure to a far higher degree. This is more proof that protein can affect your energy expenditure.

4 Increased Satiety

Satiety is the feeling of feeling full after eating and protein has increased satiety more than the other macronutrients (7-8.) This is not to say carbs and fat do not make you feel full as everyone feels different after mixed meals, but protein rich diets are often good for weight loss due to increased satiety.


The amount of protein an individual requires per day will depend on their weight, goals, training, and muscle mass etc. For example, someone looking to build muscle may require less protein than someone dieting on low calories, who needs to preserve as much muscle as possible.

Whenever you are looking to supplement your diet remember supplements shouldnt be your first port of call. They are to be used in addition to your diet and not take priority over consuming a diet mainly filled of nutritious minimally processed foods.

Always ask yourself

1 Are you eating a diet that is not causing excessive fat gain?

2 Eating a sufficient amount of calories to support your goal?

3 Are you eating sufficient amounts of fruit and veg?

4 Getting adequate fibre?

5 Drinking enough water?

6 Getting sufficient amounts of protein and essential fatty acids?

How To Calculate Your Protein Requirements

Unless calories are dropping very low, protein will remain constant throughout your dieting/gaining phase and should stay in the range of 1-1.5g/lb of lean body weight (9.)

How do you know you lean body weight?

The easiest is an estimate, but do not sweat it. Going off total body weight will not have huge implications.

Is it essential to be having a protein shake straight after your workout?

Now there is no strong evidence that consuming protein and carbs (an hour) either side of the workout is nonessential or damaging (10.) So if you are a professional athlete/bodybuilder and want to try and eek out that last 1-2% of strength or hypertrophy it may be beneficial to get a protein hit very close to the workout, but there is no need to stress over it for the nonprofessional athlete. You have longer than you think to consume your protein post workout. As long as a pre and post workout meal/shake (consisting of good amounts of protein and carbs) is consumed within 2 hours on both sides of your training, then you will be reaping the benefits and progressing.

Simply put, if you are focusing on protein timing straight after your workout, before your daily calorie consumption and daily protein requirements you are missing the forest for the tress! This has been well investigated by Alan Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld and James Krieger (11,) who concluded that if you are eating sufficient calories and macronutrients (pro, carbs, fats) to maximise your goals, then you are more than likely going to spend the majority of your day in a fed state (~4 meals/day) maximising muscle protein synthesis without worrying about protein timing per say.

So should I be getting a protein hit every 2, 3, 4 hours?

A recent study showed that, on average, 24 hour protein synthesis rates are about 25% higher if you space your protein intake out throughout the day, rather than eating the majority of it in one meal (12.) However, on the flip side research has also shown no difference between unevenly spreading your protein out compared to evenly spreading your protein over the day. (13)

Therefore worry about hitting your total protein, and calories, for the day first as it has a greater impact on muscle growth and fat loss, than protein timing does. Supplementing with protein can be very useful for hitting your daily protein target. If you are hitting daily protein targets through diet alone, supplementation is not needed. It only becomes essential when someone is struggling to eat enough protein, loves a protein shake so much it helps with diet adherence or for someone travelling/working a lot and a whey protein shake is convenient to them.

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1 Reitelseder S1,Agergaard J,Doessing S, Helmark IC, Lund P, Kristensen NB, Frystyk J, Flyvbjerg A, Schjerling P, van Hall G, Kjaer M, Holm L. Whey and casein labeled with L-[1-13C]leucine and muscle protein synthesis: effect of resistance exercise and protein ingestion. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jan;300(1):E231-42

2 Tipton KD1,Elliott TA,Cree MG, Wolf SE, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR.Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Dec;36(12):2073-81.

3 Kerksick CM1,Rasmussen CJ,Lancaster SL, Magu B, Smith P, Melton C, Greenwood M, Almada AL, Earnest CP, Kreider RB. The effects of protein and amino acid supplementation on performance and training adaptations during ten weeks of resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Aug;20(3):643-53.

4 Andersen LL1,Tufekovic G,Zebis MK, Crameri RM, Verlaan G, Kjaer M, Suetta C, Magnusson P, Aagaard P.The effect of resistance training combined with timed ingestion of protein on muscle fiber size and muscle strength. Metabolism. 2005 Feb;54(2):151-6.

5 Jéquier E1. Pathways to obesity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord.2002 Sep;26 Suppl 2:S12-7

6 George A Bray,Leanne Redman,Lilian de Jonge, Jeffrey Covington,Jennifer Rood, Courtney Brock, Susan Mancuso, Corby K Martin, and Steven R Smith. Effect of protein overfeeding on energy expenditure measured in a metabolic chamber. Am J Clin Nutr March 2015 ajcn.091769.

7 Halton TL1,Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr.2004 Oct;23(5):373-85.

8 Arne Astrup. The satiating power of proteina key to obesity prevention? Am J Clin NutrJuly 2005vol. 82 no. 1 1-2

9 Eric R Helms,Alan A Aragonand Peter J Fitschen. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2014, 11:20

10 Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Dec 3;10(1):53.

11 Alan Albert Aragon and Brad Jon Schoenfeld. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:

12 Madonna M. Mamerow,Joni A. Mettler, Kirk L. English, Shanon L. Casperson, Emily Arentson-Lantz4, Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Donald K. Layman, and Douglas Paddon-Jones Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. J. Nutr. January 29, 2014 jn.113.

13 Adechian S, et al. Protein feeding pattern, casein feeing or milk soluble protein feeding did not change the evolution of the body composition during a short-term weight loss program. Am J Physiol Endocrine Matab. 2012 Aug 14.

Scott Edmed

About Scott Edmed

I am currently serving the Royal Air Force as a pilot with a huge passion for nutrition and training, having competed in physique competitions and playing rugby and cricket for the RAF.