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Protein supplements: proven or pointless?

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Protein supplements: proven or pointless?

Protein powders are the most common nutrition supplements used. They are popular with athletes and frequently used by people wishing to alter body composition, particularly those wanting to build muscle mass.

What is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient. This means it is a major nutrient that provides a source of energy, which is measured in kilojoules. However, the most important role of protein is to help build and repair body issues, especially muscle. Protein is also essential for the production of important hormones and enzymes and protein molecules in the blood help maintain fluid balance.

Protein is made up of chains of molecules called amino acids. Humans need 21 amino acids for proper growth and functioning. Nine of these amino acids are classified as ‘essential’ meaning that the body cannot produce them and they need to be obtained from food.

Foods that contain protein include:

  • Meat i.e. chicken, beef, lamb, pork
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Legumes i.e. chickpeas, beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy i.e. milk, cheese and yoghurt

What are protein supplements?

Protein supplements can come in many forms, including powders, premade shakes and bars. Increasingly, packaged foods are also being fortified with protein, At the supermarket, everything from yoghurts, to muesli bars, flavoured milks and breakfast cereal might claim to be high in protein. Protein powders can come with instructions to mix them into a shakes or added to any part of a meal or snack of your choosing.

However, not all protein powders are created equal! Most protein powders are made from dairy protein. The two main proteins in dairy are casein and whey (remember curds and whey!?). The difference in regard to protein supplementation is in digestion and absorption. Whey protein is more biologically available and therefore digested and absorbed more rapidly, making it a preferred choice for use. It is also easy to manufacture and produce, as it is a waste product from cheese production.

But, there are also differences between whey proteins. Whey protein concentrate contains between 30-80% protein depending on the product. This means it has a high content of fat, lactose, and energy.Whey protein isolate has >90% protein with <10% fat and lactose, making it a purer and lower energy choice.


  • Protein supplements can be a convenient way to include protein in your diet if you struggle to meet your requirements through food alone. For example, people who are vegetarian or vegan, or athletes such as bodybuilders who have increased protein requirements.
  • Protein supplements can be convenient if you have a tight schedule, for example, heading straight to work from the gym, or for after a workout where you may not feel like consuming a meal.
  • May be a convenient way to supplement a meal that otherwise would be low in protein.


  • Protein supplements only contain protein, whereas food sources of protein (such as meat, fish and nuts) are rich sources of protein and can contains other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iron, folate, zinc, magnesium, calcium and fibre.
  • Given the lack of other nutrients in protein supplements, there is no additional benefit to consuming protein supplements instead of food.
  • Depending on which products you purchase, protein supplements can be lot more expensive than food sources of protein.

The bottom line

Protein supplements can be useful for some individuals in specific situations who may otherwise struggle to meet their protein requirements. However, for most people eating a healthy diet will provide adequate amounts of protein. If you are concerned about your protein intake or feel as though you may require supplementation, it is best to speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian to assess your individual needs and requirements.

Your Personal Healthy Eating Quiz

What you eat or don’t eat affects how you look, feel and perform. Take our short quiz to find out what foods you could introduce to help you be your best.

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What is healthy eating?

Eating healthy is making sure you enjoy a wide variety of foods from each of the five major food groups daily, in the amounts recommended. The five major food groups as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating are:

  1. vegetables and legumes/bean
  2. fruit
  3. lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans
  4. grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
  5. milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat.

Foods are grouped together because they provide similar amounts of key nutrients and eating a variety of foods from the list above helps to promote good health and reduce the risk of disease.

How do I improve my diet?

If you want to improve your diet you have come to the right place. By completing the Healthy Eating Quiz you’ll receive instant personalised feedback and a report on your diet quality to highlight any areas where you can improve your overall eating habits. Your score is based on the frequency and variety of the foods consumed from the five major food groups mentioned above. No Money No Time can help you improve your score by providing tips, goals and suggestions. On top of this we will provide quick, cheap and healthy recipes as well as credible answers to diet hacks, myths and FAQ’s.

Is my diet healthy?

Dietary habits are different between people. Some people choose to follow a particular diet (i.e., Keto diet or vegan diet) while some have to make changes due to certain food restrictions or health conditions. If you want to know if what you usually eat is healthy, then do the Healthy Eating Quiz today to give you the answers in less than 10 minutes.

Why is healthy eating important?

Your HEQ score and personalised feedback report is based on the frequency and variety of healthy core foods you usually eat. This is important because no single food contains all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Some foods are higher in nutrients than others and people who have a lot of variety in the foods they eat are more likely to be healthy and to stay healthy. In other words, if you can eat a large variety of vegetables as opposed to only 2-3 types of vegetables, the benefits are much greater. This type of diet also helps you to feel better, think better and perform better during your usual daily activities.

Take the Healthy Eating Quiz