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High Protein Foods Vs Protein Supplements

Protein is currently hot, hot, hot!

High protein products are everywhere – even in the local supermarket! We’re bombarded by protein products – there’s even high protein coffee! It’s like every product has now been fortified to jump on the protein bandwagon!

With all these protein-fortified products now available, you can get caught up thinking you need extra protein in your diet. It seems high protein products and supplements are no longer just for athletes and gym-goers, but for the masses, regardless of necessity or requirements. ​

As a Sports Dietitian, I wouldn’t routinely recommend supplements to those under 18yrs old, but with all these fortified products, are parents routinely buying them for their kids and therefore exceeding their protein requirements?

On the flip-side, are sports people and athletes worried about consuming these fortified foods, in terms of Informed Sport and anti-doping?


At Tesco’s there are 122 items listed under “Sports Nutrition” and 38 “Protein Powders”. Sainsbury’s stock 10 protein powders, 48 protein bars, and Morrison’s list 34 protein bars. Even Lidl has a dedicated sports nutrition section.

Within these supermarket listed products, there is a mix of sports nutrition brands that gym enthusiasts and sports people will no doubt be familiar with, everyday brands such as Weetabix and Kellogg’s, and a whole range of new brands and products, such as Getbuzzing protein bars and MissFits Nutrition protein wonderballs.

It appears food brands and supermarkets are all jumping on this protein bandwagon! ​​

For certain people such as athletes, military personnel, those who undertake frequent exercise or following a vegetarian or vegan diet may particularly feel it necessary to add in additional protein to their diet.

Supplements can be an easy way to add protein and there are vegetarian and vegan options available too.

With all the new cheap supplements available, are they quality and from a reputable source? – you’d like to think so, but best to choose “Food First” approach and if required, use only Informed Sport batch tested products.

There are pros and cons to both the “Food First” approach and to taking supplements, but it is down to the individual to weigh up their own personal pros and cons before diving in and buying supplements. See also my previous blog Nutritional Exercise Supplements.

Pros and Cons of supplements and the “Food First” approach

After a heavy exercise session, some people find their appetite can decline, so supplements can be useful, but for those who can tolerate regular scran could try foods such as beef/chicken/salmon jerky or Biltong or flavoured (no drain) tuna pots…

Check out 10 Protein-Packed Snacks blog for a few ideas which you can adapt to your needs and taste).

Pros and cons of using food for meeting protein needs

Pros and cons of using food for meeting protein needs

Jerky and Biltong are high in salt and therefore should be limited in the diet, although there are lower salt versions. However, if you sweat a lot, eating salty foods can help replace losses, as well as benefit in a rehydration strategy (- a Sports Dietitian can help you work out your fluid requirements and a suitable strategy).

Fortify your foods and drinks

To increase the protein content of your food and drinks, you could fortify them with skimmed milk powder. Milk powder usually contains added vitamins A and D; is relatively cheap; available as skimmed or whole/full fat milk, so you could add additional calories to your diet if needed; and doesn’t really add volume to your food/drink.

Supplements should only be taken when there is minimal risk to health and performance, and they cannot replace a poor diet (IOC, 2017)

Supplements can’t replace a poor diet

To Supplement or Not?

  1. Get your diet sorted first before thinking about supplements
  2. Go for the “Food First” approach initially, then review and if extra nutrition required:
    • You could fortify your foods and drinks to add extra protein/calories/carbs/overall nutrition
  3. Do you really need supplements? Assess needs, benefit, risk, if batch tested and cost of supplements before diving in to buy
  4. Check out: SENr Position Statement on supplements
  5. Do you really need to buy protein fortified brands of regular foods at extra cost?… do you really need to buy high protein bread, high protein bagels, cheese, cottage cheese, pasta, chocolate bars, oats, cereal bars, etc., especially when the average person exceeds the amount of protein they require!
  6. Eatwell Guide – if you’re concerned you’re not getting the right amount of protein (or worried if your diet suits your health and exercise needs – seek support from a Dietitian)



All opinions are my own. Info correct at time of writing.

N.B. It is crucial to get your food and fluid intake right if you want to control your IBS symptoms, and if you want train harder, go faster and recover quicker from training sessions and competitions. Dietary requirements are highly individualised and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Working with a Registered Clinical & Sports Dietitian to develop a bespoke plan based on your unique requirements will help to ensure the most appropriate strategy and best results are achieved.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new treatment or health care regimen, or before making any changes to your existing treatment, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.



More info and references:
IOC (International Olympic Committee). (2017). Statement on dietary supplements in athletes. Available from: stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/News/2017/05/2017-05-09-IOC-Expert-Group-Statement-on-Dietary-Supplements-and-Elite-Athletes-eng.pdf#_ga=2.178954852.1569306862.1526936465-2108980664.1492980048
Phillips, S. M. (2018). Higher Dietary protein during weight loss: Muscle sparing? Obesity, 26(5), 789-789.
Samal, J. R. K. & Samal, I. R. (2017). Protein supplements: Pros and cons. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 15:3, 365-371, DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2017.1353567


Please feel free to contact me if you would like help to work out your individual nutritional needs and if you would benefit from having more protein in your diet.

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