Eating Protein Supplements With Your Meal Linked to Weight Loss in New Study

For those who want to gain lean mass, having protein with your meal may be the best choice. An Australian bodybuilder drinks a protein supplement shake. Paul Kane/Getty Images

Protein supplements, often in the form of powders to create a shake, are a popular way to help dieters reach their physique goal—but there may be some confusion on when to consume these supplements in order to get the best results. Now, a new study has the answer, suggesting that consuming these supplements with meals, rather than between them, may have the best results.

A study published online in Nutrition Reviews looked at 34 randomized controlled trials, including 59 groups of volunteers who either consumed protein in the form of supplements with their meals or had protein supplements in between their meals. Results revealed that the group who consumed the protein with their meals lost more fat mass and those who consumed protein supplements between their meals increased overall body mass over time. In addition, the study found that eating protein between meals may "promote higher body weight."

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Of the grouping that consumed protein with their meals, 56 increased their body mass, compared to 72 percent in the grouping that consumed protein between meals. In addition, of the first grouping, 94 percent increased their lean mass, compared to 90 percent in the second grouping. Eighty-seven percent of those who had the protein with their meals reduced the amount of fat in their bodies, compared to 59 percent who had protein supplements on their own. One hundred percent of those who consumed protein supplements with their meals increased the ratio of lean to fat mass over time, compared to only 84 percent in the second grouping.

It's important to note that this study was partially funded by the National Pork Board, the American Egg Board, Egg Nutrition Center, the National Dairy Council and the National Cattlemen's Associations, and one of the researchers involved also served on the National Dairy Council Whey Protein Advisory Panel during the time that the study was conducted.

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Regardless of these potential conflicts of interest, protein supplements have been shown to help individuals reach certain body goals. For example, protein can decrease chances of eating between meals, helps to increase metabolism and decreases appetite, three key components to weight loss. Protein isn't just helpful for weight loss though, it is also helpful for weight gain for those who want to increase only lean muscle mass and not total fat.

This new study can offer important guidance for individuals with specific body goals.