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Protein supplements

Athletes often supplement their protein intake with protein shakes and bars. Are they a good idea?

To gain muscle mass you must have enough protein and carbohydrates in your diet to provide your body with the energy it needs to build muscle, but the only way to 'bulk up' is to use the muscles through strength training and exercise.

Athletes who find it difficult to eat enough food to meet their high-energy needs might benefit from a protein (and energy) 'top up'. This is easily achieved by adding skim milk powder to milk, cereals, smoothies or soups.

Most of us have adequate protein intakes from food so supplementing our protein intake is not necessary.

Protein supplements and bars can be convenient but they have no nutritional advantage over dietary protein sources and are often energy-dense.

So if you regularly eat protein shakes and bars and don't adjust the rest of your diet, you may consume more energy (kilojoules) than you need.

The only possible result of that is weight gain – and we're not talking about muscle!

Amino acid supplements have not been shown to offer any benefits to healthy individuals or to assist sports performance.