Some of the claims made by products in our table
- “Feed your potential”
- “To help you perform at your best and surpass your goals”
- “For a leaner, stronger and more muscular body”
- “Helps build and maintain muscle tissue for up to 6 hours”
- “For muscle recovery and growth”
Promises like these are attractive to athletes in elite competition, where very small differences separate the winners from the rest of the field. And it’s just as easy for recreational athletes to succumb to the marketing hype. But not all the claims on protein bars and drinks can be substantiated.
Can high-protein products improve performance?
- Some protein products contain additional amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and so-called ergogenic (work-enhancing) compounds like creatine and L-carnitine, which are involved in exercise metabolism or recovery pathways. The theory goes that by bumping up our intake of these components we can supercharge metabolic processes and boost performance.
- There are varying levels of scientific support for the benefit of some (like creatine) and none for others (like carnitine). And considering that foods can usually provide amino acids in the amounts required, there’s little to be gained from buying products with them added.
Protein helps build muscle and assists in recovery from exercise, but the bars and drinks don’t provide any advantages over normal dietary sources of protein.
Does the type of protein make a difference?
The protein in the bars and drinks in our sample comes from milk (casein — ‘curds’ — or whey) and soy, and appears in the ingredients list as:
- Milk protein isolate
- Calcium caseinate
- Whey protein concentrate or isolate
- Soy protein isolate.
Some brands jazz the protein up with a scientific-sounding proprietary name, like MLO’s Biocytein and EAS’s Myopro2, giving the impression that you ought to be looking out for a particular type of protein.
Whether it’s from whey (once regarded as a waste product of the cheese manufacturing process), soy or any other source, there’s not enough evidence to argue that any one particular type of protein has more benefit.