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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the difference between protein supplements and food with protein?

    I would like to know if there is any difference between protein supplements for example: protein powder, and protein based food.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1




    Hi, I’m an Inner-West Sydney based Nutritionist and Accredited Practicing Dietitian. I’m committed to helping people finding a way of eating that allows them to … View Profile

    Hi there, 
    There is a difference. Protein powder is usually just protein, plus ingredients to make it taste nice. 
    Protein foods have protein, plus other nutrients you need. For example, dairy foods have protein plus calcium and phosphate. Meat and eggs have protein plus iron and zinc. 

    Eating whole foods for your protein will make your diet balanced. 

    Some people eat protein powders for going to the gym, but unless you're a body-builder or athlete, it's probably unnecessary.

  • 1


    Kate Marsh

    Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE), Diabetes Educator, Dietitian

    Kate works with clients with type 1 and gestational diabetes, PCOS, and those following a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet. As a diabetes educator, she … View Profile

    As Jessica has explained, protein powders don't contain the other important nutrients which most protein foods provide. For most people, getting enough protein isn't difficult but getting enough of the other nutrients that com along with protein foods can be more difficult - these include minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.  It is best to eat a variety of protein-rich foods to make sure you also get these nutrients.  Good sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, seafood and eggs (which also provide iron, zinc and vitamin B12), legumes and tofu (which also provide iron and zinc), dairy foods (which also provide zinc, calcium and vitamin B12), nuts and seeds (which also provide iron, zinc and healthy fats) and grains like quinoa and amaranth (which also provide iron and zinc).  If you get most of your protein from a protein powder you will be missing out on these other nutrients, and variety in your diet.

  • 2


    Tim Cottman - Fields

    Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist

    Tim is considered a movement specialist - using exercise, education and hands on therapy as his main treatments, helping everyone achieve optimal function. His interests … View Profile

    I agree with both the previous answers and would like to add the element of convenience. Protein powders are not always necessary but they do have there benefits. One of the main reasons individuals opt to take protein powders is simply because it is easier. One of the most important times to consume protein is (immediately) after exercise. So carrying a container of protein powder and downing it when you finish a workout is more convenient than finding another way to ingest fast acting protein - it's possible but bit more tricky. They are also considered liquid calories (which have pros/ cons) and can be easier to know the nutritional amounts.

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