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A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults
  1. Robert W Morton1,
  2. Kevin T Murphy1,
  3. Sean R McKellar1,
  4. Brad J Schoenfeld2,
  5. Menno Henselmans3,
  6. Eric Helms4,
  7. Alan A Aragon5,
  8. Michaela C Devries6,
  9. Laura Banfield7,
  10. James W Krieger8,
  11. Stuart M Phillips1
  1. 1 Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Health Sciences, Lehman College of CUNY, Bronx, New York, USA
  3. 3 Bayesian Bodybuilding, Gorinchem, Netherlands
  4. 4 Sport Performance Research Institute New Zealand, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand
  5. 5 California State University, Northridge, California, USA
  6. 6 Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
  7. 7 Health Sciences Library, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
  8. 8 Weightology, LLC, Issaquah, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stuart M Phillips, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street, West Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; phillis{at}


Objective We performed a systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression to determine if dietary protein supplementation augments resistance exercise training (RET)-induced gains in muscle mass and strength.

Data sources A systematic search of Medline, Embase, CINAHL and SportDiscus.

Eligibility criteria Only randomised controlled trials with RET ≥6 weeks in duration and dietary protein supplementation.

Design Random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regressions with four a priori determined covariates. Two-phase break point analysis was used to determine the relationship between total protein intake and changes in fat-free mass (FFM).

Results Data from 49 studies with 1863 participants showed that dietary protein supplementation significantly (all p<0.05) increased changes (means (95% CI)) in: strength—one-repetition-maximum (2.49 kg (0.64, 4.33)), FFM (0.30 kg (0.09, 0.52)) and muscle size—muscle fibre cross-sectional area (CSA; 310 µm2 (51, 570)) and mid-femur CSA (7.2 mm2 (0.20, 14.30)) during periods of prolonged RET. The impact of protein supplementation on gains in FFM was reduced with increasing age (−0.01 kg (−0.02,–0.00), p=0.002) and was more effective in resistance-trained individuals (0.75 kg (0.09, 1.40), p=0.03). Protein supplementation beyond total protein intakes of 1.62 g/kg/day resulted in no further RET-induced gains in FFM.

Summary/conclusion Dietary protein supplementation significantly enhanced changes in muscle strength and size during prolonged RET in healthy adults. Increasing age reduces and training experience increases the efficacy of protein supplementation during RET. With protein supplementation, protein intakes at amounts greater than ~1.6 g/kg/day do not further contribute RET-induced gains in FFM.

  • hypertrophy
  • growth
  • supplement
  • whey
  • performance. leucine

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  • Contributors RWM, BJS, MH, EH, AAA, MCD, JWK and SMP contributed to the conception and design of the study. RWM, BJS, MH, EH, AAA, MCD, LB, JWK and SMP contributed to the development of the search strategy. LB conducted the systematic search. RWM, KTM and SRM completed the acquisition of data. RWM and SMP performed the data analysis. All authors assisted with the interpretation. RWM and SMP were the principal writers of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the drafting and revision of the final article. All authors approved the final submitted version of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests SMP has received grant support, travel expenses, and honoraria for presentations from the US National Dairy Council. This agency has supported trials reviewed in this analysis.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All data are available in the submitted manuscript or as supplementary files.