Background: Trials that assessed the impact of protein supplementation on endurance training adaptations have reported conflicting findings. Objective: To determine the impact of protein supplementation during chronic endurance training on aerobic capacity, body composition and exercise performance in healthy and clinical populations. Design: A systematic database search was conducted for randomised controlled trials addressing the effects of protein supplementation during endurance training on aerobic capacity, body composition and exercise performance in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and CINAHL. Meta-analyses were performed to outline the overall effects of protein supplementation with all studies containing endurance training components. The effects of endurance training and add-on effects of protein supplementation were evaluated by the meta-analyses with endurance training-focused studies. Results: Nineteen studies and 1162 participants contributed to the analyses. Compared with the control group, the protein supplementation group demonstrated greater improvements in aerobic capacity measured by mixed peak oxygen uptake (V̇O2peak) and peak workload power (Wpeak) (standardised mean difference [SMD] = 0.36, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.05 to 0.67), and V̇O2peak (mean difference [MD] = 0.89 mL‧kg−1‧min−1, 95% CI: 0.07 to 1.70); had a greater lean mass gain (MD = 0.32 kg, 95% CI: 0.07 to 0.58); and had a greater improvement in time trial performance (MD = −29.1s, 95% CI:-55.3 to −3.0). Secondary analyses showed that, in addition to the substantial improvement in V̇O2peak (MD = 3.67 mL‧kg−1‧min−1, 95% CI: 2.32 to 5.03) attributed to endurance training, protein supplementation provided an additional 26.4% gain in V̇O2peak (MD = 0.97 mL‧kg−1‧min−1, 95% CI: −0.03 to 1.97). Conclusion: Protein supplementation further increased aerobic capacity, stimulated lean mass gain, and improved time trial performance during chronic endurance training in healthy and clinical populations. Prospero registration number: (CRD42020155239).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3123-3132
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Aerobic exercise
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Dietary proteins
  • Muscle proteins
  • Nutritional supplement
  • Oxygen consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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