Effect of whey protein supplementation on body composition changes in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Nutr Rev. 2018 Jul 1;76(7):539-551. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy017.


Context: A preponderance of evidence supports the beneficial effects of whey protein (WP) supplementation on body composition in men; however, there is currently insufficient evidence to make an equivalent claim in women.

Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis assessed the effects of WP supplementation with or without energy restriction (ER) and resistance training (RT) on changes in body mass, lean mass, and fat mass in women.

Data sources: Pubmed, Scopus, Cochrane, and CINAHL were searched using the keywords "whey protein," "body composition," and "lean mass."

Data extraction: Two researchers independently screened 1845 abstracts and extracted 276 articles. Thirteen randomized controlled trials with 28 groups met the inclusion criteria.

Results: Globally, WP supplementation increased lean mass (WMD, 0.37 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.06 to 0.67) while not influencing changes in fat mass (-0.20 kg; 95%CI, -0.67 to 0.27) relative to non-WP control. The beneficial effect of WP on lean mass was lost when only studies with RT were included in the analysis (n = 7 comparisons; 0.23 kg; 95%CI, -0.17 to 0.63). The beneficial effect of WP on lean mass was more robust when only studies with an ER component were included (n = 6 comparisons; 0.90 kg; 95%CI, 0.31 to 1.49). There was no effect of WP on lean mass in studies without ER (n = 9 comparisons; 0.22 kg; 95%CI, -0.12 to 0.57).

Conclusion: Whey protein supplementation improves body composition by modestly increasing lean mass without influencing changes in fat mass. Body composition improvements from WP are more robust when combined with ER .

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Whey Proteins / administration & dosage*


  • Whey Proteins