Are protein and vitamin supplements simply a necessity?

I agree with you on the positive aspects of increasing protein and the effects it can have in satiety. This can be huge in the long term for sticking with and creating healthy habits. I also can’t argue with the benefits of eating mostly whole food. :+1:

Also quoted from the article linked:

On average, a person uses about 10% of their daily energy expenditure digesting and absorbing food, but this percentage changes depending on the type of food you eat.

Protein takes the most energy to digest (20-30% of total calories in protein eaten go to digesting it). Next is carbohydrates (5-10%) and then fats (0-3%).

So if I eat 200g of protein a day (which is not unusual for me, I’m heavy), that’s 800 kcal from protein, of which ~200 will be burned just digesting it. Someone on a low protein diet might eat 50g of protein, for a calorie content of 200 kcal, of which they would burn 50kcal in digestion. So a net difference of 150kcal burned in digestion compared to ingesting the calorie difference in fat (as an extreme example). So maybe a 5% difference in calories burned in digestion is a realistic difference between a high and low protein diet?

This percentage goes down, the more you exercise. But let’s take it at face value for now:

Let’s say 2000kcal diet.

10% of TDE comes from TEF. 200kcal.
Increase that by 46.8% by choosing high thermic effect foods as often as possible compared to exclusively processed foods.
93kcal difference.

Just less than 5% of 2000kcal.

But that’s by making a wholesale switch from entirely processed to non-processed foods, just using the words from the article for simplicity here.

Most folks don’t eat a diet full of entirely processed food. I’d estimate by making a thermic-effect-based dietary change, you’re going to see a 0.5-2% change in kcal expenditure in most folks. Like… 10-40kcal daily, roughly.

Yes, between a VERY high protein diet of 200g per day, compared to a low-protein diet of 50g per day.

I’d estimate <<1% of the population eats 200g per day. And anyone health conscious enough to ever ruminate on the thermic effect of food is already probably eating closer to 100g of protein per day than 50g per day, I’d bet.


If you can get everything you need from food, then you don’t need supplements. I rarely use them, only if I don’t have time to make myself something. If there is no need, you don’t need to use them. And if you do, you have to choose carefully.

Going off memory here - but I think it was around joint (perhaps ligament?) health. IIRC the study was something like 60-90 minutes pre workout consumption of collagen and joint health afterwards. Nothing around body composition, muscles, or anything of the sort.

Think it was tested on runners and that consuming post workout, or even immediately pre (a short) workout it was less (or perhaps not at all?) effective. Had to be done ahead of the work significantly. I think @Nate_Pearson intended to consume pre a longer workout and have it kick-in by the mid-point

Again, all off memory from a few months back - but I think that was the jist of it

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But how do you know you’re getting “everything” from your food?

Nonsense :slight_smile: If you eat too much your weight will stabilise somewhere overweight, you don’t keep getting fatter for ever

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Because you have no symptoms and no deficiencies.

Having no symptoms doesn’t mean you’re getting optimal vitamins and minerals. Without a test I don’t think you can know whether you’re “deficient”.

Getting tests is ideal, but assuming you are deficient with no symptoms and no test results is toxic.

I’ve not looked into this specifically.

  1. Sounds like supplementing to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Tradeoffs unlikely to be in favor. Maybe I don’t have full picture here.
  2. Basing any supplementation off a single study in isolation is a terrible idea. The body of literature should be the basis.
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Great website for tracking vitamin and mineral intake as well as macros.

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I went back to the forum post for the episode - here is the link to the study -

I agree with your general summary, but figured it couldn’t hurt to give you the details rather than my foggy recollections

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2008! No harm whatsoever in old studies. Old science is not bad science. But if there were clear positive outcomes in 2008, someone should be able to dig up a meta analysis from 2018-2021 for us pretty quick here!

My not having seen this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but does make me think… that it doesn’t exist, and for the primary reason that collagen doesn’t reliably do what was found in that study. Just guessing.

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FWIW… on topic of joint pain issues.

It is hard to translate findings from relatively healthy athletes in college to average Joe’s in other settings and in different overall health. I doubt we could find definitive studies for healthy (relatively) people.

We do, however, study diseases!! The majority of good studies of agents addressing joint health, or joint pain, will be focused either on Osteoarthritis (OA) or Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). The American College Of Rheumatology (ACR) and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) are often part of the research studies and you can find reports on all sorts of stuff on their websites and in the abstracts and presentations from their yearly conferences.

Quick background: RA and OA are very different disorders. RA is an autoimmune disorder while OA is generally related to trauma. Think knee injuries for example. Both involve pain and inflammation but with different causes and outcomes and measures. But both hurt - often a lot. The advanced therapies which bring some relief in RA, and which can delay joint degradation, anti-TNF being the best know biologic but there are others, have not been shown to be effective in OA.

So, if we consider OA as a surrogate for painful joints, and look at the data for supplements, the very quick take home is for collagen, chondroitin, glucosamine and a few other molecules, there is very little to zero benefit demonstrated in good studies. Treating physicians and guidance essentially says, paraphrasing, there might be some benefit to some patients but probably not. The hedge is because the folks that write guidance are reluctant to make absolute negative statements. Also note that in the USA we consider these molecules as unregulated supplements. In Europe and other parts of the world they may be prescription drugs.

For athletes, I’d put this in the space of beet juice or other stuff we’ve all tried. If you try and get an amazing result that’s great for you. Might be pure placebo but as long as there is good safety data and you and your physician agree that you aren’t damaging your kidneys then make an adult decision on using a supplement or not. If you are trying it for 1% improvement in some generic descriptor like “helps joint health” though, the odds are good you are just making expensive urine while taking the risk that the supplement is not high quality and could do harm…

Here is a recent review on collagen in OA from 2020 and another from 2012. The collagen stuff started to gain traction and attention in roughly 2005-2006 and that spawned some OK research.

For folks who don’t do this stuff for a living, note the phrase “more research is required”. We always say that type of thing because even if it’s really clear, it’s polite and its a hedge that if you are somehow wrong you can say to your friends: “Well, I did write in the conclusion that more research was required”. It’s part of the game playa!!!

More seriously…

Chondroitin and Glucosamine have perhaps been better studied. The GAIT study included just shy of 1,600 patients and was meant to finish the debate on effectiveness of these molecules one way or another. It kind of did but not quite. The supplements failed to meet primary endpoint, but subgroup analysis showed some potential in one slice of patients. But that group was small (underpowered). But since everyone loves a good debate it continues still and you can find docs and clinical researchers willing to fight it out on either side of the argument… Would be huge fun to set up a table outside of ACR or EULAR conference with a sign which says: Chondroitin and Glucosamine Just Don’t Work. Change my Mind!!!

Reading should you desire: (GAIT paper)

Summary of study: The NIH Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) - PubMed


Americans continue to spend millions of dollars annually on glucosamine and chondroitin for symptoms of osteoarthritis. These agents are classified as dietary supplements, not as drugs, per se. Therefore, they do not meet the requirements of the FDA to be classified as drugs. This study was designed to determine if glucosamine and chondroitin are effective for osteoarthritis pain. This report was adapted from an online publication by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health to inform the general public about the GAIT trial and its findings. Participants taking the positive control, celecoxib, experienced statistically significant pain relief versus placebo, about 70% of those taking celecoxib had a 20% or greater reduction in pain versus about 60% for placebo. Overall, there were no significant differences between the other treatments tested and placebo. For a subset of participants with moderate-to-severe pain, glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate provided statistically significant pain relief compared with placebo, about 79% had a 20% or greater reduction in pain versus about 54% for placebo. According to the researchers, because of the small size of this subgroup these findings should be considered preliminary and need to be confirmed in further studies. For participants in the mild pain subset, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate together or alone did not provide statistically significant pain relief.

$0.02 - enjoy


I think there is a difference between being symptomatically deficient, average and optimal though. As with most things, getting a sufficient amount and optimal amount aren’t always the same thing.

Vaguely related, I stopped taking Chondroitin and Glucosamine because I just couldn’t find anything concrete to backup using them. Same for a few other things I used to take regularly but seem to be backed more by supplement industry advertising than any real science.

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Assuming decent safety data and good sources, my approach to supplements has been to look at the data and if there is some good work or consensus then I might try them. I keep good notes, give it a fair try and do not expect much. If after a reasonable trial am not seeing positive response I move on.

Sort of a no harm, no foul approach. You never know when you might be an outlier for positive benefit. Even if it’s PBO, if we are amateur athletes and something makes us faster I’ll take it. That said, I’ve not found anything in the supplement arena that is particularly useful for me beyond consistent training, positive mental outlook, good food and good sleep. If I can get 2 or 3 of those regularly then am happy!!

I would clarify that for genuine medical problems, that type of self experimentation is not what I would do. Am keeping it in the context of generally healthy people looking to be even more healthy or fitter. In context of racing, it’s fine to look to improve or get an edge. Just eyes wide open and reasonable perspective on what to expect.

There is an investigator in Australia that does a good job keeping a list of supplements and supportive data. Will hunt for that link after work.

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