The effect of consuming different amounts of whey protein on appetite and energy intake was investigated in two separate studies using randomised, crossover designs. Healthy-weight men and women (range: BMI 19·0–25·0 kg/m2, age 19·4–40·4 years) consumed one of four 400 ml liquid preloads, followed by an ad libitum test meal 90 min later. In study 1, preloads were 1675 kJ with 12·5, 25 or 50 % of energy from protein, and in study 2, preloads were 1047 kJ with 10, 20 or 40 % energy from protein. Flavoured water was used as the control in both the studies. Appetite ratings were collected immediately before 30, 60 and 90 min after consuming the preloads; and immediately, 30 and 60 min after consuming the test meal. In study 1, energy intake following the control preload (4136 (sem 337) kJ) was significantly higher than each of the 12·5 % (3520 (sem 296) kJ), 25 % (3384 (sem 265) kJ) and 50 % (2853 (sem 244) kJ) protein preloads (P < 0·05). Intake after the 12·5 % preload was significantly higher than following 25 and 50 % preloads (P < 0·05). In study 2, energy intake following the control preload (4801 (sem 325) kJ) was higher than following the 10 % (4205 (sem 310) kJ), 20 % (3988 (sem 250) kJ) and 40 % (3801 (sem 245) kJ) protein preloads (P < 0·05). There were no differences in subjective appetite ratings between preloads in either study. These findings indicate a dose–response effect of protein content of the preload on energy intake at a subsequent meal.