Non-fasting TAG – postprandial lipaemia (PPL) – are to a higher degree associated with cardiovascular risk compared with fasting TAG. Dietary protein, especially whey proteins (WP), may lower PPL. We hypothesised that a WP pre-meal (17·6 g protein) consumed 15 v. 30 min before a fat-rich meal reduces the PPL response in subjects with the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and that a WP pre-meal has more potent effects than casein and gluten pre-meals. A total of sixteen subjects with the MetS completed an acute, randomised, crossover trial. WP pre-meals were consumed 15 and 30 min, and casein and gluten 15 min before a fat-rich meal. Blood samples were drawn 360 min postprandially to determine metabolite and hormone responses, S-paracetamol (for assessment of gastric emptying) and amino acids. Insulin and glucagon responses were affected by both timing and protein type (for all P <0·01), with significantly higher concentrations for WP given at –15 min than WP at –30 min and higher responses compared with gluten for the first 30 min after pre-meal consumption (for all P <0·05). The PPL responses changed neither by timing nor by protein type. Glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide but not glucagon-like peptide 1 responses differed between the three protein types. S-paracetamol concentration was higher for WP (–30 min) than for WP (–15 min) 15 min after the main meal (P = 0·028), and higher for casein and gluten than for WP at time point 30 min (for all P <0·05). In conclusion, the PPL response was not changed by ingestion of a 17·6 g protein pre-meal, whereas both timing and protein quality affected hormone secretion (insulin and glucagon).