Ten Polwarth×Texel lambs (26±2·1 kg live weight (LW)), housed in metabolism cages and offered ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) ad libitum, were used in a 5×5 Latin Square experiment to evaluate the effect of supplement type on digestion processes and on amino acid and energy supplies. Five of the 10 lambs were fitted with a rumen catheter and duodenal cannulae. Treatments included no supplement (control); 7 g/kg LW daily of cassava meal (Manihot esculenta, high-starch low-nitrogen (HS-LN)), cassava meal plus corn gluten meal (2:1, high-starch high-undegradable N (HS-UN)), cassava meal plus calcium caseinate (2·8:1, high-starch high-degradable N (HS-DN)) or corn gluten feed (low-starch high-degradable N (LS-DN)). Total intake of dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM) and N, as well as digestible OM intake were increased with HS-UN, HS-DN and LS-DN (P⩽0·050). Forage DM intake was reduced by HS-LN (P=0·030). Apparent digestibility of DM and OM was increased by HS-LN and HS-DN (P⩽0·038). Digestibility of neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and OM true digestibility were similar for all treatments. Supplementation with HS-LN decreased duodenal flux of total N, amino acid N, ammonia N and feed residual N (P⩽0·023). None of the supplements affected rumen microbial protein entering the small intestine, whereas the efficiency of rumen microbial protein synthesis (EMPS) was reduced by HS-LN and HS-DN (P⩽0·036). Ruminal degradability of dietary N (RDN) was increased by HS-LN, HS-DN and LS-DN (P⩽0·050). In conclusion, supplementing lambs fed ryegrass with degradable or undegradable high-protein concentrate increased the amino acid supply without affecting the supply of digestible energy, regardless of either the starch content or the degree of ruminal degradability of the protein source. These results indicate that supplementation of ryegrass-based diets should include both starch and protein sources.