Background: Although high protein diets have been tested in controlled environments for applications to weight management, it is not understood if adding high protein foods to the diet would impact ad libitum energy balance in the absence of other lifestyle changes. Methods: This double-blinded randomized crossover trial compared the effects of a protein shake (PS) to a carbohydrate shake (CS), consumed prior to each major meal to equate to 20% of total energy needs over the course of the day, on energy balance over two 5-day treatment periods in healthy adults with BMI 20-30 kg/m2. Tri-axial accelerometers estimated physical activity energy expenditure. Ad libitum energy intake was measured in a laboratory kitchen. Results: Energy balance was positive during both treatment periods but was not different between periods. There were no interactions between treatment and preload caloric dose or treatment and BMI status on energy balance. Satiety ratings did not differ for any pairwise comparisons between treatment and caloric dose. Controlling for gender and basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of food was greater for PS than CS. Conclusions: Preload periods significantly altered the macronutrient composition of the overall diet. This study found limited evidence that carbohydrate or protein preloads have differential effects on energy balance in short-term ad libitum settings.