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2017's 10 Best
Protein Powder For Women

Among the hundreds of protein powders out on the market today, how do you know which are best suited for women, and why?

Most articles just cover the basics, like which various sources of protein to consider; ranging from whey concentrate and isolates, to egg white or beef protein, and plant based proteins like soy or rice, all with their own set of pros and cons. Then there is the question of how much protein? When should you take it?

However, we’re here to help you decide which protein powder is going to best fit your needs and goals as a woman, and take into account the fluctuating female physiology so you can train at your best all month, and all year long.

Woman

Previous Limited Research On Women In Athletic Studies

Research pertaining to women’s physiological needs when it comes to athletic training and supplementation has been previously limited, the exception being studies associated with weight loss products and diet. It was only in the ‘70s with the passing of Title IX (an amendment signed by Nixon that prohibits discrimination against women in federally-funded education, including athletics programs) that more and more women were accepted and embraced in competitive sports at high school, college levels, and beyond.

Even though we have come a long way in those 40 years since Title IX, research is still playing catch-up. Many studies have been done that solely include men, or a mixed group of men and women, while the remaining occasionally fully focus on women. Even when studies do solely focus on women, their cycles are rarely factored into the equation. A lack of women in sports and exercise research may account for some of the bias [1].

The pitfall of this approach is that a woman’s biology and fluctuating hormone profile has rarely been considered. However, in an industry still significantly male dominated, the gap is starting to close with more information geared for women being made available. See the #1 Protein Powder For Women now

Women’s Biology Vs Men’s (NOT Weaker, Just Different)

While a man’s hormone profile remains relatively static (although it slowly declines with age), women’s hormones fluctuate monthly according to their cycles, which have two phases. The first phase (follicular) is marked by rising Oestradial (estrogen) levels, which peaks right around ovulation midway through the cycle. The second phase (luteal) is followed with high levels of progesterone and moderate estrogen levels, which then level out right before menstruation.

When estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest, it has a vital impact on muscle-cell regeneration and protein synthesis. For instance, estrogen impedes protein synthesis, while progesterone increases the breakdown of muscle tissue, which makes it more difficult to utilize amino acids that are needed for muscle growth, recovery, and repair [2].

This means that overall, women have higher rates of muscle breakdown during physical exertion in comparison to their male counterparts. At it’s most simple, it’s just plain harder for women to grow and maintain muscle when these hormones are high.

Menstrual Cycle

Here’s a recap: the “low hormone phase”, or the time during and immediately after your period, muscle building and performance is at it’s highest. However, during “high hormone phases”, or a few days before a woman’s period, building muscle, recovery and staying hydrated becomes more of a challenge.

Leucine Content Is The Key Factor

It has been demonstrated that women oxidize less amino acids, including leucine (a branched chain amino acid) than men, even though the muscle enzyme that regulates the use of branch chained amino acids functions the same for both men and women [3][4]. In addition, the high hormone phase of the menstrual cycle also increases the need and use of protein during exercise, due to the fact that progesterone contributes to higher muscle breakdown.

Since we now know that estrogen inhibits muscle protein synthesis, progesterone enhances muscle breakdown, and overall women oxidize less amino acids [5], research has recommended that muscle protein synthesis is most optimal in women when approximately 30 grams of protein is consumed post training [6]. Muscle protein synthesis is reliant on muscle leucine concentration, so a high leucine content protein source is most beneficial. See the #1 Protein Powder For Women now

Different Types Of Protein Powder

Dietary proteins differ in their amino acid composition as well as rates of digestion and absorption. The Essential Amino Acid content of the protein, especially the amount of leucine, can promote muscle protein synthesis. Whey Protein, due to the amino acid profile, results in a greater synthesis of muscle protein compared to most protein sources such as casein and soy.

While whey protein may be the most recommended for muscle building, it is not the only source of protein powder out there. Due to allergens or moral preferences, other forms of protein can be just as useful and beneficial. Here is a list of various protein sources from highest leucine concentration to lowest:

Protein Sources

1. Whey- This includes isolates and concentrates, with isolates having the highest amino acid profile, and contributes to a rapid, short lived increase in protein synthesis.

2. Casein- Another component of milk protein (the most abundant) which has a slower absorption rate, allowing a steady release of amino acids, helpful in reducing muscle breakdown.

3. Egg- Suited for those who have dairy allergies, or find whey to exacerbate bloating and digestive discomfort. Egg protein powder is typically made from solely the egg whites and has a decent absorption rate, and provides many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.

4. Beef- Also suitable for those who have dairy or egg allergies, or those who prefer to eat a more paleolithic or low carb diet.

5. Pea- Plant based protein with the highest leucine content, along with the nine essential amino acids, perfect for those practicing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

6. Rice- Does not contain all essential amino acids, but still recommended for those who are vegetarian or vegan. Many rice powders will also have additional quinoa or chia proteins added to be a more complete amino acid profile.

7. Soy- Another option for those who have allergies, or prefer to eat vegetarian or vegan diets. It is important to keep in mind that soy contains phytoestrogens, which weakly mimics estrogen. However, women who are entering menopause and experience a decline in estrogen can potentially benefit from phytoestrogen rich foods.This also includes women of all ages who have low estrogen levels.

Even if you opt for a protein source that has lower leucine or overall essential amino acid content, additional bcaas or amino acids can easily be supplemented in any training regimen. See The Best BCAAs For Women

Should Carbs Be Avoided When Choosing Protein Powder?

First and foremost, you should assess your goals and dietary habits when deciding the carb count of your protein powder. If you’re eating a low carb diet, the obvious choice is to choose a low carb protein powder. If you are trying to lose weight by cutting fat, choosing a lower carb protein powder may also be of benefit, especially if you eat a moderate to high carbohydrate diet.

However, if your goal is to add muscle mass, increase strength, or have a high intensity training program, carbs can be an essential part of any pre, intra, or post-workout formula.

Estrogen decreases the need for liver glycogen, and subsequently increases the use of fat during exercise. This glycogen sparing, increased fat use is even greater during the high hormone phase. To maintain high intensities during workouts (which depend on glycogen utilization), women can benefit from additional carbohydrate intake preferably before or during training [7], but during the low hormone phase, women need less dietary carbohydrates for optimal physical performance.

The bottom line? You can look for low carb protein powders if you follow a low carb diet, or looking to shed some body fat. You can also use a lower carb protein powder during the low hormone phase of your cycle when needs for carbohydrates are not as high for physical performance. See The Best Low Carb Protein Powders

Protein powders with higher total carbs are more ideal for when you want to add muscle mass, sustain high intensity for prolonged durations, or need an extra boost during the high hormone phase. Again, this does not apply to those who eat a low carb diet or are in nutritional ketosis.

You Don’t Need To Sacrifice On Taste

If you choose the right one, a good tasting protein shake can be a post-workout treat to look forward to each day. Not all protein shakes are created equal, and while many be chalky or unappealing, there are some brands out there that get it just right.

Many women are no stranger to food cravings during the high hormone phase, and it can range from wanting the sweet, to the salty. The verdict is still out on the exact relationship between hormone fluctuations and food cravings, but some studies are presenting interesting insights. One study revealed that there may be a relationship between high leptin – the hormone that regulates hunger, and estrogen levels especially during the high hormone phase, with cravings[8].

A great tasting protein powder is helpful in combating cravings, and there are many that do not rely on high amounts of sugar or artificial flavoring, all of which can help you stay on track to reach your fitness and physique goals. See the #1 Protein Powder For Women now

Make Your Physiology Work For You

With all this emerging research, it’s time women embrace and understand their physiology. Women are not small men, and the “shrink it and pink it” mentality many supplement companies use is not doing us any favors. Taking the time to learn, and customizing your regimen is the key to optimizing your potential. This may even mean having two rotating protein powders that correspond with each phase of the high and low hormone cycle that align best with your needs.

Bringing It All Together

Woman Drinking Protein

1. High levels of estrogen and progesterone impede muscle building capacity and promote muscle breakdown. Making sure you meet your protein needs is essential for optimal performance.

2. Women also oxidize less leucine, and due to their limited capacity to build and maintain muscle during the high hormone phases of their cycle, roughly 30 grams (minimum 20 grams) of protein post-workout is advised for compensation.

3. Leucine content, along with amino acid profiles, is among the most important factor for choosing a protein source, allergy and moral preferences aside.

4. Total carb count is tied to your fitness and lifestyle goals, although higher carb protein powders can be more beneficial during the high hormone phase.

5. Since women have a more complex and diverse physiology, why stick with just one supplement routine? With more information becoming available, customizing plans according to hormone fluctuations can be a great tool to optimize performance.

Best Protein Powder For Women

Our top 10 list of Protein Powder For Women is organized to reflect what you most value in your supplements. First and foremost is quality. All ten of or top ten supplements meet high standards of quality and come from brands with a proven record in excellence and purity. Another important factor in deciding the top ten was cost. You don’t have to pay through the nose to get a high quality supplement. In addition, all the companies represented on our top ten list have stellar records with customer service and prompt shipping to ensure that your supplement experience is enjoyable from the first click to your final shake.

References

  1. Costello, Joseph T., Francois Bieuzen, and Chris M. Bleakley. Where are all the female participants in Sports and Exercise Medicine research? European Journal of Sport Science 14.8 (2014): 847-851.
  2. Hansen, Mette, and Michael Kjaer. Influence of sex and estrogen on musculotendinous protein turnover at rest and after exercise. Exercise and sport sciences reviews 42.4 (2014): 183-192.
  3. Devries, Michaela C. Sex?based differences in endurance exercise muscle metabolism: impact on exercise and nutritional strategies to optimize health and performance in women. Experimental physiology 101.2 (2016): 243-249.
  4. Roepstorff C, Steffensen CH, Madsen M, et al. Gender differences in substrate utilization during submaximal exercise in endurance-trained subjects Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002; 282 (2): E435-47.
  5. Tarnopolsky MA Sex differences in exercise metabolism and the role of 17-beta estradiol. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2008; 40 (4): 648-54.
  6. Hausswirth C. and Le Murr Y. Physiological and Nutritional Aspects of Post-Exercise Recovery: Specific recommendations for female athletes. Sports Med, 2011; 41(10): 861-882.
  7. Rehrer, Nancy J., Rebecca T. McLay-Cooke, and Stacy T. Sims. Nutritional Strategies and Sex Hormone Interactions in Women. Sex Hormones, Exercise and Women. Springer International Publishing, 2017. 87-112.
  8. Krishnan, Sridevi, et al. Estradiol, SHBG and leptin interplay with food craving and intake across the menstrual cycle. Physiology & behavior 165 (2016): 304-312.

#1 - Gym Vixen Whey

The Standout: High Quality Protein Isolate

Specifically designed to be a premium protein choice for women, Gym Vixen's Whey is a low calorie formula that contains the micronutrients that are beneficial for creating a healthy physique. With zero carbs, fats, and sugar, along with 24 grams of high-quality protein isolate, Gym Vixen Whey is the perfect lean muscle builder and post-workout recovery supplement.

  • 22 Grams Protein Isolate
  • 5 Grams BCAAs
  • 96 Calories
  • Zero Carbs, Fats, And Sugars
  • Contains Digestive Enzymes
  • Great Tasting

Whey Protein Isolate is made from standard Whey Concentrate, and has been further processed for the removal of excess carbs and fats, yielding a product with higher protein content (roughly 98%). This also means a more rapid digestion process compared to Concentrate, totaling about four hours.

Lactase, a beneficial enzyme for breaking down the lactose found in whey, has been added to also aid in digestion. While many other protein powders may cause bloating or digestive discomfort, lactase helps reduce these symptoms.

Gym Vixen's Whey is the perfect protein powder designed for women, with no extra carbs or fats, and doesn't compromise on taste. Meet all your protein needs while combating any sweet cravings, all in one go.

Keep Reading »
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#2 - Nutricost Whey Protein Isolate

The Standout: Top Tier, Affordable Price

Nutricost's high quality Whey Protein Isolate delivers an unprecedented 30 grams of protein per scoop, with their straight-forward, single ingredient formula. One of the most fairly priced isolate protein powders on the market, each serving is priced at just $1.40. Nutricost's Whey Isolate Protein is also perfect for stacking and customizing any pre or post-workout blend that suits your needs best.

  • 30 Grams Per Serving
  • High Quality Isolate
  • 1 Lb Bottle Size
  • No Artificial Flavoring
  • Zero Added Sugars

Nutricost Whey Isolate Protein is a clean protein source, made with high quality protein isolate. Protein Isolate is easy to digest, low in lactose, and contains no additional fat or carbs. Providing a high level of branched chain amino acids, each serving promotes protein synthesis and lean muscle growth.

Whey Isolate Protein also helps boost the immune system by promoting glutathione levels, known as the 'master antioxidant' within the body. Glutathione is responsible for intracellular health, and protects cells from free radicals and oxidative damage.

Unbeatable quality for the price, easy to mix, and great for stacking, it's easy to see why Nutricost's Protein Isolate has over 100 high ratings on Amazon.

Keep Reading »
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#3 - Transparent Labs ProteinSeries 100% GRASS-FED

Clean, Grass-Fed Protein Source

Transparent Labs' ProteinSeries 100% GRASS-FED consists of high quality ingredients and transparency, with only 112 calories. Each scoop offers 28 grams of Grass-fed Protein Isolate sourced from New Zealand, while being one of the industry’s highest protein-by-weight ratios at 88%.

  • 28 Grams Of Grass-Fed Protein Isolate
  • 112 Total Calories
  • 30 Servings Per Bag
  • 88% Protein-By-Weight Ratio
  • Free Of Gluten, Preservatives, And Hormones

Grass-Fed Protein is quickly becoming the preferred source of protein, and Transparent Lab's source their protein from New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the leading dairy producers in the world, and to retain the utmost quality their cows do not receive chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, hyper-immunizations or injected pathogens. These dairy herds graze on healthy pesticide-free, chemical-free, natural grass pastures, all year round.

If you're searching for one of the cleanest protein powders out there, Transparent Labs' ProteinSeries 100% GRASS-FED more than fits the bill. Build lean muscle with the cleanest protein made from naturally fed, hormone-free cow whey and clean of artificial sweeteners, food dyes, gluten, and preservatives.

Keep Reading »
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#4 - FitMiss Delight

Specifically made with women in mind, FitMiss Delight is the most complete protein shake chalked full of all the nutrition needed to keep a healthy and lean physique. With 16 grams of high quality protein and a total of 90 calories, it can be used as a meal replacement or a healthy snack that will suppress hunger and provide the best weight loss mix to support the growth of lean muscle, while reducing fat storage. Delight is also gluten free and contains essential vitamins and minerals for optimal health and to keep energy levels up. Keep Reading »

#5 - IdealFit IdealLean

A protein shake designed specifically for women, IdealFit's IdealLean provides 20 grams of 100% Whey Protein Isolate in each serving to increase lean muscle mass. Containing the unique IdealFit Recovery Blend that uses L-Glutamine, Acai, Mangosteen, and Blueberry, IdealLean can help you quickly recover from each training session, earning you your best results. At $1.30 per serving, this deliciously smooth 80 calorie protein shake keeps you lean without any excess fat, sugar, or carbs. Keep Reading »

#6 - Quest Nutrition Protein Powder

Quest Nutrition Protein Powder is designed with the highest quality protein sources for customized low carb, clean eating in an irresistible protein shake. Weight Quest Protein Powder serves 21 grams of premium whey and casein proteins, with only 100 calories, 3 grams carbohydrates and less than 1 gram of sugar. Quest Protein is gluten and soy free, and mixes easily with any of your favorite beverages – even water, and the creamy, rich flavor profiles will have you satisfied. Quest Protein Powder is also perfect for cooking and baking, so you can make protein rich meals and treats. Keep Reading »

#7 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

As Optimum Nutrition's top-selling protein powder, Gold Standard 100% Whey provides Whey Protein Isolate as it's primary ingredient along with ultra-filtered Whey Protein Concentrate, so you can achieve a strong, feminine physique. Packing 24 grams of protein into each serving, this powerful formula gives muscles the support they need to encourage growth and strength, as well as reduce fat stores. Gold Standard 100% Whey also provides over 5 grams of BCAAs as well as more than 4 grams of Glutamine and Glutamic Acid for optimal muscle growth and recovery. Keep Reading »
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#8 - NLA for Her Her Whey

NLA for Her's Her Whey has created the ultimate lean protein formula, designed to meet the nutritional needs of women. Each scoop provides 28 grams of whey protein isolate with every low-calorie and gluten free serving, ensuring that all macronutrients will be met to help build lean muscle composition, reduce hunger cravings, and improve muscle recovery. Her Whey also enhances performance with additional vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and provides a combination of fiber and MCT’s to promote satiety and energy that lasts throughout the day. Keep Reading »

#9 - BPI Sports Best Protein

Best Protein is an advanced 100% whey protein blend featuring whey isolate, whey concentrate, and whey hydrolysate. Packed into each serving of Best Protein is 24 grams protein and 5.5 grams BCAAs with only 3 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, and 120 calories. You won’t find any fillers or added sugars that will compromise your nutritional goals, just pure nutrition for protein synthesis and muscle growth. BPI Best Protein is the perfect addition to any fitness regimen, whether your goal is to build lean muscle and strength, or retain muscle during weight loss. Keep Reading »

#10 - Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder

Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder provides 25 grams of pure whey protein isolate, with zero carbs. Additional vitamins and minerals have also been added to promote overall health, along with added Glutamine for optimal recovery. Each batch goes through a microfiltration process, and is the only clear milk protein (when dissolved in water) on the market. Keep Reading »

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