Choosing the Right Protein Powder for Women
Unfortunately, out of hundreds of available options, there aren’t many protein powders made specifically for women. Most brands picture hulking bodybuilders and have names like, “Monster,” “Jacked,” “Massive,” and are chalk full of ingredients to help bulk and put on as much mass as possible.
Oftentimes, powders that are marketed as “women’s protein supplements” are nothing more than just underdosed protein supplements.
But underdosing a protein powder doesn’t make it designed specifically for women, especially since protein is the building block of muscle regardless of sex. I’ll break down the differences between men and women’s daily macronutrient requirements, and explain which protein sources are best for the female physique, so you can see not all protein sources are created equal.
Men and women have different calorie requirements. This is primarily due to men being, on average, larger than women.
The Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes has recommended levels for age groups and genders. The following table shows the Calories necessary for different activity levels across ages.
As we can see, women need, on average, 400 Calories less than men daily.
This means an ideal protein for women would be pure protein, with minimal to zero added fat, carbohydrates, or mass-gaining ingredients.
Different Kinds Of Protein
There are several different types of proteins to choose from, depending on your tolerability and overall fitness goals. Here’s a look at the most popular proteins options:
Whey is far and away the most popular form of protein derived from dairy. It is easy to produce, widely available, contains a complete amino acid profile, and is cheap. There are 3 forms of whey.
Whey Protein Concentrate
is the backbone of most protein supplements. Unfortunately, it’s relatively “dirty” for our purposes, only 70-80% protein. It takes about 4 hours to digest, and it can be difficult to process for lactose-intolerant users because it is unrefined.1,
Is Whey Concentrate the Right Protein For Women?
While it isn’t a bad protein by any means, it isn’t the best option, and that is because of a couple reasons.
As we will see, whey concentrate is lower in protein content, which means you’ll most likely need more of it to get enough protein for lean muscle growth. Because it isn’t as refined of a protein, it still provides carbs and fats from the lactase that it contains.
Whey Protein Isolate
is filtered, refined whey protein. It digests at the same rate as concentrate but is up to 98% pure protein. 2,
Is Whey Isolate The Right Protein For Women?
Due to whey isolates filtration and filtration process, whey isolate is the best protein choice for women, and here’s why: It is easier to digest for those that are lactose intolerant and its absorption rate is much faster than whey protein concentrate.
Also, the protein and peptides are isolated from lactase containing carbs and fats. That means you can get optimal protein content without worrying about negatively affecting your physique with excessive carbohydrates and fats.
What about Whey Protein Hydrolysate?
Whey hydrolysate is a whey protein that has been hydrolyzed to make the large peptide structures smaller. Consequently, smaller peptide structures are easier to digest. This extra step often makes hydrolyzed whey more expensive.
Casein is the most common protein found in cow milk and is valued for long-term muscle support. Micellar refers to the specific structure of the casein. Because of its larger structure, micellar casein can take up to 8 hours to digest 3,
Is Micellar Casein the Right Protein for Women?
Micellar casein contains higher levels of lactose. Consequently, micellar casein isn’t the best protein source for women because of the sugar content in lactose. Also, casein can get rather pricy, and it is considered to be about 85% pure protein, which is a bit low compared to other protein sources.
Soy isolate is a popular protein option among vegetarians or vegans who avoid dairy products. It is derived from soybeans and is 90-95% pure protein.
Is Soy Isolate the Right Protein for Women?
While the protein content is fairly high, soy protein offers significantly less branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) than whey. Branched chain amino acids are imperative for optimal lean muscle accrual, especially the BCAA l-leucine. Also, soy isolate ranks lowest when comparing collective amino acid profiles.4,
Smart Supplementation For Optimal Results
Supplementation alone will never give you the results you are looking for, but combining top of the line ingredients with hard work in the gym will expedite your progress and improve your performance –there’s no question.
A good example of a pure protein is GymVixen Sexy Whey. It contains only whey isolate and is less than 100 Calories per serving. The entire Gym Vixen line is designed for women, and I’ve been impressed by their ingredient blends.
What protein do you use? Are there any special tricks you know to find the best protein? Let us know what you think in the comments!
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
- Yang Y, et al. “Resistance exercise enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis with graded intakes of whey protein in older men.” The British Journal of Nutrition. 2012 Nov 28;108(10):1780-8.
- Cribb PJ, et al. “The Effect of Whey Isolate and Resistance Training on Strength, Body Composition, and Plasma Glutamine.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2006 16:494-509.
- Boirie Y, et al. “Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 1997 Dec 23;94(26):14930-5.
- Misner W. “Protein Debate: Which Protein Is Best?” Hammer Nutrition.”