From casual lifters to diehard gym rats, it seems like every guy out there can’t hit the gym without a shaker cup in hand. And, honestly, they have every reason in the world to do so. Protein powders are the most efficient way to repair your exercise-torn muscles and help them grow stronger (and bigger) sip by sip.
However, our lady friends often shy away from using protein powder for fear of getting too bulky. Well, the truth is that they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, much like the male, the female body needs protein to function adequately and even perform better at the gym. Confused? Well, don’t be. This guide can help you figure out everything, from how your female physique reacts to such supplements to which protein powders are the best for women.
What is Protein Powder?
As the name implies, protein powder is a type of supplement that features -what else?- protein, whether that comes from whey, soy, hemp, casein, or something else. But, no matter the source, chances are you’ve seen more than just the type of protein flashing on that supplement bottle. Terms like “hydrolyzed” or “cutting edge” are also used to describe the efficiency of the protein, meaning how quickly it is absorbed by your body.
However, don’t always fall for those labels. They are parts of a greater marketing scheme to attract more buyers. In fact, one study shows that the human body tends to absorb whole proteins more quickly than hydrolyzed whey, for example, putting this rumor to rest.
4 Types of Protein Powder Every Woman Should Know About
When it comes to protein powders for women, there really is something for everyone out there. So, depending on your fitness level, size and goals, there is no doubt you’ll find the perfect mix of protein sources to achieve maximum results. If you are on the lookout for the best protein powder for women on the market, here is a quick look at the most common sources to keep an eye for.
If you often hit the gym, chances are you’ve already heard about whey protein. This supplement consists mainly of whey which is the liquid byproduct of milk after it’s been curdled and strained. This remaining liquid is packed with several nutrients such as minerals, vitamins and (most importantly) proteins.
Thanks to its hefty dose of amino acids, a.k.a. the building blocks of protein, whey is the perfect “whey” to not only increase your strength and muscle size but also decrease soreness after a tough day at the gym. Plus, it’s quite affordable compared to other protein sources.
However, you need to avoid brands which contain artificial sweeteners and chemicals which can set back your goals. Plus, make sure you opt for another protein source if you are allergic to lactose (the sugar found in milk).
Another protein found in cow’s milk, casein protein accounts for almost 80% of milk protein. This protein powder is produced after the proteins in milk are either concentrated or isolated from the carbs and fat.
The truth is that casein protein powder is just as competent as whey in terms of muscle recovery and growth. However, their only difference is that the human body digests casein over an extended period of time, making it the ideal choice for a pre-sleep protein shake.
Much like whey, casein protein contains lactose as it comes straight from milk. So, if you’re lactose-intolerant, this protein powder is not for you. Also, considering its slow-digesting rate, casein protein powder is not a good fit for those post-exercise shakes/snacks.
Let’s face it: The most popular sources of protein out there come straight from animals. But, what if you are a vegetarian or vegan? Then, plant-based sources of protein are the way to go, and soy is one of them. According to research, soybeans contain all of the essential amino acids, making it a top choice for health-conscious gym-goers everywhere.
What’s more, soy protein promotes muscle growth by preventing muscle catabolism. In fact, one study shows that soy protein is the best way to inhibit skeletal muscle atrophy in case of immobilization. That means that soy protein powder is the best choice for those days when going to the gym is a luxury. However, do your best to avoid brands which use genetically modified soy products as they may fiddle with your hormone levels.
Deriving from the seeds of the cannabis, hemp protein is one the most recent sources of protein to hit the supplement shelves. This bonafide superfood is rich in nutrients, from heart-friendly fatty acids to muscle-building amino acids.
Since hemp protein powder is plant-based and highly hypoallergic, this option is ideal for vegans or gym-goers with allergies or sensitivities to eggs or dairy. However, due to its association with cannabis, hemp protein can be quite costly.
How Does Protein Powder Work Within the Female Body?
Protein powder supplements contain all the right ingredients to boost muscle strength and gains along with regular exercise. But, have you ever wondered how protein powder supplements actually work once they enter your body?
Whether you choose to pound that pavement or lift those weights, your muscles are usually the ones to suffer the consequences. Moderate and intense physical activity cause minor damage to your muscle tissues while burning off stored fat. That’s when inflammation and soreness step in. But, those torn muscles can’t stay injured for ever.
Protein and is the one nutrient that not only rebuilds torn tissues but also replaces torched calories/fat with lean muscle mass. How? Protein consists of amino acids which play a critical role in muscle building. So, here how it actually goes down.
As soon as protein powder reaches your stomach, a proteolytic enzyme known as pepsin breaks it down and converts it into free amino acids. From then on, these nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream and make their way to your muscles. Once they reach your muscles, amino acids cling onto cells and create new attachments between them, resulting in lean muscle mass.
Should Women Take Protein Powder?
Well, hell yeah! It’s no secret, though, that many women avoid using protein powder as part of a physique-sculpting routine for fear of getting too bulky. After all, protein powder promotes muscle growth. So, getting larger biceps is unavoidable, right? Well, no.
It actually takes way more than protein powder for a woman to grow abnormally large muscles. More specifically, women lack one component that plays a huge role in building big muscles: testosterone. If you don’t know it by now, the male hormone is the one responsible for massive muscle gains.
On the other hand, protein powder provides you with the necessary nutrients to restore damaged tissues and increase your lean muscle mass. That not only doesn’t result in a bulky physique but instead tones your muscles and supports a curvaceous figure. Isn’t that every woman’s dream?
When Should You Take Protein Powder?
Have you ever wondered what’s the best time to take protein powder to achieve maximum results? Before, during or after you hit the gym? Here’s the scoop (pun intended).
According to research, it’s best to take protein powder 45-60 minutes before you start training. Why? Your body needs the energy to push through a workout session. If you don’t provide it in time, your body resorts to other sources of energy such as muscle. As a result, it starts breaking down muscle mass, and you’re one step behind in this game.
Timing is also everything when it comes to refueling after a sweaty training sesh. Experts suggest that the optimal post-workout anabolic window lasts for about half an hour. So, it’s crucial to take protein powder supplements within 30 minutes of a workout. That mainly occurs because your insulin levels are three times above fasting levels, making the nutrient absorption more efficient.
Despite what you’ve heard so far, research shows that ingesting protein powder (casein, in particular) before you go to sleep can actually promote your fitness goals. In fact, your body still keeps absorbing and utilizing amino acids while at rest, building muscle as you sleep. That’s particularly useful if you trained later in the evening and your muscles are in desperate need of overnight recovery.
Potential Side Effects of Protein Powder for Women
While high-quality protein powders for women can only benefit your body and goals, there are those times when something just feels off. However, that mainly occurs not because protein powder is bad for your health, but because something went wrong as you were consuming it. In fact, sometimes you may feel a bit nauseous, but that’s just because you drank the thing way too fast and your body has a hard time digesting it.
The only thing you may need to watch out for is artificial sweeteners. Many protein powders for women usually contain such ingredients to sweeten the taste without adding extra calories to the mix. However, the human body can’t digest artificial sweeteners all too well and usually leaves you feeling nauseous. Maltitol, sorbitol and isolated fructose are the ones you should definitely avoid.
The 2 Best Protein Powders For Women
Ready to step up your game? Then, take a look at the two best protein powder for women on the market today.
Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder by Optimum Nutrition is, without a doubt, one of the most popular protein supplements for women these days. Besides, its amazing taste and versatility, this protein powder packs an impressive nutritional punch for every woman who wants to sculpt the body of her dreams.
It delivers 24 grams of protein per serving which covers 48% of your daily recommended value.
It is also rich in glutamine, an amino acid which promotes a faster recovery following intense or moderate exercise.
This protein supplement contains naturally occurring BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) which are known for their contribution to muscle building.
It comes in 21 delicious. So, there’s something for every taste.
It is quite affordable.
It contains sucralose, an artificial sweetener which may make the formula too sweet for your taste. PS: This protein powder for women doesn’t contain alarming amounts of the artificial sweetener. So, it’s safe for consumption as long as you cycle supplements from time to time.
There’s no indication that this supplement was manufactured in a GMP-compliant facility.
While most protein powders for women are made using a bunch of synthetic ingredients, Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder by Orgain takes a different approach. The brand’s primary goal is to provide active women with a protein powder which not only doesn’t use artificial formulas but also includes plant-based organic superfoods.
This supplement contains 21 grams of plant-based protein in just one serving which accounts for 42% of your daily recommended value.
Every ingredient in this supplement is either organic or natural, making one of the healthiest protein powders for women out there.
It doesn’t contain any gluten or soy, facilitating the special dietary needs of Celiacs and people allergic or sensitive to soy.
The formula is approved by USDA for using organic ingredients.
It comes in six delicious flavors.
It is budget-friendly despite the high-quality ingredients it includes.
Lots of users have been skeptic about the gums, fillers, and thickeners inside this supplement. Their primary concern is that these processed substances may result in excessive bloating and gas.
Whether you want to tone your muscles or just boost your energy, it’s obvious that taking protein powder needs to be part of your everyday life. These supplements not only help you achieve your weight loss goals (if any) but also do your exercise-torn muscles a world of good by enhancing recovery. Just study the effects of each protein type to your body, choose the ones (or ones) who fit your needs the most, keep an eye for “red flags” here and there and protein will take over the rest.