Ok, so you’re a woman, and you’ve been hearing about this “protein powder” thing in health news and how it works wonders and can help people with their fitness goals.
The problem is that you’re not quite sure which protein powder to take or how much to take. You want to be lean, but not bulky… and you DEFINITELY want to avoid anything that’ll cause the dreaded “protein fart.”
So should you take protein powder if you’re active? Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
You’re not going to look like Arnold. Not even close.
The first thing I want to do is debunk the myth that taking protein powder and using free weights (dumbbells, benchpress) is going to make you into a muscle-bound lady. It’s not going to happen. Although protein and weight resistance training is part of the muscle growth formula, women lack something that’s required to build lots of muscle : testosterone.
The difference in testosterone levels between men and women is tremendous. The testosterone difference accounts for why in a a borther and sister, despite sharing genetics, are completely different heights, have different amounts of body hair, and different levels of strength.
What about female bodybuilders you see? The truth is that they aren’t natural – they have to take steroids or some other enhancer to have enough testosterone in their bodies to be able to have that much muscle growth as a woman. Women aren’t supposed to be so muscular and cut and that’s why female bodybuilders need breast implants and also stop menstruating because their low body fat % makes them stop (also called amenorrhea).
The right protein powder depends on your fitness goal.
There is no such thing as “protein powder for women.” That phrase is about as relevant as “pens for women” or “cars for women.” The protein powder that suits you will depend on your goals.
With that said, I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym and talked with women who go to the gym. They’ve said a lot about what their goals are, but most of them can be lumped together into what I call: the swimsuit goal. Basically, getting toned or losing belly fat or getting rid of post-pregnancy weight all basically fall into wanting to look good in a swimsuit.
If you have a swimsuit goal, then protein isolate is the best choice for you. It’s absorbed fast, it’s low or free of fat, and it’s super low in lactose too, which is great for those who are intolerant.
If you’re trying to lose weight, protein isolate also makes for a great way to get protein in your diet without having to cook or grumble at how dry your chicken breast is. Protein isolate is meant for use as a recovery tool after strenuous exercise.
Focus on effectiveness, ingredients, and taste.
I got into a conversation about protein powder with a female friend of mine once. After a while, she told me that she was using seaweed protein powder. I asked her how it tasted.
“It tastes… like sh*t.”
It doesn’t matter how effective protein powder is if you gag on it while drinking it. Companies have spent lots of research dollars on making their products taste good. And actually, some powders out today taste like liquid desserts! It’s really a stark contrast to when I first started using protein powder in 2002 and had to hold my nose and chug my protein powders so that I wouldn’t gag. So don’t punish yourself – read up before you buy and make sure that it doesn’t taste bad.
Vegan? Then don’t get whey or casein, both of which are from milk. Try soy, hemp, peas, rice, or a combination of them all (vegetable proteins aren’t all complete and need supplementing).
Want an all-natural protein powder whose ingredients list won’t make you nervous? Buy “all-natural” protein powder, but be prepared for that “all-natural” taste.
Don’t want any sugar or sugar alternatives? Buy a plain powder like Pea protein powder. Some protein powders also use stevia as a flavoring.
Most importantly, make sure that you’re getting good value. The most effective protein powders out there are whey (derived from milk) and egg. If you can’t eat them, there are lots of other protein sources, like peas, rice, soy, and hemp. One thing you should know is that not all are as effective as you think. You have to consider absorption and whether the protein type is complete or incomplete if it’s plant based. If it’s incomplete, you’ll have to eat supplementary foods for your body to utilize the protein.
Also worth mentioning is that different circumstances require different mixes. Protein isolate and concentrate is typically great for athletic folks, but if you are underweight or recovering from a flu, weight gainer would be helpful.