Finding the best protein powder for women is not as simple as it may seem.
Whether the goal is weight loss, muscle repair or more protein intake, protein powder is a good option for women. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is not a magic weight loss bullet, but the best protein powder for women can be a useful aid that supplements a healthy diet.
Adequate levels of protein are essential for good health, and protein shakes can help women get more of this nutrient into their diets. Determining the best protein powder for women to lose weight, however, can be a daunting task. The protein supplement industry has catered to men for a long time through powders, bars and shakes. Choosing the best protein powder for women from ones that are mostly designed for men can pose a challenge.
Protein Powder for Women vs Protein Powder for Men
How do protein powders for women differ from the best protein powder for men? In principle, they are virtually the same. Many women use the same supplement than men take, and most products are formulated for both genders. Protein is a vital nutrient, after all, and men and women both need it to stay healthy.
That said, men and women have different bodies and different dietary requirements. Women often use protein powder for women’s weight loss, while men take protein to bulk up their muscles. Because of their design, women typically require less protein per serving than men need. Protein formulas for women also contain additional vitamins that benefit their health needs, including B vitamins, iron and folic acid.
Protein supplements have come a long way since the early days, when flavor options were few and far between. People were limited to chalky powders that did not dissolve easily. Today, they have more options that mix and taste better. From whey and casein to soy and egg, there is a protein powder formula for everyone.
How to pick the best protein powder for you:
As a woman, picking the right protein powder can be a bit difficult at times.
There are so many options out there, it’s enough to make your head spin. Should one go with whey protein? Soy protein? Casein? Egg? Rice, hemp or pea or something unheard of?
If you want to make an informed decision, you will want to look for a protein powder that meets the following requirements:
- Adequate macro-nutrient formula (higher protein amount with a low carb and fat amount)
- Tries to avoid or minimize artificial ingredients
- Is tasty and drinkable
- Easy to mix, doesn’t clump
- Provides value for your money at a decent price
While this criteria can help narrow down your search, there are still many factors to consider. In this article I’m going to go over everything you need to know about the different types of protein powders for women.
But first lets address some questions, rumors and myths about protein powders.
Debunking protein powder myths
Are protein powders dangerous in any way?
I get asked this question all the time. Not that I mind, and it’s not surprising. People want to know if what they’re consuming is safe or not, and they are right to question things.
I’ll give you my answer, and keep in mind, you should always consult your doctor about such things.
The answer is no, protein powder is not inherently dangerous. You are not going to drink it and seize up and die on the spot. Nor is it going to slowly kill you in the background. Protein powders are merely proteins taken from foods and presented in another and more convenient form. Protein powders do not contain ingredients that are going to harm you.
HOWEVER, you should be vary of your own allergies to certain ingredients. Everyone is different, and you might be allergic to whey evn if you don’t know it. And if that’s the case, taking a whey protein supplement can most certainly be dangerous. That is why I highly recommend getting checked out by a doctor FIRST and getting a list of all the things you should avoid consuming.
The best protein powder for weight loss, does it exist?
I’ll let you in on a little secret; there is no such thing as protein powder for weight loss. Shocking? Probably not. I think at this point most people realize that health and fitness companies will tell you anything to get their products in your hands.
The easiest and most productive thing for them to tell you is that their product will “help you lose weight”. This is why a plethora of products from weight loss pills, to weight loss protein powders, to weight loss pre-workout supplements and all the way to weight loss nutrition bars exist.
The truth is, those terms are just a marketing gimmick, well minus the weight loss pills. If used properly they can actually aid you in shedding some weight.
Food is the key to weight loss, not protein powder
When it comes to weight loss, food and nutrition are the real key elements to success. While there is no such thing as a specific food designed for weight loss, there are certain foods that are better than others in achieving such goals.
Why are some foods better for weight loss than others? Well it all has to do with the amount of calories that they come packed with. Certain foods distribute and break down these calories into protein, carbs and fats more effectively than others.
The best foods for weight loss are also going to provide you with an increased amount of micro-nutrients. They will also fill you up quicker, be low on calories, fats and definitely low in sugar. Sugar is one of the worst culprits in gaining weight.
If you stick to eating these types of foods, your goals of weight loss can be achieved much easier and you’ll be less likely to eat more than you should.
While I know this is an article about protein powders, I’ll go ahead and give you quick list of these foods that were mentioned above. Try to get these into your diet, especially if your goal is losing weight. And remember, moderation is key.
Some weight loss foods that you should consider:
- If you want grains, then make them whole grains (brown rice, wheat, barley, and oats)
- Stick to lean meats with low fat content but high in protein (steak, chicken, lean beef, tilapia, tuna, salmon, turkey, and so on
- Sweet or white potatoes, yams
- Vegetables (broccoli, green beans, kale, carrots, peppers, greens)
- Green peas and any variety of beans
- Low fat dairy and egg whites
- Stick to unprocessed, high in fiber and micro-nutrient foods and you’ll do just fine
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc)
- Dried fruits and fresh fruits (limit these, as they also contain sugar)
- AVOID SUGAR!
Foods to avoid
While the foods above are green lighted for weight loss, there are tons of foods that you should avoid. These food are high in calories, fat, sugar and don’t fill you up. This makes you eat more and more of them at a time.
Try and avoid and processed foods, otherwise known as “junk foods”. These include: candies, pastries, chips, sodas, energy drinks, pop tarts, cakes, donuts, spreads, you get the idea.
So what about weight loss protein powders?
Okay so, while protein powder has no inherent weight loss properties, it is just a food product after all, and if used properly, it can aid in your goal. The best protein powders for weight loss will be those that are packed full of pure protein and not much else, especially not sugar.
Properties of the best protein powder for women’s weight loss:
If your goal is shedding weight, then there are certain things to look for in your protein powder. The concept is pretty simple, no different than foods. You want your protein powder to be:
- High in protein (isolate or pure), 25-30g per serving is ideal
- Low in calories per serving, 150-250 per serving max
- Low in carbs (You should focus on getting carbs through the foods listed above)
- Low in fat (The body needs fats, but it’s best to get if from foods, just like carbs)
- Low in sugar (Avoid sugar at all costs, it’s bad for your health, weight and teeth!)
That being said, you will definitely want limit the amount of liquid calories you intake per day. Be it from protein powders or crappy drinks like soda, fruit drinks (no they’re not as healthy as you think) or red bulls and junk. The reason you want to avoid drinking too many calories is because they don’t fill you up as much as food does. What does this mean? Well simply put, if you drink a 1000 calorie drink, odds are high that you will be hungry less than an hour later. This is even backed by research.
Will protein powder make me fat or bulky?
This question doesn’t really have a clear cut answer. CAN protein powder make you bulky? Absolutely, that’s why it’s used by bodybuilders, teenagers and college guys who want to bulk up.
However, WILL it make you bulky on its own? No. Protein powder on it’s own is not going to make you bulk up anymore than a serving of chicken breast will.
You should remember that protein powder is a tool in your belt of nutrition, it’s going to do the job you assign to it. If you want to use protein powder to lose weight, you can do that. And likewise, if you want to use protein powder to GAIN weight and get bulky, you can use it for that purpose as well.
Put simply, if you want to LOSE weight, look for protein powders mentioned in the above section and take them sparingly. However, if you want to GAIN weight, then you want to take protein shakes more often and you want them to be filled with more calories, carbs, proteins and fats. Everyone has their own goals, and protein powders are versatile enough to help reach a variety of them.
So, now that we’ve gone over some of the benefits, rumors and straight up myths about protein powders, let’s go on and take a look at some of the most popular types of protein powders available on the market today.
Most Popular Types of Protein Powders for Women
There are 5 main categories of popular protein powders for women and men:
- Whey protein
- Casein Protein
- Soy Protein
- Egg Protein
- Vegetable protein (rice, pea, hemp)
Lets start by taking a look at whey protein powders
Whey Protein Powder for Women
By far, whey protein is the single most popular protein supplement on the market. It might be the most popular supplement, period. According to Oxygen, a women’s fitness magazine, whey protein is the most popular choice for women. It packs a lot of protein per dollar, usually tastes amazing, is packed with amino acids and other useful nutrients that help you build muscle, recover faster and feel more energized.
But what is whey protein?
Simply put, whey protein is a byproduct of cheese production. It is a semi-clear liquid that is lafter over after milk is curd and strained. Milk is actually composed of 80% whey protein and 20% casein protein, which I will go over next.
Whey, what is it good for?
Believe it or not, before the whole supplement craze, whey used to be discarded entirely, until someone realized its potential and decided to create a separate product to sell to the masses.
Whey has high level branch-chained amino acids (BCCAs) such as leucine and valine, which are crucial for protein synthesis. BCCAs are the building blocks of muscle, and more muscle means more calories burned.
When should you take whey protein shake?
Realistically, you can drink a whey protein shake at any time of the day. However, due to its ability to be rapidly digested by our bodies, I would recommend taking it immediately before or after your workouts.
Before a workout, it will provide you with energy and after a workout it will replenish your body’s lost nutrients. I personally take it both times. This isn’t necessary unless you’re on a really strenuous workout program. The leucine spike you get from drinking a shake post-workout is going to simulate more rapid muscle growth.
Different Types of Whey Protein Powders
There are three types of whey protein powder:
Isolates are lower in carbohydrates, fats and lactose than other whey products. They generally taste better than other products too, but they often contain higher levels of sodium. Whey protein is also available as concentrates and hydrolysates. Concentrates are less expensive than isolates and hydrolysates, but they yield less protein. All whey products digest more quickly than other types of protein powder. Whey isolates and hydrolyzed powders also remove almost all lactose from the whey.
Check out our: Top 10 Whey Protein Supplements on the Market Today
Casein Protein Powder for Women
Casein is another good protein powder for women. While not as popular as whey, it’s still widely used by many people, especially health and fitness savy folks.
This rich protein source contains bioactive milk peptides that encourage muscle growth. It also supports immune system functioning to help women fight illness and stay healthy.
What is Casein protein?
As mentioned above, casein protein is the other 20% of milk’s protein content. It is also extracted during the curding process. As with most other protein supplements, it is produced and offered in powder form to be taken as a shake.
What is Casein good for?
The difference between casein and whey is that casein is a much slower digesting protein. This means that casein is going to offer you a smaller dosage of immediate amino acids and it will release nutrients more slowly over a period of time. So most experts agree that it’s not really a protein powder to be taken for immediate replenishing of nutrients.
So when should you drink a casein protein shake?
Since whey is quickly digested and packed with amino acids, it’s good for post and pre workout usage. But casein is a different monster. Casein digests much more slowly, so the best time to take a casein shake is either in the morning, or right before bed.
Basically you want to take a casein supplement whenever you feel that you will go a long time without eating your next meal. So before bed is the perfect time since you won’t be eating for almost 8 hours. Another reason to take it before bed is because your body heals during sleep and casein is great in helping your muscles recover after workouts.
If you’re looking for a more natural source of casein, you can fill up on:
- Cottage cheese
Check out our: Top 10 Casein Protein Supplements on the Market Today
Soy Protein Powder for Women
Soy protein is not as popular or effective as it’s whey and casein cousins, but it still has it’s own health properties and uses.
What is Soy protein?
Soy protein is a product isolated from the soybean. It’s made from a soybean meal that is dehulled and deffated. These soybeans are then processed into three different types of protein products: soy flour, isolates and concentrates. Soy isolate is typically used in foods for its properties. Soy protein powders typically consist of isolate or concentrates.
What is Soy protein good for?
Soy protein powder is effective for women’s weight loss because of its fat-free properties. It provides all of the amino acids necessary for protein synthesis and muscle repair. However, the body cannot absorb soy as easily as whey.
Like casein, soy protein supports the immune system. It also helps the body maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Soy protein is a good option for people who follow a vegetarian diet, and it also benefits those who are lactose-intolerant. Women can find soy protein powder in sugar-free versions as well.
Check out our: Top 10 Soy Protein Supplements on the Market Today
Egg Protein Powder for Women
Egg protein powder is one of those things that most people don’t even know exists. Which is a shame since egg protein powder is an excellent source of protein for you.
What is Egg Protein?
Well as the name suggest, egg protein is protein that comes from eggs. It is processed with other proteins and turned into a powder form for consumers.
What is Egg Protein good for?
Egg protein is a slow-digesting protein that is best taken with between-meal snacks. This fat-free, cholesterol-free product contains an abundance of amino acids, including high levels of arginine. One of its benefits over other powders is that it can be highly and effectively utilized by our bodies. It is also very similar to whey in muscle stimulation.
Just like casein protein, it is digested very slowly, even slower. This makes it a more ideal choice if you have sensitivities to dairy products and extracts.
Egg protein is also an excellent choice because it’s very very low in fat and carbohydrates are almost non-existent. I personally only scarcely take egg protein in powder form since I love to eat eggs, but I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a solid protein source.
Check out our: Top 10 Egg Protein Supplements on the Market Today
Popular Vegan Protein Powders for Women
Even less known than egg protein powders are the three vegetable (other than soy) based protein powders. These are rice protein, pea protein and hemp protein. The thing about these types of protein powders is that they contain lower amounts of certain amino acids and aren’t absorbed by the body as efficiently as whey, casein and egg proteins.
Rice protein is usually fairly tasty, and can provide you with a solid source of protein. However it is not effective as casein, whey or egg.
Check out our: Top 10 Rice Protein Supplements on the Market Today
Pea protein is usually just as effective as rice protein and is often combined with rice protein to create products known as vegan protein blends.
Check out our: Top 10 Pea Protein Supplements on the Market Today
Hemp protein is not as great as the other choices. Not that it’s an unhealthy choice, it just contains less protein by weight compared to the other items listed in this article. It’s also not absorbed well by our bodies.
Check out our: Top 10 Hemp Protein Supplements on the Market Today
Choosing the Best Protein Supplement for Women
The key to finding the best protein powder for women is to look for one that provides protein as well as carbohydrates and fiber. Women who use protein to lose weight should look for low-sugar products with fewer than seven carbohydrate grams per serving. On the other hand, artificial sweeteners can cause hunger cravings that wreak havoc on weight loss efforts.
In general, women can use the same protein powder that men use, if they follow the serving suggestions for women. Supplementing their diet with protein powder shakes is a healthy way to get more of a vital nutrient. Fortunately, today’s women have many protein options. The answer to “What is the best protein powder for women?” really depends on individual dietary goals, budgets and personal preferences.
Final Say on the Best Protein Powder for Women
Hopefully this article has given you some insight on your next protein powder purchase.
To recap my thoughts on the best women’s protein powders
- There are many myths surrounding protein powder, most are false or misinformed
- Weight loss and weight gain have more to do with your diet and nutrition than any supplement
- Whey protein is great for post and pre workout
- Casein and Egg protein are slow digesting and therefore great for those times your body isn’t receiving food; before bed for example
- Soy and other vegan proteins are great for vegan purposes but they aren’t as effective as whey, casein and egg protein powders
Guest, Nanci S. (2011) “Protein Powders: Which One is For You?” Oxygen Magazine. Retrieved January 15, 2013. http://www.oxygenmag.com/Nutrition/Articles/protein-powders-which-one-is-for-you.aspx/
Zeratsky, Katherine. (April 17, 2012) “Protein Shakes: Good for Weight Loss?” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved January 15, 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/protein-shakes/AN01332/