For some women, especially those who are new to working out or strength training, supplementing with whey protein can be a daunting topic to understand.
For years, the myth circulated that women would become “bulky” if they consumed high amounts of protein in combination with lifting weights, potentially costing many women the toned, lean physiques they relentlessly strived to attain.
The truth is, however, that when selected and utilized properly, a protein supplement can serve as an essential tool to support any woman in getting the most out of her exercise routine. Whether the goal is to lose fat, build muscle, tone and tighten, maintain her current physique or accomplish any combination of these objectives, protein is a critical component of a woman’s fitness journey.
After working tirelessly to uncover the best protein supplements for women, we developed this list that contains several whey supplements to adequately enrich the female diet.
Be mindful of the fact that many companies market their products specifically “for women” by simply packaging them with bright pink labels, but we considered other (much more important) factors, including overall effectiveness, taste, and quality.
Before we examine some of the best protein shakes on the market today, let’s gain a proper understanding of why all women who exercise should consider adding a daily protein shake to their diet.
Why Should Women Add More Protein to Their Diet?
While most people recognize that protein is an essential nutrient for building muscle, many don’t realize that supplementing with a high-quality whey protein is advantageous for nearly any workout program.
Not only does protein nourish existing muscle tissue and encourage muscle growth, but it also helps to satisfy hunger, reducing the number of calories consumed and aiding in weight loss.
Knowing all of these benefits, you would think that women would be more diligent about adding protein to their diets. Unfortunately, many common misconceptions surrounding the use of whey protein for women still exist.
We review some of these misconceptions below and break down why they are incorrect (no matter how present they are in the world today):
1. “Protein will make me ‘bulky.’”
As we mentioned earlier, it is true that protein supplementation supports muscle growth. However, many people who are new to protein supplementation, or to supplementation in general, assume that women can add far more muscle than what’s typically possible.
Based on overall body composition, women can relatively build as much muscle as men, but it is important to understand that women genetically have less muscle tissue than most men.
Since most women have a lower amount of overall muscle mass, the amount of muscle gained is not as dramatic as you may think. Adding muscle mass requires a great deal of dedication and time, so women will not spontaneously bulk up just from regularly consuming whey protein.
Gradually adding muscle through strength training and supplementation, however, is a healthy habit, as adding muscle mass speeds up the body’s basal metabolic rate, or your metabolism’s speed during everyday activities, such as watching TV, working or even sleeping.
In fact, if one of your goals is to lose fat and look leaner, then adding on a little muscle mass will help you toward that goal.
2. “But I just want to look toned.”
Many people casually toss around the term “toned,” but not many actually know what it means. If they did, they would try to put on more muscle!
A person who is toned essentially has muscle mass that is visible.
You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to be toned, but you do need to have defined muscles that are at least partially visible through your skin.
If you would like to make your muscles firmer (which is what many people really mean when they say they want to tone), you actually need to build muscle by strength training. Women who add protein to their diet through supplementation can accelerate this process.
3. “I just want to lose fat.”
Whey protein may be known as a muscle-building mate, but it’s also highly effective for weight loss.
Many protein powders are low in carbohydrates and fat (and the higher quality varieties contain healthy fats like medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs), but are high in protein, which can help keep you satiated throughout the day.
This can help you maintain a caloric deficit while still feeling full, which will ultimately help you lose weight.
Supplementing with protein is especially important when cutting calories.
The reason that many physicians warn about “crash” diets is that these diets often lead to muscle loss, so when the weight is regained, it returns in the form of fat.
Supplementing with protein helps to reduce the risk of your body breaking down muscle tissue for energy so you can keep your lean muscle mass while lowering your body fat.
What Are Some Things to Consider When Selecting a Protein Powder?
Depending on your individual needs, it can be complicated to find the type of protein that is right for you. Consulting a nutritionist may be in your best interest if you need guidance in finding the best type that will help you reach your health and fitness goals.
In the meantime, the checklist below provides a brief list of factors that you should consider before choosing a protein powder.
Not All Proteins are Created Equal
The most commonly used protein supplement is whey protein, which is inexpensive, effective, and can be easily mixed with milk or water.
Whey protein is available in the form of a concentrate or an isolate, which are both equally useful, but whey concentrate is less expensive, and may contain more fats and carbohydrates. If you’re looking for the type that is as close to pure protein as you can get, whey isolate is the better choice.
Casein protein is another form that is less popular, but is especially beneficial to consume before bedtime and promotes greater muscle retention even when you’re operating at a caloric deficit. So if you’re planning to drastically reduce your caloric intake, casein protein is the ideal option to help you maintain hard-earned muscle and ensure you are losing what you really want to lose – fat.
Other types of protein include the low-carbohydrate and low-fat egg white protein powders, beef protein powders, and plant proteins (such as pea and soy proteins). Plant-based protein powders tend to have higher carbohydrate content, but they are good environmentally-conscious options for vegetarians and vegans.
Consider Fats and Carbs
As we briefly mentioned above, protein powders contain varying degrees of the other two macronutrients, fats, and carbohydrates. The content of these nutrients will vary greatly between protein powders, even those that are the same type (i.e. whey).
Some protein powder manufacturers offer “light” options with reduced calories and fat, which may be best if you’re trying to limit these in your diet. Light alternatives are also beneficial for those who are trying to maintain a lower daily calorie intake.
Just like not all proteins are created equal, not all fats are the same either. For instance, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of fat with a medium-length carbon chain. This type of fat is beneficial for health and exercise for two reasons:
- It is absorbed and used by the body quickly, so it is rarely stored as fat.
- It slows the depletion of muscle glycogen, which allows you to exercise harder and longer so you can build more muscle while burning more fat.
While it is important to consider the type of protein in your powder, it is also important to take note of the fats and carbs. If your goal is to lean out and build muscle, opt for a protein powder that is low in fat and has minimal carbohydrates.
Now that you’ve learned about the various factors that are important to consider when choosing the best protein powder for your needs, here are the top protein brands that we recommend for women:
The Top Protein Shakes for Women
As mentioned earlier, examining the nutritional profile of different protein supplements is an important process, as each woman has different goals and needs. The supplements listed below provide a range of options for a variety of lifestyles.
1. Muscle Milk Light
This unique protein powder is a good option for women seeking a protein that is low in calories and carbohydrates. Muscle Milk Light is void of commonly used fillers and only contains what your body needs most – high-quality, lean protein that effectively helps to curb hunger, provide sustained energy and build lean muscle.
The small amounts of fats and carbohydrates contained in this powder are high quality (MCTs), and its natural fruit sugars that supply your body with fast energy are less likely to turn into fat.
2. FitMiss Delight
FitMiss Delight protein powder is manufactured by MusclePharm, the maker of popular products including Combat Protein Powder for Athletes.
This powder is designed for women who wish to lose weight and achieve a lean, toned physique. FitMiss Delight is made with a new weight-control ingredient called SolaThin – a potato protein that also contains an inhibitor for protease, which breaks down proteins in the body.
This powder is especially low in calories, which is ideal for women who want to attain a lean and cut physique. In addition, its vitamin and mineral profile helps to keep users energized and feeling healthy throughout the day. What really sets FitMiss apart from its competitors is its Proprietary Greens and Fruit blend that includes:
- Flax Seed
- Apple Extract
- Artichoke Leaf Extract
- Barley Grass
- Blackberry Fruit
- Blood Orange
- Cherry Extract
- Citrus Flavonoids
- Cranberry Extract
- Lemon Bioflavonoids
- Mango Seed Extract
- Pomegranate Rind Extract
- Red Currant
3. NLA Her Whey
NLA Her Whey is also designed specifically for women, and like FitMiss Delight, its flavor profile is appealing enough to help offset sugar cravings that women face from time to time.
The powder contains 28 grams of protein and added fiber to help keep you feeling fuller longer. In addition, it contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and glutamine to support faster muscle recovery. Expedited recovery means less muscle soreness and a quicker return to the gym!
Another benefit of NLA Her Whey is its unique protein blend that contains MCTs, which, as we mentioned earlier, are the “good fats” that you should consume when building lean muscle.
Women who consume NLA Her Whey will also benefit from obtaining half of their daily recommended servings of Biotin, and Vitamins A, C, D, E, K-1, B6, and B12.
4. Jamie Eason Signature
“Lean Body for Her” Whey Protein Isolate Shake, created by former champion figure competitor, Jamie Eason, is formulated to help women achieve a lean physique.
Each scoop provides 25 grams of power-packed protein to help fuel workouts and speed recovery. It is designed to absorb quickly and mixes well with nearly any liquid, making it an excellent blend for women who want to increase lean muscle mass while cutting down on fat.
The protein powder contains just eight grams of carbohydrates and three grams of sugar per serving to ensure that you aren’t consuming any unnecessary fillers with your shake. It is also low in fat, containing just three grams per serving, which will help you feel fuller longer to limit your overall daily calorie intake.
5. Legion Athletics Whey+
One of our top recommendations is the Whey+ blend by Legion Athletics. Although it is a smaller-sized company as compared to the others on this list, Legion has successfully applied pressure onto larger supplement companies to upgrade the quality of their protein.
Despite the fact that this blend is not just marketed for women but is also suitable for men, it made our list because it is clean, delicious and extremely lean.
Whey+ blend is void of any unnecessary food dyes, fillers or artificial sweeteners, and uses 100 percent whey protein isolate (which is extremely high quality), as well as all-natural sweeteners for flavor.
One of the protein powder’s most desirable qualities is that it contains just three grams of carbs and zero grams of saturated fat.
Whether you’re a man or woman looking for a clean protein powder that tastes great and will help you pack on lean muscle without any of the fat, this is the right choice for you.
That’s a Wrap!
When it comes to protein powders for women, it isn’t about the fancy labeling or targeted marketing as much as it is about the quality of what’s inside the container. Whatever choice you make, it’s important to select the protein powder that fits your nutrition needs and amplifies your fitness goals.
Since most women are interested in slimming down, gaining lean muscle and toning their bodies rather than bulking up, their best options for protein supplements are blends made with high-quality protein that are low in carbohydrates and sugar. Remember to always check the label to ensure there are no added fillers or unnecessary ingredients.
Essentially, when you take into account your own fitness goals, metabolism, current diet, and nutritional needs, you can easily find the right protein powder based on our recommendations above.
It may take some trial and error, but it’s worth the testing to find the perfect protein supplement that fits all your needs!