Written by Carina Fabia
Last updated on: Sep 17, 2022
Kimura Athletic may earn a small commission through our links. Learn more.
The best protein powder for female weight loss will depend on the individual woman who is trying to lose weight. The advice for a dedicated athlete on an intense training programme to support their weight loss goals will differ from a woman with a full-time job trying to lose their weight mainly through a calorie controlled diet.
For athletes aiming to reduce their weight whilst optimising performance, preventing the loss of lean muscle mass is a priority. Due to the demands of training it is vital protein intake is kept high, to prevent the loss of muscle mass and any dip in performance. The best types of protein powder to support this would be, powders with a high protein concentration per serving. Such supplements include whey concentrate, whey isolate and pea protein isolate.
For those who are aiming to reduce their weight primarily through diet with minimal or no exercise a different approach would be needed. A diet protein powder which can be either whey or plant based would be beneficial. Diet protein shakes have a good protein content but also contain added ingredients which help promote fat oxidation.
Despite protein powders often being regarded as supplements for individuals to ‘bulk up’ or improve athletic performance, most protein powders can help with losing weight. Research has shown high protein diets assist individuals who are trying to lose weight. Elevated protein intake increases energy expenditure, whilst also helping to control appetite and increase satiety (1).
Diet protein powders also have added ingredients, which research has shown promote fat oxidation and elevate metabolism. This helps with losing weight and body-fat. The ingredients often added to diet protein powders include CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), acetyl l-carnitine, green tea and taurine.
Whey is a popular women’s protein powder, which provides high quantities of protein per serving and all nine essential amino acids (1). It is derived from the milky by-product produced during the cheese manufacturing process. This means whey is animal-based and unsuitable for vegans (2). Whey comes in four different forms: whey isolate, whey concentrate, diet whey and whey hydrolysate. Research has found whey isolate to be one of the purest protein powders available with protein concentrations of 90% and higher (3).
If you are a female athlete looking to maintain performance, whilst cutting down on your weight, whey isolate is a great choice. It has a high protein content with low levels of carbohydrate and fat. Additionally it contains high levels of the branched-chain amino acid leucine (4). Leucine is known to assist with post-workout muscle recovery and the development of lean muscle.
Studies comparing the muscle growth achieved from different protein powders have found whey protein is able to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a greater degree than protein powders like casein and soy (5). Whey protein's ability to promote the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass, also gives some health benefits. Females who have more lean muscle mass have been found to be better equipped to fight illness and diseases as they age. Additionally, females with more lean muscle mass are less likely to develop diabetes.
For women looking to lose weight through maintaining a calorie deficit, whey can also help. Research has found whey supplementation can assist with weight loss whilst also helping the maintenance of lean body mass (6). Additionally, studies have shown whey promotes satiety (7). This means taking a whey supplement can make it easier to maintain a calorie deficit as they increased satiety makes it less likely you will succumb to hunger and break your calorie deficit.
When compared to other protein powders with regards to weight loss, whey performed favourably. A study comparing weight loss between overweight adults consuming 56 grams of whey protein protein powder and those consuming the equivalent serving of soy protein found whey to be better. The results demonstrated a 5-pound increase in weight loss in those adults who had been given the whey protein powder (8).
Diet whey is another whey supplement but with added ingredients which research has found may assist with weight loss and body composition. The most common ingredients added to diet protein supplements are L-carnitine and green tea. The protein content of these supplements is typically 70% and comes from a blend of whey protein concentrate (milk) and whey protein isolate.
L-carnitine is a nutrient and dietary supplement .The body can produce L-carnitine using the essential amino acids’ lysine and methionine (9). Studies have shown L-carnitine not only aids acid metabolism, but also helps to transports fatty acids into your cell’s mitochondria (10). This leads many to believe using a protein powder which contains L-carnitine may increase the speed at which you see results when trying to improve your body composition and reduce your weight. This seems especially true in adults who are currently above the recommended body mass index (BMI). Typically, the serving of L-carnitine within diet protein powder is 1.5%.
The added green tea extract in diet protein powder is included in a concentrated form, which contains high levels of catechins and moderate levels of caffeine. Research has shown consuming green tea can increase your bodies expenditure of energy over a 24-hour period (11). There is some evidence to suggest green tea is able to enhance fat oxidation in women when paired with a brisk 30-minute walk (12). Individuals using a supplement with additional green tea extract may see a faster reduction in body fat and their body weight. The amount of green tea within diet whey protein tends to be about 1%.
Another diet protein powder suitable for female weight loss is a diet protein blend. This is one of the more affordable protein powders for women looking to lose weight. It is made from a blend of different protein sources. The most commonly used are whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate and milk protein. The ingredients added to this protein powder include CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), acetyl l-carnitine, green tea extract and acai berry.
The popular weight loss supplement, CLA is a fatty acid. Research has found CLA can effectively reduce the body fat of animal subjects. Although more research is needed into the effect CLA has on the reduction of human body fat mass it is believed to be effective (13). One research study found obese patients who took a CLA supplement over a 12-week period lost weight faster (14).
Another study over a 6 month period found CLA supplementation among overweight adults significantly reduced body fat and prevented weight gain during the holiday season (15). Whilst no adverse effects were noted in either study, more research needs to be undertaken to understand the long-term effects of taking CLA. There is some evidence to suggest large doses could result in insulin resistance (16). The dosage in a diet protein supplement will be below any levels , it is important to moderate any CLA supplementation as directed.
Acai berries are popular additions to diet protein supplements. Acai berries, originate from South America and the island of Trinidad and Tobago. These berries are a purplish colour and provide a number of healthy benefits. The largest of these benefits is the berries high content of antioxidants (17). There have been many claims of acai berries assisting with weight loss, however there is very little scientific evidence for this. So, whilst they are a great way of boosting your bodies levels of antioxidants their impact on weight loss remains inconclusive.
It is also possible to get a diet protein powder which is plant based. The plant protein source for these powders are normally soy and pea isolate. Just like other diet protein powders, ingredients which promote fat oxidation are added. Typically with a vegan protein blend the ingredients added are as follows: green tea extract, acai berry, flaxseed and L-Carnitine.
An 80% diet protein powder, has a protein content of 80%. The protein source can be a single source or a blend. Most commonly used are whey concentrate, whey isolate, milk protein concentrate and soy protein isolate. These supplements also often have green tea and L-carnitine added. However, due to the higher protein content, these added ingredients make up a smaller percentage of the supplements. A typical 80% diet protein powder will contain the following percentages for the added ingredients; acai berries 1.4%, CLA 1.5% and taurine 3%.
Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid, which occurs naturally in the body. With particularly high concentrations found in our eyes, heart, muscles and brain. However, unlike other amino acids it isn’t used to build protein. However, it does have ability to assist in the fat burning process which is why it is often added to diet protein powder supplements. Research has found taurine ingestion to be responsible for a 16% increase in fat burning over a 90-minute period (18). Another study, found endurance athletes who consumed taurine within their supplement could cover greater distances with less fatigue (19).
Pea protein is a great supplement for women with weight loss goals. It is great for those with allergies and those wanting to follow a vegan diet. This plant based supplement is hypo-allergenic and free from the 8 main types of allergens (20).
Pea protein powder is made from yellow split peas, which gives the powder its beige tone. During the manufacturing process, the split peas are dried. Then ground into a fine flour. This flour contains proteins, starches and soluble fibres. As it is water soluble, the proteins are separated from the fibre and starch by wet filtration and centrifugation. Next, the protein is precipitated to its isoelectric point. This dry spray is then solubilised. The result is a beige white protein powder known as pea protein isolate. The typical protein content of pea isolate protein powder is approximately 75%.
Research has shown the branch amino acids within pea protein powder are comparable to whey protein in terms of building muscle, strength and body composition (21, 22). In addition to this,research has found the protein qualities found in pea protein powder together with its fibre and resistant starch components, can help to suppress one’s appetite and glycemia (23). This increased satiety is extremely helpful when maintaining a calorie deficit. One research study found pea protein was more effective at increasing feelings of fullness and the desire, than its animal-based rivals milk protein and whey protein (24).
Hemp protein powder is raw, which means very little goes into its manufacturing process. It is also a plant based protein powder meaning it is suitable for vegans. Hemp protein powder is made by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder. As the seeds are ground the majority of their oil content is removed. When this process is complete approximately 10% of the original fat content remains (25).
Due to this fat content hemp protein powder has a slightly higher calorie count per serving in comparison to other protein powders suitable for weight loss. However, it has high levels of fibre which assists with weight loss. Research has found high fibre diets improve blood sugar levels, encourage healthier gut bacteria and reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer (26). Fibre also helps to control appetite and make you feel fuller for longer. It is advised for women to consume 25 grams of fibre each day, with the average portion of hemp protein powder containing 18-28% or the recommended daily intake of fibre (27).
Brown rice protein is another supplement suitable to take on a weight loss journey. Research has has shown rice protein isolate consumption post resistance exercise decreases fat-mass and increases lean body mass, skeletal muscle hypertrophy, power and strength (28). Rice protein is also a good source of essential amino acids, with lysine being the only one which is deficient. This means if you take brown rice protein powder you should ensure you are consuming a foods high in lysine such as legumes and tofu. Another benefit of brown rice protein powder is it is one of the more affordable supplements.
The best protein powder for female weight loss will depend upon the individuals goals. Any low calorie protein powder can assist with a weight loss journey. However, the best protein powders for women trying to lose weight will normally fall into one of two groups. Those who will be on a weight loss journey which relies on a combination of diet and exercise. And those relying solely on diet. Individuals exercising regularly, will require a higher protein content and typically a form of whey protein concentrate or isolate will be best for them. If a plant based protein is preferred pea protein isolate is the best choice.
For those who are wanting to lose weight primarily through diet the best protein powder to select would be a low calorie protein powder with a good protein content. You can view our list of the 5 protein powders we rank as the best here: Best Protein Powder For Female Weight Loss: Female Specific Guide.