Written by Carina Fabia
Last updated on: Sep 17, 2022
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Protein powders can help women achieve a range of goals, this includes weight loss, toning, muscle gain and athletic performance. Additionally, protein shakes can help women get extra protein into their diet in the form of meal replacement drinks. To get extra protein is not the only way protein powder can help women improve their nutrition, some protein shakes are able to help with common female nutritional deficiencies.
Research recommends adult women who are not pregnant to consume 46 grams of protein per day. In those who are pregnant the recommended protein consumption rises to 60 grams per day (1). However, this does not account for those who are athletes or regularly exercising. A study into the protein requirements of female athletes came to the estimate of the optimal protein consumption to be between 1.41 grams and 1.71 grams per kilogram (kg) of bodyweight (2). This means a woman weighing 61.24 kg (135 pounds) would require around 86 to 105 grams of protein per day.
Protein is a macronutrient which is essential for many metabolic and physiological processes in the body. Consuming sufficient protein is a vital if you want to have a healthy diet. Proteins are made up of amino acids. During the digestion process these amino acids are released and the body can use them for bodily processes.
These processes include:
1) Building Muscle Tissue, Bones, Cartilage and Skin
2) Repairing Muscle Tissue
5) Hormone Regulation
If the recommended daily intake of protein is not hit any of the above processes can operate at less than optimal levels. This includes the function and health of tissues including skeletal muscle, the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and gut (3).
The best protein powder for an individual will depend upon their own personal goals and dietary requirements. The most common goals are weight loss, toning and muscle gain. Below each of these areas will be looked at with in detail, with recommendations for the best protein powders to use. With these recommendations, more than one option is given to cater for the widest range of people possible.
When it comes to weight loss the most important thing is to maintain a calorie deficit. This means to expend more calories than you consume. Many people find it hard to maintain a calorie deficit over time as they feel constantly feel hungry. This is where protein powder can help. Protein is proven to promote satiety meaning by consuming more will make you feel fuller (4). This will make you feel less hungry and make it easier to maintain a calorie deficit. You can take advantage of this by allocating a larger amount of your daily calorie allowance to protein sources such as protein shakes. Studies have found individuals who increase their protein intake consume fewer calories during the day (5). The reason for this may be due to extra protein increasing the level of the appetite reducing hormones such as peptide YY (PYY) and decreasing the level of the hormone gherlin (6, 7). Gherlin is often referred to as the ‘hunger hormone’.
Any protein powder which is low in calories, carbohydrates and fats would be suitable for those attempting to lose weight. This includes: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate and pea protein isolate. These supplements have high protein contents as a percentage of total weight meaning you will get the maximum protein per calorie consumed. Whey protein concentrate and pea protein isolate typically have protein as 70% of their total weight and whey protein isolate typically has around 80%.
In addition to these protein powders there are also diet protein powders. These are protein powder supplements with added ingredients which have shown evidence of assisting with weight loss. The protein in these supplements is either in the form of whey protein or a plant based protein source. The plant protein sources used for vegan diet protein powders are typically pea or soy. The ingredients which are often added to diet protein powder because of the evidence they have shown of assisting with weight loss are: green tea extract, l-carnitine, taurine and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) powder (8, 9, 10, 11). Acai berries are also often added to diet protein powders due to claims they assist with weight loss. However, there is no scientific evidence to confirm this. Despite this, they are proven antioxidants and provide several health benefits (12).