Spinning instructor and actual woman Joanne Robinson looks at the subject of whey protein for women and explains why it can help you tone up, rather than bulk up.
Excuse the huge generalisation here, but I think it is fair to say that whey protein powders and shaker bottles have long been associated with uber muscular guys who frequent the weights room, and the weights room only. But, ladies, next time you're in the gym changing room, take a look around and you'll be surprised at the number of women knocking back a high protein flavour of some kind.
Ladies are finally realising that women plus weights does not equal bulk. It equals fat loss, definition, and that word which lots of women strive for - tone. But, to tone is to lose fat and gain definition, to lose fat and gain definition is to lift weights, to lift weights is to lose fat and gain definition... See where I'm going with this? There's no such thing as tone, but there is such a thing as losing fat and building muscle, and that's where protein (in both food and whey powder form) comes in to assist us.
Why women should use whey protein
Whey protein for women is particularly important, as many of us are unaware of exactly how much protein our bodies need on a daily basis for every single one of our organs and cells. Some sources recommend one gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight, some say one gram for every pound of lean muscle mass.
Either way, chicken for lunch and fish for dinner won't make up to either of these amounts (an average chicken breast has around 30 grams of protein). Enter whey protein
powder, a typical serving of which provides over 20 grams of protein, enabling us to get more of the all important protein to hit our daily requirements. This then ensures our muscles grow and tissues repair effectively, not to mention helping with the crucial post-exercise recovery our bodies and muscles need.
Post-exercise protein is particularly important so it can target the worked muscles more or less immediately, giving way to speedy muscle recovery and growth. Seeing that solid proteins (food) take longer than shakes to digest (and then break down the proteins and drive them to the muscles), whey protein powder is an obvious choice for both women and men after a gym sesh. In around half an hour the muscles will be fed and en route to recovery.
Adding whey protein to your diet
Through many discussions with many women about their views on whey protein powder, it is clear that it doesn't rank top of their shopping lists. When I first started taking whey protein powder to supplement my diet and training, I won't lie, I was not a fan.
But there are so many ways women (and men, of course) can incorporate protein powder into their diets without having to make up a shake post-workout. Homemade protein bars and protein pancakes are pretty popular posts on many a social networking site, with some recipes being as simple as egg whites, banana and whey protein powder.
But for the real benefits, as discussed, we need to be taking some on board directly after working out, and this is where you just need to partake in a bit of good old taste testing. It took a good few flavours for me to find one that I could happily drink four times a week (I settled on Strawberries and Whipped Cream - it's delicious, honestly – and that's coming from someone who has never liked anything other than water or squash!), and likewise I'm still experimenting with the flavour I put on my porridge in the mornings. Yes, protein powder on porridge – try it, it works.
Which is the best whey protein for women?
There are many whey protein powder products on the market directed at women, with the promise of tone and definition. Buy whey is whey, and whey protein powder for women can be the exact same whey protein powder that men choose.
My go-to people for protein powder recommendations are my brother and my (male) Personal Trainer, both of whom have never told me to opt for something marketed solely for women. Protein is protein, we all need it for the same thing - to repair, nourish and grow our muscles (or for the female marketing definition, read "to tone up"). Women need not worry about bulking, because we don't have the levels of testosterone that men have.
Testosterone increases the muscles' protein synthesis, which is what causes the muscle fibres to repair and grow. Women have about one fifteenth of the levels of testosterone that men have, so we do not have the capability to be increasing our muscles the way men do. Fear not, ladies - men bulk, women lean out.
Women really really shouldn't be afraid of the whey. Not only does it repair our muscles and keep us full, its low carbohydrate nature ensures our insulin levels don't rise and fall unnecessarily. Along with a clean diet and a training plan that incorporates weights, it really is the "whey" to go.