Nutrition

The Complete Guide to Protein for Women

We all know that nutrition is a complex subject. If you’ve ever delved into the world of health and fitness, even just to look up a good workout or find a nutritious recipe, you’re probably aware that the amount of nutrition advice out there is staggering… and a lot of it conflicts. Even trusted experts often disagree with each other when it comes to what you should eat, how much you should eat, when you should eat… if you have a question, there are at least two different answers!

Here’s a great example: Are eggs good for you or not? Over the past few decades, we’ve been told by experts that we should steer clear of eggs and eat them as infrequently as possible… and we’ve been told by other experts that eggs are a superfood we should always keep in our diets. It’s hard to know where to turn for nutrition advice these days.

And if you’re a woman, the confusion is even worse. Do you have different nutritional needs than a man? Yes! But you’ve probably found that almost all of the information out there about Protein is geared towards men, and especially men who are looking to build massive amounts of muscle.

Not only are you a woman, you’re also looking to slim down a little and get a toned, lean physique, not a bulky one. You have different nutritional needs and different fitness goals than most men. You need information curated for YOU, not for a guy!

That’s why I’ve put together this complete guide to protein for women: so that you don’t have to dig through everything on the Internet to figure out what you need to know for your body.

Why Women Need Protein POWDER?

protein powder for womens

Protein is one of the most important components of a woman’s diet, and yet most of us are pretty clueless about how much protein we need, why we might need more, and how we should get protein into our diets. I’ve sifted through all of the advice research for you, and I can give you exactly what you need to know!

As a Certified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer, I have plenty of experience working with women to improve their diets to get the health and fitness results they want. I know that this information can help YOU get your diet right to get lean and stay lean for life. Protein will help you reach your goals!

I’ve divided this guide into four sections to teach you everything you need to know about protein:

1. You’re Not Getting Enough
2. Myths: Protein and Women
3. Why You Need It
4. How to Get It

So sit back and read through! When you’re done, you’ll have a good grip on how protein fits into your healthy lifestyle, why you need it, and how you can get enough to meet your nutritional needs and achieve all of your fitness goals.

You’re Not Getting Enough

Is it just me, or have you noticed that all you hear about is not getting enough water? I swear everyone has a huge insulated cup of the stuff on their desk now. Every car has a bottle in the cup holder. Everyone has a Camelbak for the trail and a cute tumbler for the gym. And while it’s awesome to see so many people staying hydrated, you’ve probably got a handle on your water intake, which is one of the most important parts of staying fit and healthy.

But do you ever hear about not getting enough protein? I sure don’t. And yet protein is almost as important as water, especially for women who are active. And I don’t mean “active” as in “competitive triathlete” or “world-class bodybuilder.”

I mean active as in you hit the gym a few times every week, or active as in you run around with the kids, or active as in you have a full, busy life! We all need plenty of protein to fuel our lifestyles, especially if we’re not completely sedentary and most especially if we’re trying to reach tough goals with our fitness.

Even though Americans tend to eat lots of meat, American women still often lack adequate protein in their diets! You might think you’re getting enough from your usual meals, but are you sure? How can you tell? Here are some of the signs of inadequate protein intake. If any of these apply to you, take another look at your diet and read on!

(Looking for an easy way to get more protein in your diet? Check out IdealLean Protein!)

Signs of Inadequate Protein Intake

 

cravings, fight them with protein

  • You crave sugary foods.

You might think that sugar cravings are totally normal, especially for us girls. You just have a sweet tooth, right? Well, maybe not. Because protein is important when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable, a lack of protein can cause blood sugar fluctuations that make your body think it needs sugar NOW.

The quick fix to plummeting blood sugar is candy, a cupcake, or a scoop of ice cream, but the long-term solution to stopping those unhealthy cravings is eating more protein to avoid the uncomfortable blood sugar fluctuations in the first place. If you consume enough protein throughout the day, your blood sugar levels will be less changeable, and you might find yourself diving for a Snickers or a soda less often.

  • You’re stressed.

The hormones your body releases when you’re stressed out can actually break down your muscle tissues. No wonder stress feels so bad, right?! And I’m not just talking about the everyday emotional stresses of being crazy busy, or the acute stresses of a visit from the in-laws, an interview, or the holidays. Your workouts also count as physical stress!

When you push yourself at the gym, on the trail, or on the yoga mat, your physical body is stressed, and those same hormones are released, even if exercise feels great after you’re finished. Exercise is good for you, but it still makes demands on your physical body–that’s the point, right?

You need to support your body with protein so that it can recover and perform after you push it to the max. An added bonus? Consuming more protein can actually positively impact your stress and make you feel less anxiety.

  • You’re losing lean-muscle and definition.

And who isn’t thinking about dropping at least a couple of pounds, right? When you cut calories for weight loss, you can accidentally reduce your lean muscle mass along with your body fat if you don’t keep fueling yourself right. Have you heard the term “skinny-fat”? It’s when someone looks thin but has no muscle tone or definition.

They aren’t overweight, but they ARE out of shape. Yeah, that’s what happens when you cut calories and don’t get enough protein! When you reduce your caloric intake, you should actually increase your protein intake to ensure that you can maintain the lean muscle mass that gives you a great figure. I know you don’t want to “bulk up,” but trust me: as a woman, that’s not a concern you need to have. Increasing your protein intake will only make for a hotter, more toned body, not a bigger one!

Another bonus? Eating more protein will actually make calorie-cutting easier by making you feel more full. Protein satiates you better than anything else so you might find yourself craving fattening foods less often if you consume more protein.

  • You’re tired.

protein powder for tired women

If you find yourself feeling exhausted after a perfectly normal day or when you finish your workout, a protein deficit could be the culprit. Your fatigue could be the result of suddenly upping your workout routine, but if you can’t narrow down the cause, getting more protein into your diet could help you have more energy.

This is because protein fuels your depleted muscles. Your body doesn’t just use carbs for energy, it also uses protein and fat, and protein also helps to rebuild your muscles. When you work out (or just live your life!), you break down muscle fiber, and your body uses protein to repair it and build it up. And I hate to say it, ladies, but aging could play into this, too!

As you grow older, you may actually need more protein than you did as a younger woman. And that goes double for women who stay active as they get older! (Of course, if you’re suffering from chronic unexplained fatigue, you should see your doctor first.)

So many women I know would answer “yes” to more than one of these clues! Almost all of us suffer from some daily stress, and if you do tough workouts, you’re stressing your body with exercise. And who knew that you might be able to curb sweet cravings with more protein?!

Upping your intake might make it easier to resist that Coke that’s been calling to you from the drive-thru, or the half PB&J sandwich that your kid left behind at lunch. Plus protein can help you get the toned body you want and give you more energy?! I am amazed that everyone doesn’t get plenty of protein in their diet with all of these amazing benefits.

So why do so many women neglect their protein needs? The answer is simple, really: misinformation. Most of us are misinformed–or at the very least UNinformed–about our true nutritional needs. Remember the food pyramid from grade school?

Yeah, that’s probably the most current nutritional advice that most of us have in our minds! We need to update and get educated about what active women really need from their diets.

this the the food pyramid(And trust me, it’s not 12 servings of carbs every day!)

Let’s take a look at some harmful myths about protein that convince women they shouldn’t be consuming as much of it as they should.

Myths: Protein and Women

Okay, ladies, be honest: how many of you cringe as soon as you’re told to eat more of anything? That’s what I thought. As women, we want to stay lean and slim, and we’re conditioned to believe that consuming more of anything could make us gain weight. Isn’t salad the way to go when you want a lean body?

Most protein myths revolve around this mistaken belief that a woman’s diet should be all about whittling down the calories until there’s barely anything left. But there are even more myths about protein out there! Let’s bust them.

Myth #1: Protein Will Make Me Bulk Up!

When I suggest protein supplements to women, most of them immediately imagine looking just like this:

4134288274_e6bb297bd4

By far the biggest myth out there about protein and women is that protein will make you bulk up like a guy! And let me tell you girls, it is FALSE. Adding more protein to your diet will not make you look like a man. Just because male bodybuilders love protein doesn’t mean that protein will make you, a woman with totally different hormones, bulk up like one!

Protein is not just for men, and men and women do not metabolize protein differently, but they do have different body compositions. Protein is a macronutrient that everybody needs to build and maintain lean muscle. And lean muscle is what gives you the sleek, toned, feminine body you want, because women simply don’t bulk up like men. The only thing that can make a woman start to look like a man is male hormones, ladies, and protein does not contain those!

Like I said earlier, eating more protein builds and maintains your sexy lean muscles, keeps your blood sugar levels even so that you’re not tempted to eat foods off your healthy meal plan, and even helps you recover from workouts. It doesn’t make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1970.

Myth #2: Protein Only Comes From Meat!

Steak and Salad

This is a big reason why many women don’t get enough protein. Protein only comes from meat, and you’re not supposed to eat tons of meat every day, right? Well… half right. It’s true that some Americans eat too much meat, and that gorging on meat–especially red meat–can have adverse health effects.

But it’s not true that protein only comes from meat. It’s true that as far as grocery store sources of protein go, meats, seafood, and dairy products have more protein per ounce than other foods. Luckily, there are vegetarian sources of protein: beans, lentils, quinoa, chia seeds, and most nuts all have lots of protein. However, these sources also come with fat and carbs that you might not need to add to your diet. If these are your only sources of protein, you have to plan accordingly.

So what’s the best source of protein? You’ll find lots of conflicting opinions about this, but the lowest-calorie, easiest to digest, and most concentrated source of protein is probably a protein supplement like IdealLean Protein. An isolated whey protein source like this is quickly absorbed and adds relatively little to your overall calorie intake. You don’t have to add more meat to your diet to get more protein!

Myth #3: Too Much Protein Is Bad For You!

Yes, it is technically possible to get too much protein. By that, I mean that your body can only utilize a certain amount of protein every day for repairing muscles, building muscles, and doing everything else your body does to maintain your health. Like vitamins, your body cannot absorb, use, or store an unlimited amount of protein. (Don’t you wish this were true for fat, too?! So unfair.)

So what happens to the vitamins that your body doesn’t need? Your body eliminates them without using them, which is a harmless process. And what happens when your body is given more protein than it can absorb? Well, the short answer is: not much! It hasn’t been proven that anything negative happens when you consume more protein than you need. There isn’t even a set “maximum amount” that you should consume per day.

A doctor consulted for an article on this subject in Muscle & Fitness said, “Despite the frequently expressed concern about adverse effects of high protein intake, there is no evidence that protein intakes in the range suggested will have adverse effects in healthy individuals.” The range suggested was much higher than recommended daily amounts.

So yes, it is possible to consume too much protein. But is this something you should worry about? Probably not. You’re far more likely to be getting too little protein than too much!

Myth #4: Protein Will Give Me Osteoporosis!

I’ve been seeing this one all over the internet lately. Osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones, is a concern for most women as they grow older; after all, women who have passed menopause are the most at risk for this disease. Luckily, getting adequate amounts of calcium and doing weight-bearing workouts, like strength training and jogging, can prevent it.

The worry about protein and osteoporosis is that protein might somehow leach calcium from the bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis. The rumor is that protein increases the body’s acidity, which causes the body to take calcium from bones to neutralize that acid. This is a myth! If anything, calcium strengthens your whole body–especially your muscles, but also your bones.

Like we learned in Myth #2, there aren’t any discernible negative effects from overdoing the protein. No one can even define how much is “too much,” because all your body does is stop absorbing it. No harm done.

But while we’re on the subject of osteoporosis, women do need to make sure that they get enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent it. A protein supplement made for women like IdealLean Protein includes extra calcium and vitamin D to keep women’s bones and bodies strong.

BUSTED! Looking back at those four big myths, I think we should worry more about not getting enough protein than about getting too much.

So clearly protein can’t hurt us… but how exactly can it help us? Why do we need it, and how much should we get every day? Let’s cover that next.

Why DO You Need protein?

The benefits of protein are almost countless, but I’m going to focus on the four benefits I think you’ll be most interested in! Yes, you need protein to sustain your body’s most basic functions. Yes, you need protein for your hair, nails, and skin. Yes, you need protein to fuel your workouts.

But protein can also help you get slim, help you stay lean, help you recover fast, and help you boost your immune system for better overall health. Doesn’t get much better than that for a busy woman on the go! If you’re trying to lose a few pounds, maintain your weight, bounce back from your workouts, or just stay on top of your busy game, you need plenty of protein in your diet for sure.

Get Slim.

Come on ladies, I know this one will get your attention! Who doesn’t want to lose a few pounds at one time or another (or pretty much always)? Even if you’re not locked in an epic struggle with 30 or more pounds, you still might not be 100% satisfied with your body. We’re all looking to improve! I’ve been there, too, and protein can help you get the results you’re looking for.

First of all, everything we eat causes something called “thermic effect” as we digest and metabolize it. A food’s thermic effect refers to how much energy your body has to burn to thoroughly metabolize that food and convert it into energy.

Proteins have a higher thermic effect than any other type of food, which means that your body has to work harder to metabolize it than to metabolize other foods. And that means that you burn more calories! Win-win, right?

Because of the higher thermic effect of protein, you’ll even burn more calories after a high-protein meal than after a lower protein meal. It’s only a slight increase in your metabolism, but it’s another example of how protein can help you drop fat faster. It’s similar to how you continue to burn calories for a while after a workout!

Staying Fit and protein powder for women

A recent study even found that dieters who ate twice the recommended daily amount of protein, while reducing their overall calorie intake, lost more fat than those who didn’t increase their protein intake! The dieters who ate the usual amount of protein only lost 41.8% fat, compared to 70% for those who ate more protein.

Wow. Obviously we all want to burn fat and not muscle, so this is a big argument for getting more protein in our diets. Adding protein helps you keep the lean muscle that sculpts a toned figure, while burning the fat that can cover it up.

Stay Lean.

Maintaining your ideal weight can be just as difficult as achieving it in the first place, am I right? The struggle is still real even after you’re feeling great about your body. Just because you’ve dropped the weight doesn’t mean that you can go right back to old eating habits. If you started snacking on potato chips and drinking soda every day, you’d soon be right back in your old body!

Luckily, upping your protein intake can help you maintain a lean body, not just achieve one. Most importantly, protein maintains the lean muscle that you’ve worked so hard to get. When you’re eating fewer calories, adequate protein will ensure that you keep that hard earned muscle and toned body.

There’s another mechanism, too. When you consume more protein, your body releases more of its own protein, called peptide YY. This protein helps to regulate your appetite, preventing you from overeating. Peptide YY helps people eat the right amount of calories when they need them. So not only does protein help fuel your workouts and lower your body fat, it can also keep you on track with your healthy eating!

Not only can protein maintain your muscles, it also helps you avoid unhealthy foods. How? By keeping you feeling full instead of starving! Remember how protein takes more energy–and therefore more time–to metabolize? That translates to a longer time between eating and feeling hungry again when protein is a part of your meal or snack. And that means that you’ll be less tempted by foods that pack the pounds right back on.

Recover Fast

How important is recovery from your workouts in your everyday life? If you’re anything like me, you’ll say VERY. If you can’t recover quickly from your most challenging workouts, then you can’t be at the top of your game. And you need to be performing at your peak for more than just the gym! What about watching soccer practice, dashing to the store between appointments, and staying alert on the job all day?

woman stretching outside

If you can recover quickly, you can live your healthy life to the max. And protein is absolutely essential for speedy recovery. Protein promotes muscle adaptation during post-workout recovery by:

  • Helping your body repair muscle fibers.
  • Promoting new protein generation in muscles.
  • Restoring depleted energy.

In short, your body needs protein to rebuild the muscles that you break down a little bit each time you exercise. In that article I just linked, a runner discusses how she experienced immediate results in her recovery after she started adding protein to her exercise routine.

Although hydration should still be your main focus before, during, and after a workout, protein speeds muscle recovery after a tough workout. That goes for all kinds of exercise, too: weight lifting, cardio, whatever you’re up to today.

Boost Immunity.

We’ve already talked about how your body needs protein to build and repair its muscles. Well, guess what? Your body needs protein to build and repair everything, and that includes your immune system!

The antibodies in your body that help you fend off and destroy bacteria and viruses that make you sick are actually made of protein, so your body needs protein to build and maintain your immunities. Plus, the things you eat to get protein tend to be rich in other immune-boosting nutrients like zinc and magnesium! Nuts like cashews and almonds are full of these vitamins and minerals, so the next time you’re snacking on trail mix, remember that you’re getting protein, zinc, and magnesium all at once.

The amino acids in complete proteins (more on those later!) help boost your immune system by strengthening your cells against infection from bacteria and viruses. Interestingly, the best protein for enhancing your immunity isn’t meat or fish: it’s whey protein, the protein source you tend to find in protein supplements like IdealLean Protein. This protein supplement includes magnesium, too!

To wrap up this section, you need protein to banish fat, keep and build your sleek lean muscles, recover from your workouts, and even keep your immune system running strong. There are serious benefits to adding more protein to your diet, especially high-quality whey protein. And there aren’t any downsides!

Now let’s answer the question I know you’ve been wondering about for the past few pages: How do you get plenty of protein into your diet?! Let me put my Certified Sports Nutritionist hat on and tell you.

How To Get enough protein?

Why do women often not get enough protein? Of course some of the reasons are listed in the “myths” above. But another reason is that we all have a preconceived idea of what a “healthy” diet is, and that idea often excludes the best sources of protein. When was the last time you thought of a steak or a protein shake with peanut butter as diet food?

Well, I have some nutrition news for you. Juicy steaks and peanut butter smoothies can fit right into your healthy lifestyle and help you feel great and look lean. Let’s take a look at the kind of protein you need and why.

Remember how I mentioned “complete proteins” earlier? There are actually two kinds of proteins: complete and incomplete. A complete protein contains all of the amino acids your body needs, whereas an incomplete one doesn’t. To build and repair muscles and other tissues, your body needs all of those amino acids, not just some of them.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

Where to get Complete Proteins

Animal sources of protein such as meat, fish, and dairy are all complete proteins, while many vegetarian protein sources like beans, nuts, and seeds are incomplete proteins. This means that these incomplete proteins have to be paired with other protein sources to become complete. For instance, black beans and brown rice, or peanut butter and whole wheat bread. Sounds great, but it could mean adding a lot of carbs to your diet, which isn’t the best option for everyone.

In short: animal proteins are already complete and many vegetarian proteins aren’t. That’s why a lot of athletes rely on whey protein to supplement their diets. They want to get plenty of complete proteins without the added carbs that come from vegetarian proteins!

9 sources of protein for women

Whey protein is sourced from dairy, which makes it a complete protein. High-quality whey protein isolates like those in IdealLean Protein are lactose-free–good news for any lactose-intolerant ladies! Whey protein is a complete protein that can be easily added to your day without requiring a bunch of extra food. Speaking of which… let’s talk about exactly how much protein you need every day, based on your weight and your lifestyle.

We already talked about how many women aren’t getting as much protein as they need. So how much do you need, anyway? Let’s take a look at the recommendations.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

Most sources instruct you to calculate your protein needs by body weight, like in this simple chart.

chart showing how much protein a woman needs

Okay. So according to this chart, an “active woman” weighing 140 pounds should be consuming 84 grams of protein every day. And a “competitive athlete”–we might say a very active woman of that same weight–should be consuming 105 grams of protein every day.

This chart from POPSUGAR Fitness does the math for you if you can find your weight:

chart showing the daily recommended servings of protein

This one’s a little more clear, breaking activity levels down into three easy categories: sedentary, active, and extremely active. The average woman who works out is probably “active,” and if you’re working out every day or following a serious fitness or weight loss regimen, you’re probably “extremely active”!

Other sources recommend even more protein, multiplying body weight by 0.8 or by 1 to determine the number of grams of protein a woman should eat every day! Personally, I recommend multiplying by 1. That would be 140 grams for a 140 pound woman! Sounds like a lot, right?

As a nutritionist, I’ve included a variety of protein-rich meals in my 15 Day Challenge plan and in my 6 Week Trainer plan: IdealLean Protein breakfast smoothies, eggs with extra egg whites, chicken salads, turkey wraps, and delicious IdealLean Protein dessert smoothies with peanut butter. These protein sources provide you with diverse nutrients that your body needs when it’s working hard to burn fat and build muscle.

But if you’re upping your protein intake and relying only on regular foods to get it, you’d have to eat at least six servings of salmon every day, or more than three cups of Greek yogurt! Good luck, right? That’s a lot of food to pack in during a single day, not to mention a little expensive. And what’s more, it’s a lot of calories.

This is another reason why lots of active women rely on protein supplements to reach their daily protein needs. IdealLean Protein is low in fat, sugar, and carbs. One serving of IdealLean Protein adds only 90-100 calories to your day, which is a pretty fantastic tradeoff for 20 grams of protein!

Let’s Wrap It Up!

Now that we’ve busted the myths about protein, cracked the code of how much you need, and explored the best ways to get plenty of it into your everyday diet, you’re ready to start recovering faster, burning fat, and getting super toned. A high-quality whey protein supplement can help you get enough protein to take advantage of all of the benefits, without adding too many calories to your healthy diet!

Protein will help you to recover after a workout, and help you on your way to a lean and toned body but in order for that to happen you need to also be busting your butts in the gym in the kitchen. That is why we have Trainer Lindsey’s 6 Week FBC. to provide you with workouts, meal plans and access to ME.

And the secret ingredient I use to help you get a lean and toned body? IdealLean Protein.

IdealLean Protein assists in the development of lean muscle and improves post-workout recovery.



Lindsey Mathews

Lindsey Mathews

Head Trainer & Nutritionist

Lindsey Mathews is the Head Trainer and Nutritionist at IdealFit. She is a NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, C-ISSN certified sports nutritionist, Pn. 1 certified nutrition coach, and a nationally qualified NPC bikini competitor. Before joining IdealFit, she ran the largest boot camp program in Utah County.


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