The stereotypical image that goes along with people who drink protein shakes is “big and bulky.” Many women shy away from shakes because they don’t want to gain visible muscle, they want to avoid extra calories, or they don’t feel they need extra protein in their diets. Although it’s true that women’s protein requirements are generally lower than men’s, there are multiple benefits for women who get some extra protein in their diets.
Protein shakes can help women gain or retain muscle mass and improve overall body composition.
Protein is more satiating than either carbohydrates or fats, so upping the percentage of calories you get every day from protein-rich foods can help you feel fuller or even take in fewer total calories. A 2018 research review published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that both women and men who were overweight lost more total weight and fat mass when they supplemented their diets with whey protein than those who did not.
Many women want to be “toned” but are wary of looking too bulky. For most women, however, “bulking up” is actually extremely difficult, both because it requires a huge commitment to strength training and because the estrogen in their bodies prevents significant visible muscle bulk. There are tremendous benefits for women who are able to gain and preserve lean muscle mass, however, especially as they age and become more susceptible to conditions such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia. To gain muscle mass, women need a caloric excess featuring dietary protein, as amino acids in protein are what builds and repairs muscle tissue in the body. If it’s not easy to get that through whole foods, protein shakes are an easy aid
Nutrition in a Package
Meeting your daily nutritional needs is simple in theory but can be a lot of work in practice. If you’re short on time to prepare healthy meals, or you’re not able to fit a lot of high-protein whole foods into your diet, protein shakes can help make up those nutrients you might not otherwise be getting. For a 140-pound woman, that’s 102 grams per day, which can be hard to get from food alone, especially for vegetarians or vegans. Protein shakes, however, typically offer a promising 20 to 30 grams of protein per serving.
Proceed With Caution
As protein shakes are a dietary supplement and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, they have a wide range of quality and are not guaranteed to produce specific results for anyone. If you’re thinking about adding protein shakes to your regular diet, consult your doctor or a registered dietitian first, especially if you’re drinking shakes in an effort to reach a particular goal.