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As a nutrition coach who works with a ton of female clients wanting to lose weight, I’m often asked if whey protein is appropriate for women or if there are any negative side effects.
Whey protein is good for women because it can help increase total protein intake, which can improve muscle growth, recovery, and satiety. However, whey protein should only account for less than 30% of total daily protein intake to ensure the majority of protein is coming from whole food sources that have more nutrients.
Although whey protein supplementation is safe and appropriate for women, it’s important to understand the proper amount based on your goals, as well as the most beneficial times during the day to take it.
- Whey protein supplementation is appropriate for both men and women, although men may require larger doses than women.
- Women should consume between 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, with the majority of this intake coming from whole foods.
- There are 4 criteria women should look for when buying a whey protein powder.
Are There Differences Between Taking Whey Protein For Men & Women?
Both men and women can supplement with whey protein, but men will likely require larger servings than women. This is based solely on the fact that men generally have more muscle mass than women.
The more muscle you have, the higher your calorie intake will be, and the more protein you require to maintain muscle mass.
In general, a 250lb man will require around 250 grams of protein per day. At most, he should consume 30% of his daily protein intake from supplements. This means that he could have 75 grams of protein from whey protein, which is around 2.5 to 3 scoops (25-30 grams per scoop).
On the contrary, a 150lb woman will require around 150 grams of protein per day, so she should only consume around 45 grams of protein from whey protein, which is around 1.5 to 1.8 scoops.
Other than differences in the amount of whey protein that men and women may consume, there is no difference in the type of whey protein they should take.
- Check Out: Whey Protein Powder Calculator
Should Women Drink Whey Protein? 4 Benefits
The benefits of whey protein for women are:
- Helps you retain muscle mass while dieting. When you’re eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its weight, you’re more likely to lose muscle. Drinking whey protein is helpful for preserving muscle mass.
- Keeps you full for longer periods. Protein can suppress your hunger hormone “ghrelin” to keep you full for longer. Whey protein makes you feel more satisfied throughout the day rather than ravenous. This is why women who want to lose weight should increase their protein intake.
- Supports muscle growth. Whey protein is a convenient source of protein when you’re struggling to eat enough protein to help your muscle grow bigger and stronger. Having whey protein could be the difference between achieving your daily protein goal or not.
- Improves recovery from training. Whey protein is the fastest-digesting protein. Consuming it after a workout can help speed up the recovery process, as you’re getting amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to your muscles as fast as possible.
Related Article: How Much Protein When Cutting? (A Nutrition Coach Answers)
Is It Safe For Women To Drink Whey Protein?
Yes, it’s safe for women to drink whey protein because whey is simply an additional source of protein.
“Protein powders are a great source of the nutrient because they’re often low in fat, portable, easy to access, and can be added to whatever you want for a big protein boost”– Kristen F. Gradney, M.H.A., R.D.N., L.D.N., a registered dietitian and senior director of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health in Louisiana
Whey protein consumption only becomes a problem if you overconsume whey and under consume whole food sources of protein. You would miss out on important nutrients from whole foods that your body needs to function optimally.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s best to limit your whey protein consumption to less than 30% of your total daily protein intake to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
I also recommend that women stick to protein powders that have been third-party tested. A protein that’s third-party tested has been verified by an outside company to contain the ingredients it claims to contain in the dosages stated on the label.
Third-party testing holds supplement companies accountable for the quality of their products. You can identify products that are third-party certified by labels or logos from BSCG (Banned Substances Control Group), USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), NSF, or USP.
Will Whey Protein Make You Gain Weight?
Some women I coach are concerned that whey protein will make them gain weight if their goal is to lose weight.
Whey protein by itself cannot make you gain weight. To gain weight, you have to eat more calories than your body needs to maintain weight, and protein powders only have between 110 to 150 calories per serving.
If you’re consuming a higher number of calories throughout the rest of the day and consuming whey protein powder, you will gain weight.
But, if you’re consuming fewer calories than you need to maintain weight and consuming whey protein, you’ll lose weight.
Although protein powders can help you gain muscle, you have to eat enough calories to support muscle growth. If you’re not consuming enough calories to gain muscle and you’re consuming whey, it’s more likely that you’ll just maintain your current levels of muscle mass rather than gain muscle.
- Related Article: How Long Does It Take Whey Protein Powder To Show Results?
How Much Protein Do Women Need?
In general, women should aim to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
However, this recommendation will change if you plan to lose or gain weight.
- If your goal is to maintain weight, you can stick to the 1g/lb recommendation.
- But if you want to lose weight, you would benefit from a higher protein intake.
- If you want to gain weight, you can get by with a lower protein intake.
Women’s Protein Requirements While Dieting
For those with weight loss goals, I recommend consuming closer to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
A higher protein intake is beneficial when dieting because you’re at a higher risk of losing muscle. Increasing your protein intake can help preserve your muscle mass when calories are reduced.
Additionally, protein can help keep you full for longer because it’s the most satiating nutrient. Increasing your protein intake can keep you from snacking all day long.
- Related Article: Do Macros Matter for Weight Loss? (Yes, Here’s Why)
Women’s Protein Requirements While Bulking
For those with muscle-building goals, I recommend a protein intake of 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.
When you’re gaining weight, your calorie intake will be higher. There is less risk of losing muscle, so protein intake doesn’t need to be as high.
Additionally, when you’re bulking, you need to consume more calories. If your protein intake is too high, you might feel too full and struggle to eat as much as you need to.
- Related Article: Do Macros Matter for Bulking? (Yes, Here’s Why)
When Should Women Consider Taking Whey Protein?
Women should consider taking whey protein:
- Post-workout for better recovery and muscle gains. Consuming whey after a workout helps to promote faster recovery from training by repairing muscle damage and helping muscles grow back bigger and stronger.
- On the go to hold you over. Whey protein is the perfect grab-and-go option when you’re short on time and need something to hold you over until your next meal.
- With a meal to increase its protein content. Adding whey to a meal that’s low in protein can help keep you full for longer and increase your daily intake. You can add whey to oats, a smoothie, a yogurt bowl, or on the side of your meal as a protein shake.
- Related Article: What Can You Mix With Protein Powder (13 Examples)
What To Look For In A Protein Powder For Women
I recommend that women look for a whey protein powder with:
- At least 20 grams of protein per serving.
- Less than 10 ingredients to reduce the number of fillers (ingredients that don’t contribute to the protein content).
- Natural sweeteners (like stevia) rather than artificial sweeteners (like sucralose).
- A third-party verification seal for ingredient quality and label accuracy.
Which Whey Protein Should Women Take?
I recommend that women take Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein because it is one of the best whey protein powders on the market.
One scoop of Transparent Lab’s whey protein has 28 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbs, 0 grams of fat, and 0-1 gram of sugar (depending on the flavor).
This protein powder has the highest percentage of calories coming from protein that we’ve seen on the market, at 93%. For reference, most other whey proteins average 75% of calories from protein.
Last but not least, this whey protein tastes amazing and comes in 8 different flavors. I highly recommend the Cinnamon French Toast and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie flavors!
To learn more about this whey protein, check out our full Transparent Labs protein powder review.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should Men and Women Use the Same Whey Protein Powder?
Men and women can use the same protein powder, as there are no specific ingredients in protein powders that would have different benefits for men and women. Men may need larger servings of protein powder than women because they have more muscle mass, but the type of protein is the same.
Does Whey Protein Increase Testosterone in Females?
Are There Any Side Effects for Women Taking Whey Protein?
There shouldn’t be any side effects from taking whey protein unless you have a sensitivity to dairy or artificial sweeteners that may be in your whey protein powder. However, if you are worried about taking whey due to a medical condition, you should consult with your doctor.
Does Whey Protein Help Women Lose Weight?
Whey protein can help women lose weight because it’s high in protein, which keeps you full for longer and reduces your snacking. If you’re snacking less often, you’re consuming fewer calories, which can help you achieve the calorie deficit you need to lose weight.
What To Read Next
- Can Teenagers Take Protein Powder? (What The Science Says)
- Can You Take Whey Protein Without Working Out? (Science-Backed)
- Protein Shakes After Cardio: Pros, Cons, & Should You Do It?
- Drinking Whey Protein Every Day (Are There Drawbacks?)
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Dalia Samir Rushdy, Ragia Mohamed Kamel, Samy Abdel Samad Nasef, Salah El-Din Basset Elsayed and Heba Mahmoud Goda, 2018. Impact of Resisted Exercises and Whey Protein on Growth Hormones and Testosterone in Normal Subjects. Journal of Medical Sciences, 18: 27-33. DOI: 10.3923/jms.2018.27.33
About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.
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