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The Scoop on Protein Powder and Women (Quoted)

November 10, 2014

Check out this post written by a Temple University Journalist on the benefits and risks of protein powder supplements in women!

Before Madeline Hamberger began incorporating adequate amounts of protein into her diet, she weighed a mere 90 lbs.

"I always had the assumption that protein would make you gain weight, so I tried to avoid it," Hamberger said. "I was not educated [in terms of nutrition] at all."

The 21-year-old Phillipsburg, N.J., resident, now a contestant in bikini fitness competitions, said protein powder has helped her achieve a healthier lifestyle. She mixes a scoop of RTN-brand chocolate protein powder with unsweetened almond milk after her workout, and sometimes has another with a meal.

Protein powder once seemed to be a staple of only Arnold Schwarzenegger-level body builders. Now, it’s as common of a character on female fitness-themed Tumblrs as bananas or kale. Despite its modern makeover, powdered protein still has some stigma attached to it, as Hamberger described. Zach Breeding, registered dietitian at Hornstein, Platt, & Associates Counseling and Wellness Center, said that this is a common misconception about women and protein.

"Simply put, women are built differently (a.k.a. do not have testosterone) - so when lean body mass begins to grow, it does so differently than in men," Breeding said in an email. "Protein powders, when used correctly, are an effective way to help women reach necessary levels of protein intake under a physical activity regimen without ‘bulking up.’"

Before a woman can decide if protein powder is right for her and her nutritional needs, it’s important to understand what protein is.

"Protein is one of the key nutrients essential for life," Breeding said. "Because our bodies are comprised of amino acids, it is important that we consume foods rich in lean protein to help support the building blocks of life. In addition, protein foods are rich in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Each of these nutrients plays different roles in the health of women including supporting blood, immune, and bone health."

The next step is figuring out how much protein you should be consuming daily. Breeding said that most women should follow this simple calculation:

.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight(To calculate your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.)

If women are not consuming enough protein, then protein powders could be a method for reaching that goal. A scoop of RTN protein powder, the brand Hamberger uses, contains 24 grams of protein. Another brand, Elite whey protein isolate, contains the same amount.

While protein powders are a quick, easy addition to a woman’s diet, Breeding said that supplements should be far from their only source of protein.

"Protein powder supplements are simply for convenience and should not replace intake of real foods," Breeding said. "As mentioned before, protein foods contain a lot of other nutrients that supplements simply do not have."

Breeding added that it’s important for a woman to ensure she is not ingesting too much protein, too. This can lead to complications in organs, like kidney function. Also, it’s important to read the ingredients. Consumer Reports has found that some protein powders exceed the daily allotment for arsenic, cadmium and lead. Breeding said that three servings of protein powder a day surpass the recommended limits for all three of these substances.

A woman should also consider what type of protein powder is best for her. There are two basic types of whey protein - standard and whey protein isolate. Breeding said standard whey protein has less protein and more lactose and fat, which would provide energy before a workout, while whey protein isolate has more protein and less lactose and fat, making it better for post-workout consumption.

Many studies show that protein powder taken post-workout can have positive effects. A study conducted by The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that protein powder helps reduce muscle fatigue. Another by the British Journal of Nutrition concluded that it helps aid in muscle protein synthesis after exercise.

However, women don’t need to limit their protein supplement intake to only days they work out. An average woman who is exercises a moderate amount won’t be changing her nutritional needs much, Breeding said. However, if a woman is undergoing a serious weight-lifting regimen, she may have to reevaluate her dietary needs.

For women like Hamberger, protein powder supplements have had positive effects.

"It’s helped me a lot," Hamberger said. "Protein is an essential nutrient that everyone needs, and I wasn’t aware of that when I started working out."

However, every woman is different, as is her nutritional needs. Before making any changes to your diet, consider consulting your doctor or a registered dietician.


If you’re interested in protein powder, consider Breeding’s advice in choosing a brand:1. Be wary of amounts of arsenic, cadmium and lead.2. Choose whether whey protein or whey protein isolate works best for you.3. Try to pick a brand with as few ingredients as possible.

Written By: Jenelle Janci, Temple University Journalist

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